By KBB.com Editors
Called the luxury king of SUVs, Cadillac's three-row Escalade ESV offers more horsepower and nine more cubic feet of cargo space than Lincoln's 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 2009 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 New for 2009
New features include HID headlamps on Platinum models, while a power tilt steering wheel and enhanced OnStar navigation tools are added to all Escalade models. A new safety option is Cadillac's Side Blind Zone Alert system that alerts the driver to vehicles not in the side mirror's field of view.Driving It Driving Impressions
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, wide track and improved 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.Favorite Features
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 2009 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 is set low and far forward to improve real and perceived room. It 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.Exterior
The 2009 Escalade ESV looks powerful, purposeful and streamlined, not unlike a 1950s diesel locomotive. The largest and heaviest Escalade to date, Cadillac's stylist have clever created a vehicle that appears somewhat smaller thanks to its sleek, tightly-wrapped new body. Stepping in requires the use of the side step rails for all but the tallest passengers, and reaching the roof-mounted luggage rack is best left to those with the longest arms. 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 2009 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 and rear-seat LCD monitor, 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, 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, Side Blind Zone Alert and Intellibeam automatic headlamps.Under the Hood
Powering every 2009 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, but is now E85 compatible.
403 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/19 (2WD, gas), 10/14 (2WD, E85), N/A (AWD)
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade ESV's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $64,500 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 550 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 is lower overall than the GL 550 and the X5. Be sure to check Fair Purchase Prices to see what consumers are actually paying for the Escalade ESV in your area.