Editor's Rating

8.5

When I first heard about the Cadillac redesign of the Escalade I was very excited by what I saw and couldn’t wait to check it out at the LA Auto Show, late last year. The reason why is mostly because the redesign of the Escalade brings the Escalade into the design language of the ‘new’ Cadillac brand which includes the new Cadillac ATS, CTS, XTS and ELR just to name a few. When you looked at the 2014 Escalade, it simply didn’t fit in and it felt like Cadillac was just making minor tweaks to the previous model years. Even though, they did make some significant changes to the headlights and such before this major 2015 redesign.

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There’s another thing that I believe Cadillac is trying to address with the new Escalade, their target market. Cadillac has been struggling to find a clear target market for this vehicle, and at the $71,000 entry price and 14 city and 21 highway  (16 combined) MPG, you won’t have a very large market to begin with so you need to be focused. And the thing is, the market for these cars is pretty much between affluent families and people that just want to have a big luxurious vehicle that is comfortable for more than just the front two passengers.

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Specs

The model we tested was the 2015 Escalade 4WD Premium model, which is priced as tested at $87,985. This is basically the model that has everything in it, so we can talk about all of the features that it has. This car is probably one of the most technology packed vehicles that I’ve driven to date, so it was nice for us to test considering our technology knowledge. In terms of the vehicle itself, ignoring all of the technological odds and ends, it has a 6.2L V8 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine is capable of delivering 420 HP @ 5600 RPM and 460 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 RPM. It also has a towing capacity of 8,1000 lbs (4 tons) and weighs a hulking 5,800 pounds, making this a nearly 3 ton vehicle. And of course, because of this vehicle’s weight you really don’t expect it to do very well in terms of MPG since it has a combined highway and city mileage of 16. But even so, the car is still capable of a 0-60 speed of only 6.0 seconds (you will not get anywhere near 16 MPG with that kind of speed).

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In order to stop the nearly 3 ton vehicle, Cadillac has also equipped the 2015 Escalade with four-wheel disc brakes with ‘Duralife’ rotors. However, it remains to be seen if they are enough to easily stop a 3 ton vehicle barreling down the freeway at 65 mph (or faster).

The car is also packed with a ton of safety features including a vehicle segment first front-seat center air bag. Additionally, standard air bags include dual-stage front driver and passenger air bags, head-curtain side airbags and seat mounted side impact air bags. So, in the event of a collision, this vehicle essentially turns into a gigantic air bag, not that its size would indicate so.

There are also a few other safety features, but those are all technological and will be covered in the next section.

Technology and Entertainment

This car is absolutely packed to the brim with technology. So much so, in fact, that it really makes me feel like I’m writing a review about some consumer electronic rather than a car, but at this point they’re virtually the same thing. It features a 16-speaker Bose surround sound system with a very good amount of bass so that you don’t have to go out and buy your own sub if you’re a bass aficionado.

This car has an absolutely massive fully electronic dash which measures in at 12.3″ across. This fully electronic dash borrows from what Cadillac has done with the ELR’s fully electronic dash, but expands upon it horizontally since the car itself is physically much larger and wider. I am personally a huge proponent of fully electronic dashes but the problem here with Cadillac’s implementation is that it feels very flat and doesn’t feel like you’re looking at a dash, but rather just a screen. Other car manufacturers (and other Cadillacs) have done this better in my opinion and I believe that Cadillac could’ve done better here. They could have at least added 3D elements to the dash so that it feels like it has SOME sort of depth.

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The car also has the standard Cadillac CUE (Cadillac User Experience) that you find in all of the new Cadillacs that have been refreshed (ATS, CTS, XTS, SRX, etc). However, the CUE experience for the Cadillac Escalade is slightly better than on some of the other vehicles because it features Siri integration as well as text-to-voice so that the car can read your text messages out loud to you. But even with those features, CUE is still quite outdated and lacks the app support that Cadillac promised it would have when it came out. So far, the only ‘apps’ that are part of cue are Pandora, the rest are standard entertainment, climate control and navigation features that you can find in any other car. I really thought that Cadillac would figure out what to do with CUE but it just seems like they continue to march on and leave the rest of the Cadillac owners in the dust even though they’ve been promised apps for years.

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Also, the placement and angle of the CUE system in the Escalade is a bit peculiar. In the ATS, CTS, XTS and SRX it feels much more natural and properly angled. In the Escalade it seems like it isn’t even intended for the driver to even look at. When using the backup camera feature of the Escalade (and the CUE) with the CUE 8″ display, it feels awkward to look at compared to other Cadillac vehicles. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it seems like the CUE system is sitting too low for this vehicle.

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Having two displays in the car isn’t enough, however, because in the model that Cadillac sent us, the Escalade also had a in-dash BluRay player with an 9″ overhead display and (2) two-channel wireless Bose headphones. This is perfect for long road trips or just for keeping the passengers entertained regardless of how old they are. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to test this out, but it seemed to impress most of the passengers in the vehicle.

And no, that’s not it, there’s a fourth display on this car and that’s the HUD (Heads Up Display) that is located in the dash of the vehicle and reflects upon the windshield where the driver can view important driving information, or multimedia information, or navigation directions. This is by far one of the best features a car can have and I actually have one in my car and I’m absolutely spoiled by it because I never have to take my eyes off the road to see what speed I’m going or who’s calling me, or even what song is playing. This is an awesome feature and an absolute must in any luxury car.

Now, you might think that we’re done with all of the technology features of this car, having mentioned all of the various displays, cameras and other doodads. But we’re not, because this car has a pretty unique feature that is only starting to reach certain cars. That is OnStar 4G LTE with hot spot capability meaning that you can have internet anywhere the car goes, something that very few cars have on the road right now. The 2015 Cadillac Escalade does not have it enabled yet, but some cars that GM already has on the road that have this functionality enabled are the Chevy Volt, Buick Regal and the Buick LaCrosse just to name a few.

Experience

Driving the 2015 Cadillac Escalade was an absolute joy. There were a few things that perhaps could be improved upon, but in general it was a pretty fun car to drive and according to my friends, an even better car to ride in. Most people were pretty impressed with Cadillac’s attention to detail inside of the car and the overall premium feel. While I don’t necessarily like the wood trim that Cadillac used in the Escalade, it was natural wood and stayed true to Cadillac’s commitment to high quality materials. This was evident with the light up Cadillac Escalade logos in the footboards of the car as well as the Cadillac logos in the tail lights and head lights.

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What Cadillac did with this new Escalade was to make the vehicle bigger and fix one of the biggest problems (other than aesthetics) with the old Escalade. And that’s make the rear passenger doors bigger so that it looks more uniform and is easier to get in and out of. I don’t recall any occasion where these larger doors became a nuisance. Also, having the power retractable steps was absolutely awesome and made getting into the car easier for almost everyone simply because of how high the car sits and how high the seats are relative to the ground.

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The car rode incredibly smoothly and all of the passengers that rode in the car were satisfied with the level of comfort and ride that the vehicle provided. The front passenger as well as the 2 rear passengers with captain chairs were very happy with the amount of leg room that they had as well as the overall comfort of the seats. And thanks to the multi-zone climate control, the back passengers could enjoy their own temperature as well as the driver and front passenger. That also reminds me of the fact that this Cadillac Escalade also has heated and cooled front seats, which are awesome for places like San Diego where it can get really hot. The heated and cooled seats are also great for anyone going on a long road trip and doesn’t want to have a gross sweaty back after an hour or two of driving.

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Over the course of my week with the car, I was able to comfortably fit a stroller in the back as well as have a baby in the back in a car seat and take 4 adults including myself. Sure, the stroller was a tight fit, but it managed to fit in that small storage compartment of the Cadillac Escalade relatively easily. I was also able to comfortably fit four 20lb bags of ice in the ‘trunk’ since I had this car over the course of the Fourth of July weekend. This car was also used to pickup someone from the airport and as a result, we had to fold down the back row of seats in order to fit the suitcases. This is done electronically, but I do recommend you read the manual before trying this because you will not figure it out immediately (long presses are needed to actuate the seats). I cannot tell you how many times people sat in the 2nd row captain chairs and were amazed by how much room and overall comfort they had. Obviously, all of this roominess comes at a cost, as the third row isn’t really anywhere near as comfortable and if you want to fit more than your groceries, you’ll have a hard time using that 3rd row at all, or just get the ESV.

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The captain chairs don’t fold flat, but they do flip up fairly easily and can be removed with ease if you’ve really got something huge to carry in this truck. Also, if you want to open the trunk you can either access it by popping open the glass portion of the rear door, or popping the whole thing open, with adjustable height depending on the size of your garage (or your head). At maximum height, it still isn’t quite big enough for taller people, which may be a concern for anyone over 6″ trying to put something in this car and wanting to stand up straight behind it.

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In terms of gas mileage, I did not fare too well even though I mostly did city driving. With a few slightly leadfooted starts from a dead stop, I managed to get the car’s average MPG over about 400 or so miles at 13.6 MPG. This is slightly under what the car was rated for city driving (15), but remember I was mixing city and highway driving and was driving a bit more aggressively with the gas pedal. Speaking of the gas pedal, once you get on the freeway, you can enable adaptive cruise control and never need to use the gas or brake again (unless you hit traffic). Thanks to the adaptive cruise control (which I used liberally) you can go 65 or 70 mph and then if you catch up to a slower car, the car will slow down until the car speeds up or you change lanes, a brilliant feature that this car has (and mine doesn’t).

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It was also fun driving the car around the city and seeing people’s reaction to a car they’ve probably never seen before. Some people were impressed with it, others scared by it (this thing is huge) and I even got some approving nods from people as I drove by. The funniest part is that this car is mostly appreciated by soccer moms and people that want to drive around in Escalades because of the culture associated with them. This new Cadillac Escalade certainly adds some more aggressive looks to the car that it didn’t have before and unifies the design language with the other Cadillac vehicles. The only problem is that this thing is an absolute tank and not everyone will know how to properly drive it or park it. In fact, parking this thing was much easier than I was expecting. It was much harder to park a Lincoln Towncar than it was to park this truck and that’s primarily thanks to all the parking sensors and the backup camera which I now religiously use. It also has folding mirrors so that other drivers or pedestrians don’t take them off as they walk or drive by your car.

The technology aspects of the car were absolutely stunning, but CUE once again is still slow and lacks the depth that it really needs as a luxury console operating system.

In terms of ride, the car rode very smoothly as should be expected from a luxury car, however it handles speed bumps very poorly and is probably one of the roughest cars over speed bumps, which is really disappointing. I tried taking speed bumps at various angles and speeds and no matter what the car did not handle them very well at all. I don’t know if it was the 22″ alloy wheels or the suspension, but those speed bumps were not a good experience for anyone, including me the driver or any of the passengers.

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One of the biggest disappointments of the Escalade was the braking power that it has, or more accurately doesn’t have. Coming from a more sporty ATS, obviously I’m going to be used to much more responsive braking, but the truth is that the Escalade definitely needs better brakes. I don’t care what they do, they need to be better because this is a 3 ton vehicle and the momentum that it carries is incredible and it needs to have brakes that make it stop much faster than it does. I almost feel like a Semi truck driver trying to leave myself enough space to brake properly.

There were also a few things with fit and finish where some doors didn’t align perfectly, but that’s also partially me being a perfectionist. None of the fit or finish issues were really noticeable unless you were looking for them and didn’t affect the vehicles overall look or functionality.

Conclusion

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade is a beast of a vehicle in many ways, and they did not skimp on almost any technology, which makes this technology reviewer very happy. The car is certainly an improvement over the previous model year and adds a lot of very great design elements that make it appear an even more aggressive, yet polished vehicle. Sure, the gas mileage isn’t the best at 17 combined city and highway (13.6 tested) but this car isn’t really intended for people that care about what the cost of gasoline is. The Escalade we tested is priced at over $87,000, at that point the price of gasoline shouldn’t really be a factor at all when buying a vehicle. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if this car came in some sort of a hybrid to improve the overall MPG of the vehicle, but this truck is damn heavy and a hybrid will only help the city mileage which is rated at 14. If you take the city and bump it up to where the highway mileage is at, you could theoretically get this car to average around 20 MPG, however the added weight from the batteries will only make this car even heavier than it already is. I suspect that a hybrid Escalade isn’t far off, but first I think they needed to redesign the vehicle to fit the overall design language of the brand.

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Overall, in terms of a vehicle, it falls short in a few places, but none that would make me think much less of the car. If I had one of these in my garage I would not complain about it other than the price of gas and the size of the hulking 26 gallon tank which will last you about a full 400 miles if you’re polite with the gas pedal. But even so, this car without a doubt is jack packed with interesting technologies and still has some room to grow with LTE hot spot and maybe one day some CUE apps. We recommend you consider this car when you’re looking at large luxury SUVs because there’s a good chance you might fall in love with the technology and the overall stature of the vehicle.