KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Called the luxury king of SUVs, Cadillac's three-row Escalade ESV offers 103 more horsepower and nine more cubic feet of cargo space than Lincoln's equally-new long-wheelbase Navigator L. Though the Navigator L offers a few competitive advantages, including its fold-flat third seat, more towing capacity and a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of nearly $9,000 less, the 2008 Cadillac Escalade ESV dominates the image arena. The full-size Escalade ESV has become the status symbol of choice for country clubbers and the urban cool affluent, and this 21-inch longer version offers even more than the previous generation.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you want or need and can afford a truck this size with these levels of luxury and capability, along with the fast-rising Cadillac brand image, there is no better choice.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If want or need Escalade ESV capabilities without the Cadillac price, GM's three-row Chevy Suburban or GMC Yukon XL are available with nearly as much power for much less money. Lincoln's Navigator L is an excellent domestic alternative, while import-brand luxury SUV competitors are available from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.
What's Significant About This Car?
The Platinum Series makes a comeback, while a two-wheel drive model joins the ESV lineup.
This heavy full-frame truck-based SUV drives like a very large car. It's no sport sedan, but it is more agile, sure-footed and Cadillac-comfortable than most any other full-size truck you'll encounter. Rival Lincoln's new Navigator is very good as well, and has the advantage of independent rear suspension, but we judge the Escalade ESV as better overall in ride and handling. Most of this is due to its fully-boxed frame, redesigned suspension, wider tracks and new rack-and-pinion steering. The 6.2-liter V8 idles aggressively at rest and roars impressively at full throttle as it surges the big Caddy forward with eye-opening authority.
Remote Vehicle Start
This is one of those features that you may not want to live without once you've become used to it, especially in hot summer or cold winter weather. At the touch of a key-fob button from afar, it can start the engine and begin cooling or heating the cabin before you're even inside.
Heated Windshield Washer Fluid
Forget frozen washer fluid with this long-overdue feature. What could be better than warming it before you need it to melt annoying and dangerous windshield ice?
The 2008 Cadillac Escalade's interior is luxury-car plush and surprisingly quiet, and raises the luxury and refinement bars another couple of notches. The instrument panel, set lower and farther forward to improve real and perceived room, houses quad round gauges with white needles, blue-light inlays and white LED backlighting. "Nuance" leather covers the seats, doors, steering wheel and center console, while the interior pillars wear rich-looking fabric.
Those who liked the first-generation Escalade should love this one, beginning with its styling. It looks powerful, purposeful and streamlined, not unlike a 1950s diesel locomotive. Slightly larger and heavier than before, due to added structure and features, it appears somewhat smaller thanks to its sleek, tightly-wrapped new body. The swept-back 57-degree windshield contributes to a segment-best aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.36, which helps improve fuel economy and reduce wind noise, and careful detailing shows in its large, finely-crafted Cadillac signature grille, front fender vent ports and tasteful chrome accents.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2008 Cadillac Escalade ESV's comprehensive standard equipment begins with all-wheel drive, road-sensing suspension, automatic rear leveling, ultrasonic rear park assist, power liftgate and remote vehicle starting. Inside are leather-covered 14-way power heated front seats, heated fold-and-tumble second-row seats, three-passenger third-row seating, tri-zone automatic climate system, steering wheel radio controls, rear audio controls, power adjustable pedals, DVD/MP3/CD-changer with Bose Surround Sound, XM Satellite Radio and OnStar with Turn-by-turn navigation. Safety features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), StabiliTrak stability control, advanced front air bags with passenger sensing, head-curtain side air bags for all three rows, rain-sensing wipers and heated washer fluid.
Notable Optional Equipment
With so much standard equipment, the ESV's option list is not long, and includes 22-inch tires on chromed aluminum wheels, rear-seat entertainment system with second and third-row flip down video screens, power retractable running boards, a power sliding sunroof, a Climate Package (heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel) and an Information package that includes DVD touch-screen navigation, a rearview camera and Intellibeam automatic headlamps.
Under the Hood
Powering every 2008 Cadillac Escalade is a 6.2-liter V8 with variable valve timing (VVT), which optimizes camshaft timing to improve low-rpm torque and high-rpm power, along with emissions and fuel economy. This engine does not yet have GM's Active Fuel Management (AFM), which deactivates half of the cylinders under light load.
403 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/19 (2WD), 12/18 (AWD)
The 2008 Cadillac Escalade ESV's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $60,000 for the base model and tops out around $72,000 for a fully loaded all-wheel-drive version. That's considerably more than the Lincoln Navigator but not far off from comparably equipped versions of the V8 Mercedes-Benz GL 450 and the all-wheel-drive V8 BMW X5. The Escalade ESV holds slightly better five-year residual and resale values than the Lincoln Navigator L, but lower than the GL 450 and the X5. Be sure to check Fair Purchase Prices to see what consumers are actually paying for the Escalade ESV in your area.