KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 2/25/2011
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.
You'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
What's New for 2011
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.
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.
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.
Notable Standard Equipment
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.
Notable Optional Equipment
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.
Under the Hood
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)
The two-wheel drive 2011 Cadillac Escalade has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $64,000. With all-wheel drive the price jumps almost $3,000. A fully loaded Platinum Edition tops out around $85,000. The Escalade's base pricing places it well above the Lincoln Navigator, BMW X5 and Infiniti QX56, and far below the Land Rover Range Rover HSE and Lexus LX 570. KBB's Fair Purchase Price, which represents what consumers are actually paying, is updated frequently and can be a helpful tool when calculating your costs, so be sure to check it out. The 2011 Escalade equals the Lincoln Navigator and Land Rover Range Rover when it comes to resale values but, unfortunately, falls behind the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Lexus LX 570.