Driving Transactions
Sunday, April 21, 2024

First Impression: Wow‚ the Escalade ESV commands attention‚ has luxurious touches throughout‚ and can seat six comfortably‚ and is surprisingly sedan-like to drive.

CD 0914 First Drive The completely redesigned 2015 Cadillac Escalade debuted with a bang earlier this year when it was previewed in New York City at its release party for the media and elite alike. Right from the start this vehicle stole headlines ... as well as the hearts of many of the general public who fell in love immediately.

And really‚ what’s not to love about it? The redesign features a taller and wider grille‚ without losing its distinctive Escalade looks. The headlamps are also more linear and narrower than in the past‚ as are the rear lights‚ which now extend to the roof. It simply feels like the next generation of the iconic SUV; best of all‚ it feels like a companion to the industry’s other Cadillac‚ the XTS.

We’re not going to lie: Our first thought when looking at the Premium Collection ESV in our parking lot was‚ “This thing is massive!” And it is‚ at nearly 19 feet long‚ a very large SUV. But it’s also one of the easiest and most comfortable vehicles we’ve ever driven‚ and any initial intimidating thoughts were diminished when we started it up (push-button start!) and went for a spin. We won’t say it was as easy as driving a full-size sedan‚ but it was close.

First‚ the driver feels in control and the ride is solid with minimal vibration or road feel‚ likely thanks to the controllable Magnetic Ride Control Suspension. Shifting between gears is barely noticeable‚ and aside from the extra boost you may need (provided by the retractable assist step) to get inside‚ it doesn’t feel like you’re riding in a truck for passengers either. For operators‚ this could be the difference between an Escalade and the luxury SUV’s more family-oriented cousins like the Yukon and Tahoe.

Cadillac spent a lot of time redesigning the interior. With hand-sewn leather and wood-grain trim‚ the new Escalade really pushes away from its cousins. We tested the top-of-the-line edition called Premium‚ which includes many of the features of the Luxury Collection‚ but far more than the Standard. The most notable difference with the Luxury and Premium Collections are the two captain’s chairs that make up the second-row seating (you get a bench seat in the Standard). Comfortable and supple‚ these two seats may be all that you need for an executive road show. Throw in a couple of aftermarket fold-down desks on the backs of the front-row seats and you have a rolling workspace.

CD 0914 First DriveThe third row‚ often considered the least-desirous‚ has some surprisingly ample head and leg room. We were able to pack in three people rather comfortably (as it's rated for)‚ but two might be more realistic when extra elbow room is required. Getting into the seats wasn’t a problem either‚ as the second flips and folds out of the way so that a normal adult human doesn’t have to contort himself to get in. This third row also folds completely flat—with a flip of a switch—for added cargo space‚ if needed. Remember that the ESV already has an expansive luggage area even without folding the seats. Including the front passenger and third-row seats‚ it could hold up to six passengers with loads of comfort.

Sticking with the corporate theme‚ the Premium Collection also comes with an entertainment system that includes two drop-down screens for the second and third rows (the DVD is handled by the chauffeur‚ but there are controls for volume as well as headphones available for riders). Passengers can control their temperature comfort through various vents in the rear.


ENGINE ......... 6.2L V8 420HP (2WD OR 4WD)
MPG ......... 15/21 (2WD), 14/20 (4WD) (city/hwy.)
REAR HEAD ROOM ......... 39.1/38.5" (2nd/3rd row)
REAR LEG ROOM ......... 39.7/34.50" (2nd/3rd row)

As for the console‚ you won’t find a button or control knob. All of your options appear when the touch screen—12.3 inches—senses your hand nearby‚ and disappear as quickly. It makes for an uncluttered console‚ but it did take us a bit to get used to. There are also the steering wheel controls that make it easy to flip from function to function. For those who already have Cadillac products‚ you’ll be familiar with the intuitive CUE system. The current speed can be displayed on the windshield for added safety‚ which is only visible to the chauffeur. Speaking of clean and uncluttered‚ Cadillac makes very good use of hidden spaces because all through the cabin you will find many places to stash sunglasses‚ spare change‚ or a cell phone that don’t look like storage.

If cargo space is what your customers need‚ you can have 45.8 cubic feet and a third row of seating‚ or up to 90 cubic feet if you decide to do the flat fold. You’ll only get more space in a van or minibus. Specs will vary a bit with the standard wheelbase Escalade.

Fuel efficiency was a bit better than we expected with 14 (city)/20 (highway)‚ although one tester averaged about 23 mpg highway. It does have a have a huge 26-gallon tank‚ so if you close your eyes when filling it‚ you’ll be happy about the impressive mileage you can squeeze out of one tank.

SUVs are a staple in any fleet for corporate passengers‚ and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade has luxury to spare that will please all of your high-end clients. It’s the perfect in-between vehicle when a van or minibus is too big but a sedan is too small. The Escalade also comes with the classic Cadillac Professional Vehicle Protection Plan of 3 years or 150‚000 miles. [CD0914]