By KBB.com Editors
In recent times Cadillac's biggest cars have suffered from slumping economies and spiking fuel prices. Yet, Cadillac's biggest players seem to have emerged relatively unscathed. That the Escalade family hasn't been put out to pasture in an era of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars is something of a mystery. Yet, despite the misfortune heaped upon the automotive industry over the last few years, the Escalade remains as popular as ever. Call it tenacity or karma or just plain luck, but Americans seem reluctant to give up the Escalade.
If you need room for eight people and more luxury trappings than an 18th-century French estate, there is no better luxury SUV than the 2011 Cadillac Escalade.
Fuel economy is not the Escalade's strong suit (nor is being inconspicuous). There is an Escalade Hybrid for the fuel-conscious and a host of less-flashy but equally-comfortable competitors for those who prefer something less ostentatious.
Changes for 2011 are relatively minor and include the addition of Cadillac's Premium Care Maintenance program, improved sound insulating techniques and the ninth-generation OnStar upgrade that includes flexible speech-recognition software.
Driving Impressions Largely due to its tremendous bulk, the 2011 Cadillac Escalade isn't exactly the most agile vehicle to toss about. Its not that the Escalade's handling is truck-like (this is, after...all, a truck). In curves, it certainly can't be expected to feel like a sports car, although the steering feel is more pleasing and precise than with previous Escalades. Expect a smooth ride on good surfaces, but don't be surprised when minor bumps get through, especially with the larger-diameter tires and wheels. Despite the 400-plus horsepower lurking under the hood, acceleration is best described as energetic, but not thrilling, and hitting the gas at lower speeds doesn't always produce vigorous response. Engine noise, on the other hand, is plentiful when the throttle is wide open, a very un-Cadillac like attribute. On the upside, the six-speed automatic's shifts are impressively smooth, though on upgrades it sometimes seems uncertain what to do next.
Manual-mode Transmission Operation
Placing the + and - (upshift/downshift) buttons on the column gearshift might not seem like a good idea at first, as most vehicles with a manual-shift provision have a floor lever or paddle shifters. Even so, these buttons are easy to find and use, and the transmission responds with satisfying promptness.
Power Fold-and-Tumble Second-row Seating
Third-row access is a serious issue in big SUVs and an easy-folding second-row seat can save a lot of irritation. This feature operates with buttons on the console and door pillar.
With seating for up to eight passengers, the Escalade is in no danger of feeling cramped. Attention to detail reveals itself, with no exposed fasteners visible and close-out panels concealing all the seat hardware. Fabric covers the ceiling and pillars, with leather covering just about every other exposed surface. Space-saving details, such as the sculpted seat backs, abound throughout the Escalade's cabin. Access to the third-row seat is made easy thanks to the power-assisted fold-and-tumble second-row seats. From the driver's seat, gauges are large and clearly visible, but we did find the blue indicator needles somewhat impair readability. We also couldn't understand why the driver is left without a grab handle while the passenger side handle is such a long reach.Exterior
The Escalade's huge chrome grille wears the now familiar face of Cadillac and is flanked by flashy triple-stack headlamps. Ventiports adorn the front fenders and the windshield is steeply raked for both style and aerodynamic efficiency. Cadillac's renewed emphasis on craftsmanship can be seen in the clean, proportional exterior that places an emphasis on precision. A unique D-pillar treatment and doors that wrap over the rocker panels further define this as a Cadillac, and the glossy paint and tight fitting body panels complete the look. The Escalade's wide track is complemented by a coil-over-shock suspension and a boxed frame for greater torsional stiffness. The standard 18-inch wheels and tires are handsome as is, but adherents of bigger-is-better can choose chrome-clad 22-inchers.
A power rear liftgate heads the list of standard features in the amply-equipped 2011 Cadillac Escalade. Audiophiles can enjoy Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound, while everyone benefits from Cadillac's Auto Ride suspension. A tap-up/tap-down manual mode for the transmission works easily and promptly, using buttons on the column-mounted gearshift lever. DVD navigation with rear backup camera is also standard equipment. Compatibility brackets, built into the front frame, are intended to reduce damage to other vehicles in certain collisions. Side-curtain airbags include tethers for enhanced rollover protection, front seatbelt pretensioners activate in rear impacts – said to be an "industry-exclusive" feature – and the StabiliTrak stability control system incorporates rollover-mitigation technology. Integrated tow hooks are standard.
Among the Escalade's many options are power-deployable running boards, power fold-and-tumble second-row seats and heated and cooled seats (part of the Ultra Luxury Collection package). Also available is Cadillac's IntelliBeam automatic high/low beam adjuster and the Side Blind Zone Alert warning system. When properly equipped, an all-wheel-drive Escalade can tow up to 7,700 pounds; good news for boaters and RVers.
Cadillac's 6.2-liter V8 engine features Active Fuel Management, which deactivates four of the eight cylinders when the engine is not under heavy load. Despite the temporary loss of four cylinders, the 6.2-liter generates significant horsepower and torque as soon as the driver steps on the gas pedal. With its two overdrive ratios and wide gear-ratio spread, the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission is said to be nearly equivalent to a seven-speed. The manual-shift mode uses column-lever buttons.
403 horsepower at 5700 rpm
417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/18 (2WD, Gasoline), 10/15 (2WD, E85), 13/18 (AWD, Gasoline), 10/14 (AWD, E85)
By Tom (CA) on Saturday, April 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great drive..."
Cons: "No sun blocker at the sun roof opening."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Now part of the Cadillac Family...this is a vehicle I will drive and keep...pass on to my son...it is a forever vehicle..."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By GN BRINT (TX) on Sunday, February 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent Quietness and Ride"
Cons: "Not enough Caddy options available ..."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the Top of the Line... The seating is excellent as is the comfort for 5 people on Extended Trips... You will arrive at your destination almost as though you never took the Trip... 600 pluse miles a day is an absolute Joy... The bed has more uses than anything out there and only the Avalanche has a comparative pickup Bed.... Trailer pulling is unsurpassed as the 6.2 Liter 403 HP High Torque Engine effortlessly will pull any load up to its capacity rating... It is hard to believe GM will stop building this Super Great Vehicle so this will be the last one I will ever be able to purchase... I fully intend for this Caddy to be he last one I will ever buy and fully intend for it to last for the remainder of my Life Time... I owned the Cadllac 2009 XLR Before trading it in on this EXT and even though I throughly miss the fabulous EXR as the ultimate Roadster I needed a more versatile vehicle .... The EXT almost has all the amenities I would have preferred such as Vehicle Warning on the Outside Mirrors, Heads up Display on the Windshield, and Adaptive Radar Cruse Control... The front Seats on my 2005 DeVille were more confortable in the seating portion but the EXT front Seats are fully acceptable... Other than those unavailable options and being spoiled by the Deville Seats I am fully content with my 2012 EXT... One more thing; I have never heard a complaint from riders about the spacious and comfortable seating and no one can believe how Quiet the interior is even at extended speeds on all the various highway surfaces... This is one incredible Cadillac and what a Ride it is in typical Caddy Fashion..."
By Happy (NJ) on Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 78,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Never thought we would buy a caddy but I am glad we did. This SUV is definitely awesome, everything works like a dream and it handles like a sports car. Can flick it in and out of parking spaces and down the highway. Comfort for every passenger and diamond white with black definitely gets the looks with the huge chromed 22's. mileage avg 15 city and 19 hwy use premium every 2nd or 3rd fill and reg or plus otherwise."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By George (FL) on Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Well built, great service, cool features."
Cons: "MPG could be better but after all it is a 400HP V8"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"After years of owning nothing but BMW's and Range Rovers if anyone had told me that I would buy a Cadillac I would have laughed at them. Then a couple of years ago both my 550i and my RR were coming up for lease end so my wife and I would need new cars. We test drove the ML550 thought it was nice but too "car like", we test drove a new RR; same old same old and then my wife suggested we look at an Escalade at first I thought "No way" but we went and arranged for an extended test drive as we had done with the others. We were no more than 1/4 mi from the dealer when we looked at each other and said this is the one. We went back and bought it and a month later I went back and bought the CTS Coupe. I'm now on my second Escalade and all cars were/are flawless. They drive and feel as if they were carved from a single block of steel. I just can't say enough good things about these vehicles and the dealer has treated me like gold. I doubt that I will ever own another foreign car or a different domestic for that matter."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Bates (CA) on Saturday, November 03, 2012
I don't own this caroverall rating 8 of 10rating details
Cons: "Loud, poor visibility, 3rdrow seats don't flatten"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I test drove the Porsche Cayenne S and GTS, Range Rover, Q7, Escalade, Yukon Denali, and Expedition. I chose the Navigator. Spouse and i thought we would just try the Escalade since reviews say it beats the Navigator and because it looks stylish and has 400 hp. But its visibility was worse than Lincoln, 3rd row seats did not go flat plus did not have button that you could just push like the Navigator and Expeditions had. Also did not have better acceleration at high speeds and worse visibility made passing more cumbersome. Plus engine was louder by far. THX stereo system in Navigator was much betterr sound. And Navigator had smoother ride on the bumps and cracks. I am used to Lexus and have driven SC 430s for the past several yrs. Before that i drove a little G35, and before that i had a couple Integras and a Prelude. Also had a 2007 MDX. The Navigator was the best SUV, hands down and we can tow 9,000 lbs. Still kept my cute SC 430 though"
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Fast Caddy (OK) on Monday, October 08, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,999overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent Ride"
Cons: "Its got it all"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Great ride for an SUV; AWD is the way to go in one of these. Interior is comfortable and quiet. Great for trips. Gas guzzler though."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful