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 Escalade (not Cadillac) on Tuesday, March 24, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Powerful, Stylish, Tons of Torque, Sophisticated"
Cons: "No spare tire, rigged exhaust."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I always keep an SUV in the driveway to pull our family ski boat. Traditionally, I've been a Navigator person because of the value and overall cost. Cadillac cut me a great deal on a Platinum loaded and it's been a real gem. My wife owns a Range Rover HSE and we attempted to pull the boat a few times with it. That was not a good idea! It was too much of a chore for it. The HP and torque is perfect and the seats are comfortable. Granted we use premium fuel and get about 17 MPG on the highway but, that's with the boat behind us. It does have the 4 cylinder disable option so, I'm sure we would get much better mileage if we weren't pulling anything and driving 65 MPH. On the negative side. There isn't a SPARE TIRE! Because of GM (and their infinite wisdom to incorporate a dual exhaust. They removed the spare and rigged the exhaust to accommodate the two tips. In summary. I believe Cadillac makes substandard cars (I owned a poor quality (CTS-V) but, they make a great SUV."
By Tinaslilies on Friday, February 20, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Awesome drive, and beautiful vehicle"
Cons: "Don't keep value"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"II love Cadillac and their service is amazing. I feel so happy when I go into my local dealership knowing I'm completely taken care of. love my Escalade. It's my 3rd Cadillac and my 2nd Escalade. I've been very satisfied with all of my Cadillac vehicles except that they unfortunately don't keep their value. This is a huge issue for me and honestly may keep me from investing in another Cadillac. As much as I love the vehicle I'm leaning more towards the Lexus luxury SUV that keeps it's value much better long term."
7 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Stacey on Sunday, February 15, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 108,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Smooth comfort, easy to handle, safe family car"
Cons: "Bad gas mileage and expensive to repair."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The only downside to owning this car is the bad gas mileage and if it breaks down the price to get it fixed."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Knicky on Saturday, January 03, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "very quiet and truly comfy ride"
Cons: "cosmetic issues were toooo many, back seats do not"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"The appliqué literally fell off the back side of the vehicle. The passenger door handle came very loose. The leather in the passenger row is worn with not much use at all, had to have been inferior quality. too many issues to mention. Never again will I buy American. Back to Lexus!!…Pretty SUV but not nearly worth my $85K… Cadillac emblem faded in less than a year of ownership (vehicle is not left in the sun for any extended period). They replaced it and It faded again just as quickly. HORRIBLE QUALITY in the cosmetic details. Back seats do no recline,really Cadillac??"
27 people out of 53 found this review helpful
By Charlie705 on Saturday, December 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 132,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great deal used, looks great, super comfortable,"
Cons: "Gas mileage, 3rd row seats dont flatten"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We love this truck. My wife prefers it to our 2007 Mercedes S550 and our 2007 Maserati QP. Its like driving a comfortable couch. Everything is easy. The 6.2 liter engine is silky smooth. Great for taking kids around. Just feels strong, hard to describe. Only downside is the gas mileage."
14 people out of 29 found this review helpful
By Chuck on Sunday, October 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Easy transition to multiple uses, no need for a 2nd car; good for towing, carrying loads, cleans up nice for formal occasions"
37 people out of 66 found this review helpful