Our 2017 Cadillac Escalade Platinum is, simply put, a full-size, old-school SUV. Its body-on-frame chassis stretches a whopping 203.9 inches from bumper to bumper and stands 74.4 inches tall. It's a big ol' boy, and it's not even the biggest -- there's also a longer Escalade ESV model that stretches the 116-inch wheelbase to 130 inches and the overall length to 224.3 inches.
That's a whole lot of truck...
Beneath the hood purrs a 6.2-liter V8 engine that can, when asked, roar to life with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The engine features fuel saving technologies in the way of direct injection, variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management, which we'll return to momentarily.
The buttery smooth brute of an engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with either a rear- or four-wheel drive configuration. (Our example featured the latter.) The driver has a lot of control over how the powertrain operates with a slightly awkward manual shifting mode, a toggle-able Tow-and-Haul mode. There are also four user-selectable modes for the 4WD system: 2WD locks the powertrain into rear-wheel drive for better fuel economy, Auto is a sort of on-demand all-wheel drive setting, and there are two modes that lock the system into 4WD operation with either high or low gear ratios.
The Escalade rides on an independent front suspension and a 5-links at the rear. Our Platinum model felt particularly well-composed, thanks to the inclusion of Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control dampers, an optional feature for lesser trims. The Magnetic dampers feature 2 modes that tweak the quality of the ride; there's a comfortable Touring setting and a more taught Sport mode.
On the road, the Esky rides smooth, isolating the passengers from below with its well-sorted suspension -- the Magnetic dampers ride like a dream in their comfort mode, soaking up bumps and keeping the SUV flat during emergency lane change maneuvers -- and from noise all around with a combination of passive sound dampening and active noise cancellation. Look closely and you can see little microphones all around the cabin, feeding into the Bose audio system's noise-cancellation algorithms.
The V8 engine is particularly smooth when cruising. I noted that the Escalade's Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation technology is both aggressive in shutting down half of the engine's cylinders when unnecessary and very smooth in its transition between the two operation modes. I'd hardly notice that the system was operating without a glance down at the digital instrument cluster to see the little "V4" light glowing, a common occurrence when coasting along at the speed limit or decelerating for a stop or in traffic.
The result of this judicious use of the engine's displacement is actually pretty OK fuel economy for a vehicle of this size, certainly better than I expected. The EPA reckons fuel economy at 15 mpg in the city, 20 on the highway and 17 mpg combined. During my testing with a heavy emphasis on 2WD highway cruising, I averaged around 17 mpg.
Big truck, big luxe
I was also impressed with the fit and finish of the cockpit area on Platinum model. There's no doubting that this is a luxury vehicle from the driver's seat with a dashboard that is ridiculously plush, featuring soft leather on every surface that I could see and touch, and very comfortable front buckets with multiple massage modes, heated and ventilated surfaces, soft leather trim and more power adjustment settings than I knew what to do with. The throne for the front passenger is nearly identical.
In that dashboard, you'll find Cadillac's Cue infotainment and digital instrument cluster. Cue's dark theme causes usability to suffer a bit, but I'm still a fan of its solid navigation, reasonably accurate voice control and full suite of digital audio sources. GM's OnStar 4G LTE services, onboard Wi-Fi hotspot and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity make this good tech suite into a great one.
Cadillac has loaded its flagship up with a solid suite of driver aid technologies. Blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance inspire confidence on the highway, while adaptive cruise control with low-speed traffic function allows the driver to relax a bit and enjoy the massage seats during longer stints behind the wheel. Front-, rear- and around-view cameras, audible distance alerts, rear cross-traffic alerts and pedestrian detection boost safety when parking, and semi-autonomous parallel and perpendicular parking with park out assist allows the Caddy to almost valet itself.
Cadillac's rear camera mirror, which debuted on the CT6 sedan, is a welcome addition to the Escalade's suite of safety technologies. Where it felt like a cool gimmick on the sedan, it's more like necessary technology on the SUV. Rear visibility is pretty terrible on a vehicle of this size, with most cars disappearing beneath the horizon of the rear backlight. The camera mirror totally solves the Escalade's rear vision problem and, once activated, I never toggled it off for the duration of my testing.
Rounding out my praise are the various details and amenities that come standard on our Platinum model. There's an a half-dozen USB ports tucked around the cabin, an in-console refrigerator, power-folding second- and third-row seats, side steps that automatically deploy when the doors are opened, a power liftgate that opens and closes with a wiggle of my toe, and likely dozens more small touches that make this nearly $100k SUV feel special. There's no doubting the SUV is a true luxury vehicle; you can see the money wherever you look.