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2015 Cadillac Escalade First Review: A Return to Top Form

By Trevor Dorchies on April 10, 2014 12:35 PM
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Think about this for a second: It's been 15 years now since Cadillac took a chance on the Escalade. It was a radical move for a traditional domestic luxury car brand, but it's a gamble which continues to pay off. The Escalade's path to success hasn't been easy, it faces increasingly stiff competition from import and domestic rivals. And a dated interior didn't help its case. For 2015, though, Cadillac has upped its game with an all-new design featuring a cabin fit for a class-leading full-size luxury SUV. Cadillac was aiming for "world class quietness" through new additions like inlaid and triple-sealed doors, redesigned mirrors, and acoustic laminate glass for both the windshield and front row. 

The all-new interior is a major leap forward but other refinements further Cadillac's assertion of being best in class. A more powerful and fuel efficient 6.2-liter V8 engine is now rated at 420 horsepower and an impressive 460 lb-ft of torque (up from 403 hp and 417 lb-ft, respectively). The EPA has rated the 2015 Cadillac Escalade with standard rear-wheel drive at 15 city, 21 highway, and 17 mpg combined while the optional four-wheel drive model checks in at 14 city, 21 highway, and 16 mpg combined. The Escalade ESV with two-wheel drive is on par with the shorter wheelbase model while the ESV with four-wheel drive sees its highway fuel figure dip slightly to 20 mpg, still an improvement over the previous generation. Our time with the 2015 Cadillac Escalade demonstrated that General Motors' luxury brand fixed everything necessary to once again be considered a proper full-size luxury SUV.

Buttoned Up

There's the obvious exterior styling tweaks including redesigned front and rear treatments, and fully-function LED lighting fore and aft, but the real star is the all-new interior.  Now with cut and sewn materials and real wood accents, the 2015 Escalade's interior is luxurious and comfortable. Climb into the driver's seat and it's easy to see that the interior has been harmonized with the rest of Cadillac's portfolio. Once a sore spot for Cadillac's largest offering, now the interior is one of the Escalade's strongest attributes thanks to the new materials, the restyled dashboard lay-out, and the addition of CUE giving it a distinct personality apart from its Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon/Denali siblings. Cadillac's on-board navigation and infotainment system, paired with the ability to customize the instrument cluster, now gives the Escalade a more technologically advanced feel. 

On the road 

After picking out a 2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium with four-wheel drive (and a staggering sticker price of $83,790, including a $995 destination charge), we were on the road in no time. This model came with available options such as 22-inch wheels ($600), power assist steps with LED lighting ($1,695), Majestic Plum Metallic paint ($495), and a second-row bench seat. Normally, the 2015 Escalade rolls on standard 20-inch wheels. The Escalade's 6.2-liter V8 engine provided spirited performance. On more than one occasion, our rural back road route had us caught behind farm tractors but a quick tip in of the throttle hustled the Escalade around slower traffic with ease. Moving 5,840 lbs is never an easy task but the Escalade's new V8 had little trouble doing so sounding great in the process. 

Controlling nearly three tons of mass isn't easy, so Cadillac unleashed its latest form of magnetic ride control on the 2015 Escalade with different modes available on the lower left-hand side of the CUE infotainment system screen. Our drive route snaked through a small, two-lane road that ran through a park and we battled our fair share of traffic along the way as well but we were able to handle the Escalade in a confident and controlled fashion. Improved brakes allow the 2015 Escalade to stop 9-feet shorter from 60 mph than the previous model. Other steering and suspension improvements include selectable, electric power steering and retuned, hydraulic engine mounts.

Ready to Rumble

Cadillac faces an increasingly competitive set that includes the Lincoln Navigator and Infiniti QX80, but its most formidable challenger is the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which bowed in 2006. However, unlike the Escalade, which only offers the 6.2-liter V8 engine, the Mercedes offers up three different engine choices - one of which is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. There's also a high performance option in the GL63 AMG powered by a 5.5-liter biturbo V8 engine. We asked Cadillac's engineers about an AMG-fighting Escalade V-sport, and while it was considered, the idea never really progressed beyond the talking stage. 

We can't blame Cadillac for deciding to stay away from a V-sport variant of the Escalade. The way back to the top for Caddy's full-size SUV runs through higher quality interiors, a pleasant driving experience, and tons of cabin space. There are three different trims for the 2015 Escalade including the Standard ($72,690), Luxury ($76,690), and Premium ($81,190), all of which include a $995 destination charge. The long-wheelbase Escalade models will go for about $3,000 more than its regular wheelbase counterparts. 

The Verdict

The full-size luxury SUV segment has a lot to offer but with an all-out redesign for the 2015 model year, the Cadillac Escalade has climbed back to the top. With bold styling, seating for up to eight, a ton of storage space, and a towing capacity of up to 8,300 lbs, the 2015 Cadillac Escalade speaks volumes. We recommend you listen. 

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