For 2007, the Cadillac Escalade gets its second redesign since the model debuted in 1999 with an ungainly flat face and styling barely distinguishable from that of the GMC Yukon Denali. Now fully embracing its role as an unabashed symbol of excess, the Escalade wears a distinctive headlight and grille arrangement and offers 22-inch wheels as a factory option.
In addition to its cosmetic overhaul, the Escalade rides on a new platform (the GMT 900, also found on Tahoe/Yukon models), which features standard stability control. While not as advanced as some of its overseas competitors, our all-wheel-drive Escalade rode and drove competently, considering its size.
The list of tech features and options is pretty comprehensive, as expected at this price level. The Escalade's touch-screen navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems are among the best we've tested, both in appearance and functionality. Other nice extras include a heated steering wheel and seats ($625), a large sunroof ($995), and the must-have jumbo chromed aluminum rims, our Escalade's most expensive option at $2,995. Excessive they most certainly are, but they fill up the wheel wells properly, and even on very low-profile tires--the aspect ratio of 45 is especially low for an SUV--the ride is never harsh.
The AWD Escalade has a base price of $56,405. Our nicely appointed version carried a hefty $8,830 in options, bringing the total sticker price to $66,110, including an $875 destination charge.
Buyers of the 2007 Cadillac Escalade are spending big to make a statement, and GM is relying on them to continue doing so. The bold exterior strikes the right note, and the interior is similarly successful, albeit more conventional in nature. The interior of the Escalade is enormous, with all three rows providing enough space for adult passengers to ride in comfort. Our cabin had the Ebony color scheme rather than the lighter Cocoa/Cashmere, and we liked the effect. The cabin's wood and brushed-aluminum accents produce an understated oasis inside the bling fortress, and the dark leather and carpets add to the convincingly classy interior.
Dark leather and wood accents bring refinement to the Escalade's cavernous interior.
The electronics are installed cleanly, and the main touch screen is within easy reach of either the driver or the passenger. A gripe with the dashboard layout is that the screen could be higher to take better advantage of the new Escalade's improved front visibility and lower dash. An ugly, barely readable analog clock instead takes pride of place, pushing everything else down.
The touch screen tilts vertically through four positions, allowing good viewing angles for differing passenger heights. Resolution is excellent, and onscreen buttons and fonts are crisply rounded--a step up from the simple blocks of the Honda/Acura system that we like so much. Touch sensitivity also seemed better than with the Honda's screen, requiring fewer second tries for missed letters when entering destinations. A simple tab-style menu across the top of the screen allows access to the relevant main menus (navigation, audio, information), and moving between full- and split-screen displays is intuitive.
The navigation system is part of the information package ($2,495), which also includes a very helpful rearview camera and Intellibeam auto high-beam control of the standard high-intensity discharge headlights. Our Escalade also came with the rear-seat entertainment system, a $1,295 option. The integration between the two was better than with other systems we've seen, with front-seat control possible but full rear-source separation also simple to set up.
The Escalade's touch-screen navigation is intuitive and renders maps with excellent resolution.
The rear-seat system comes with two sets of two-channel wireless headphones, either of which can listen to the front or rear source (but which don't work in the front seats), and a dedicated remote to control what's playing on the 8-inch, 16:9 tilt-down screen. Both screens also display track information from CDs playing from the main six-CD/DVD changer in the dash, but only the front shows full XM info.
Sound is full, with rich bass and good separation, thanks to the 10-speaker Bose 5.1 Dolby digital surround system. Center-point signal processing and eight-channel digital equalization allow extensive audio customization via the main screen, including simulated surround for stereo sources.
The lack of Bluetooth phone integration is a major issue that Cadillac should remedy for the next model year if not before. The standard rear park-assist feature is effective, but the optional rearview camera display does not include distance or pathway markings. One-touch windows should be a standard on a vehicle in this class. The power rear tailgate and separate glass control are handy, as is the remote start feature on the key fob.
Other complaints with the interior center around adjustability: the steering wheel doesn't telescope at all, and the tilt adjustment isn't fluid but clicks to set positions. The adjustable pedal-cluster compensates somewhat, but shorter drivers need the wheel closer. For taller drivers, the lack of a dead pedal is another oversight.
Finally, the voice-recognition feature works well enough but is limited to about 40 known commands, none of which are for entering navigation destinations. Addresses entered with the screen can then be assigned voice keywords for later retrieval, but this is much less useful than the level of voice control allowed by other nav systems such as Honda's.
Any production engine churning out more than 400 horsepower is impressive, but the 2007 Cadillac Escalade takes a slight hit in our tech-skewed performance rating. Still using pushrods (although under another name) rather than overhead camshafts and relying on displacement over efficiency, the 6.2-liter engine in the Escalade is a step behind the V-8 engines in full-size Japanese SUVs such as the Infiniti QX56 in terms of modern design.
The engine, in a somewhat dubious industry first, use a variable valve-timing system on its overhead valves rather than on overhead cams, but this ultimately seems like more trouble than it's worth. In any case, it varies the intake and exhaust timing in only a constant ratio, as opposed to other variable valve-timed engines, which allow the different valves to adjust independently; this limits the engine's ability to adjust to different load demands and, thereby, to improve either its performance or its fuel economy. From a fuel-conservation standpoint, the Escalade would certainly benefit from the "displacement on demand" cylinder-deactivation technology available on other GM vehicles, but this feature is strangely absent.
GM has favored displacement over efficiency with the Escalade's 6.2-liter engine.
All that said, with the tank full and the pedal down, the Escalade accelerates smartly with a tall first gear and cruises at very low RPM levels, thanks to the six-speed automatic's two overdrive cogs. Compared to some sleeker-looking SUVs, the Escalade has a surprisingly low coefficient of drag (0.36). Still, only on the freeway does fuel "economy" break into double-digit miles per gallon. Our car's trip computer, which thankfully included an estimated range calculation, reported between 9mpg and 10mpg in mixed city and urban-highway driving. These figures would quickly become expensive and don't match the EPA estimates of 13mpg in the city and 19mpg on the highway.
The transmission offers a manual gear selection mode, which amounts to a cutoff of the upper gears and which is out of place in this vehicle. More useful is the tow/haul mode, which alters shift patterns based on the extra weight of a trailer.
Ride and handling are enhanced by automatic rear level control and a semi-active version of active ride control that Cadillac calls Road Sensing System. This is essentially electronic suspension damping--in this case, a simple solution that works. The Escalade is by no means a spirited handler, but body roll is minimal, and even with the dubs, rough pavement is taken in stride.
From a safety standpoint, the 2007 Cadillac Escalade lives and dies with its height and girth. Frontal crash-test ratings from the NHTSA are five stars for both the driver and passenger, but the AWD Escalade gets only three stars for rollover protection. It is not yet rated for side impacts, according to the NHTSA Web site. The standard Stabilitrak stability control system includes special programming for rollover mitigation as part of its interaction with the four ABS brake sensors.
Air bag coverage is full, with dual-stage bags for the driver and front passenger (with occupant sensor) and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all three seating rows.
Rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard, although dry weather during our week with the Escalade precluded us from trying them out. The aforementioned park-assist and rearview monitor lack path markings but offer useful visual cues. You'll find location warnings on the screen and distance-indicating lights on the inside of the D-pillar, for visibility within the driver's line of sight while looking backward.
Despite its lack of visual cues, the backup camera is a useful safety feature for a car this size.
A tire-pressure monitor is standard, as is OnStar, which includes a one-year subscription to the service's Directions and Connections program.
The 2007 Escalade is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty. Corrosion protection extends to six years or 100,000 miles.