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Cadillac Escalade ESV

BY JIM MACPHERSON

3:30 PM EST, November 11, 2014

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Maneuvering a 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV through a crowded parking lot, it’s easy to forget a generation ago many full-size cars were almost this long and wide. At 224.3 inches, this Escalade is about as big as they come today. One passenger wondered if the third-row seat might fall in another zip code.

The 2015 Escalade is offered in two versions. The shorter of the two is still mighty large, coming in at 203.9 inches in length. This body structure, riding on a 116-inch wheelbase, is shared with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The Escalade ESV uses a stretched version of this body and rides on a 130-inch wheelbase. The body structure is shared with the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. While the stretched version adds a little over a foot to the wheelbase and less than two feet to the length, it increases the turning circle from 39 to 43 feet, a noticeable difference, especially in tight spaces.

Setting the Cadillac apart from its less expensive brethren is a sumptuously luxurious interior and a larger, more powerful 6.2-liter V-8. A six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. Four-wheel drive, complete with a two-speed transfer case, is an option.

The two-speed transfer case is used primarily for off-road treks, although it’s hard to imagine anyone taking this large, heavy, and expensive vehicle through mud and over rocks. Still, this Escalade could handle off-road driving if the driver desired to do so.

Performance from the 6.2-liter V-8 is good, the zero-to-60 run produced a nearly identical result (seven seconds) to the same sprint taken in the shorter Chevrolet Tahoe with the smaller 5.3-liter V-8, reviewed last month (7.5 seconds). As with the Chevrolet, the six-speed automatic shifted well. With proper equipment, an 8,300-pound trailer can be towed.

The ride is generally comfortable, but it can turn busy over choppy pavement. Though the ride motions were never harsh, the suspension and 22-inch tires on the review Escalade ESV was a little firmer than some passengers thought it should be.

When it comes to handling, straight-line stability is this Escalade’s strong suit. Brisk cornering produced noticeable, but not unsettling, lean. The Escalade can handle the demands of an enthusiastic driver when it comes to cornering, but the driver will be aware of both the size and weight of this vehicle. There are definitely sportier SUVs on the market.

The interior treatments border on extravagant, which is what one might expect considering the approximately $27,000 price premium when compared to the less expensive full-size SUVs that share the Escalade’s platform. The seats in our review vehicle were highly comfortable while the interior’s Kona brown and jet-black color palate looked rich beyond the boundaries set by the substantial price sticker.

First and second row seating is fit for adults, though the second row knee room with the front seats moved back on their tracks is less plentiful than one might expect, considering the Escalade ESV’s overall length.

That longer ESV body really pays dividends in the third row. Legroom, which is stingy in the shorter version, opens up. The relatively low seat height suggests that the third row should still be reserved for children, however.

The Premium trim level review car my wife Paula and I drove was equipped with nearly every comfort and convenience item known to man. But the base version and intermediate Luxury trim level also come with plenty as well. However, the base version is missing the blind spot and lane departure warning systems, the forward collision warning system and safety alert seat that are standard on Luxury and Premium models.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Escalade ownership comes from the celebrity treatment its driver and passengers receive. Some people look quickly while others stare; some wave while a few try to hide their envious glances.

The Cadillac Escalade ESV is a lot of car for a lot of money. Few people need all its attributes, but for those who do, nothing less will suffice.

Paula Says

This 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV generated some mixed feelings. It’s big enough to intimidate, yet driving it around town and on the open road is easy.

Getting in would require a big step up, if it weren’t for the power running boards that automatically deploy to assist the driver and passengers when it’s time to enter or exit the vehicle. The tailgate looks huge, but is power operated, so using it requires no effort at all.  Folding the third-row seats is done through power operation as well, while the second-row seats have a power-folding feature.

The interior is gorgeous. It looks and feels luxurious and the color combination on the review vehicle my husband Jim and I had was exceptionally attractive. It was also a $2,000 option.

The Escalade is quiet on the open road, a trait that combined with the high seating position and the excellent view ahead, can lead you to believe that you are barely moving when traveling at the speed limit on the highway. Use of the cruise control, which on our Premium model maintained a set distance to the car ahead, is advised.

A gentle push on the accelerator produces plenty of power for rapid and effortless acceleration. Merging and passing is no problem.

Fuel economy, on the other hand, could be an issue. We averaged 13.9 miles per gallon on the recommended, but not required, premium gasoline. If you think that this will mean frequent stops for refueling, fear not. The Escalade ESV has a 31-gallon tank.

A backup camera is standard and much needed. Without it, the closest object that would be visible on the ground behind the vehicle was 68 feet away in our test.

CUE, Cadillac’s name for its touch-screen infotainment system, can be frustrating and distracting. Fortunately, voice functions seem to work better than in many other cars that take verbal commands.

The driver’s seat vibrates to warn of problems including drifting over the lane markings without using the directional signal or when getting too close to objects in a tight parking lot. Parking the Escalade in our garage produced warnings in all directions.

After a week with this Cadillac, I concluded that it’s too big and expensive for me, though the star treatment it generates could go to my head.

Engine: 6.2-liter V-8

HP: 420

Torque: 460

EPA 2WD: 15/21

EPA 4WD: 14/21

EPA ESV 2WD: 15/21

EPA ESV 4WD: 14/20

Starts at: $72, 970; as reviewed, $85,795

Next week: Nissan 370Z Roadster