Let’s set things straight – I’m a short, balding white guy in my early 30s from the sticks of the Northeast – not exactly Jay Z’s targeted demographic, to the degree that I had to google Big Pimpin’ to determine the lyrics. But behind the wheel of that Cadillac, I was the man…or da bomb…or something. More than 400 horsepower, 22-inch chrome rims, and the knowledge that everyone from the established CEO to the affluent NBA star chooses this ride, well, it all adds a certain something to the driving experience.
Maybe it’s the style that accounts for impressive sales, maybe it’s the snowball effect after a Hollywood superstar was first spotted in one, or maybe, just maybe, buyers are interested in Cadillacs again. Whatever the reason, the Escalade is a rarity, a GM success story, and the updated 2007 model will surely keep the momentum going, especially since it stickers for the same price as the 2006 truck. Those responsible for the Escalade’s popularity, the shoppers who fork over more than $50,000, are as diverse as they come. You’re just as likely to see a black-and-chrome Escalade driven around your cul-de-sac by a 60-year-old executive as rolling along Sunset Boulevard with someone famous behind those deeply-tinted windows. Or maybe it’s a regular guy who’s just borrowing it for the night. Regardless, everyone feels like they’re big pimpin’ in the 2007 Cadillac Escalade, a ride that offers a surprising level of refinement, a potent powertrain, a long list of features, and a proud background for the Cadillac crest.
Few $50,000 purchases can be considered bargains, except maybe a house, a check to attorney Thomas Mesereau for your freedom, or the 2007 Cadillac Escalade. On sale now, the all-wheel-drive model starts at $57,280, while the rear-wheel-drive version will be available in August with a base sticker price of $54,725. Both prices include an $875 destination charge, and notably, mirror those of the outgoing 2006 Escalade despite all that’s new.
Besides the revised body work, updated platform, and 403-horsepower V8, Cadillac’s version of the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon twins comes with dual-zone climate control; heated front and second-row bucket seats with two-position driver’s side memory; leather upholstery; a ten-speaker Bose 5.1 surround sound system with a six-disc CD changer, MP3 player, DVD audio player, and XM satellite radio; power heated and signaling mirrors; heated windshield washers; and high-intensity discharge headlights. But, that’s just a start, since the base sticker price also buys a wood-and-leather steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, a rear parking aid system, tilt steering, a 50/50 folding third-row bench that provides for standard seven-passenger seating, and a power tailgate operated via the key fob, buttons on the door, or a control on the overhead console. And don’t forget about the side-curtain airbags which are deployed in frontal, side, or rear impacts, and the four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranties. That last one offers a bit of added security for shoppers concerned about GM durability, and 12 months of complimentary OnStar service will track the thugs who borrowed your new Escalade for a joy ride.
Of course, some buyers may still consider that laundry list of features to be a bit lean. For those folks, there’s the optional Climate Package with a heated steering wheel, and heated and cooled front seats; and the Information Package that includes a navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen, a camera for the rear parking aid system, and adaptive headlights. Other options include a heated second-row 60/40 bench seat that bumps capacity to eight passengers; power fold-and-tumble second-row buckets; a huge power sunroof; and chrome 22-inch alloy wheels rolling on Bridgestone Dueler 285/65R22 tires. Because these double-dubs are direct from the factory, buyers can be assured that their 2007 Cadillac Escalade has been engineered to ride and handle just as well on these 22s as the standard 18-inchers.
Nuts and Bolts
Big trucks need big power, a point capably addressed by the 2007 Cadillac Escalade’s 6.2-liter, 16-valve, aluminum V8 pushing 403 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 417 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. That’s a lot of muscle, but consider that it’s charged with moving the ‘Slade’s 5,800-lb. curb weight and towing up to 7,400 pounds. A six-speed automatic transmission is mated to the big Vortec engine, and features a tow/haul mode as well as a button for manual shifts – simply drop the column-mounted shifter into M and tap the switch to change gears. The system will allow drivers to downshift or upshift within given parameters, so if you select second gear while motoring along at 80 mph, the transmission won’t accommodate your request until the truck has sufficiently decelerated. And if letting off the gas isn’t enough to slow things down, the four-wheel antilock disc brake setup should do the job.
Those rotors are visible through the standard 18-inch alloy wheels rolling on 265/65 Bridgestone tires. The whole deal is connected to an all-new independent front suspension with forged alloy lower control arms and an automatic load-leveling, multi-link rear setup that has been largely carried over from the 2006 Cadillac Escalade, albeit with a few tweaks. Stabilizer bars and a locking rear differential are standard, as are StabiliTrak stability and traction control systems, hill descent control, and a drive-by-wire throttle feature. A rack-and-pinion steering system replaces the old-school recirculating ball setup of the outgoing truck.
First to hit the streets is the all-wheel-drive 2007 Cadillac Escalade, with rear-wheel-drive versions set to debut in August. The AWD Caddy carries an extra 196 pounds of gear, including the rear-biased drivetrain that distributes power to the wheel with the most grip when traction is compromised. Company officials believe that most Escalade buyers desire the seamless operation of an all-wheel-drive system versus a more rugged four-wheel-drive unit designed for aggressive off-roading. So that means when your neighbor jacks one up with a lift kit, you can laugh even harder.
Cadillac designers call it Seven Layers of Chrome, from the roof rack, window sills, door handles, badges, door moldings, wheels, and running boards (or something like that). Interestingly, during the press launch, the term “bling” was seldom uttered, aside from the tongue-in-cheek use by engineers describing new aluminum suspension components. Call it whatever you like – chrome, bling, shiny truck stuff – when someone asks you if you can see yourself in an Escalade, you can say, “Yes, yes, I can. All the way down to that disgusting pimple on my nose.”
Like the Chevy Tahoe on which it’s based, the 2007 Cadillac Escalade features clean new body lines, subtle wheel flares, lower door panels that hide the rocker panels, and a front end that resembles the midsize SRX SUV with its large chrome grille and thin vertical headlights. That sparking mug is more than a design cue, it also allows for plenty of air to cool the engine when pulling 7,400 pounds over mountain passes. Behind the scenes, the front end has been designed to impact passenger cars lower and safer, and the frame has been stiffened by nearly 50 percent. With all of the changes, the 2007 Escalade offers a drag coefficient of 0.363, which doesn’t mean much to most buyers unless one considers that’s about the same figure reported for a 1995 Corvette and the current Nissan Murano.
Though the exterior of the 2007 Escalade can be considered an update, the interior is brand-spankin’ new. The dash, with its calf skin cap, has been moved about four inches forward and down for more room and better visibility. Quality leather covers the seating surfaces and door panels, an upscale mesh material is used on the headliner and upper pillar covers, and real wood is used to accent the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Aluminum trim decorates the center dash, while rubberized plastics are fitted to all of the points where the driver and passengers commonly touch. Hard plastics are reserved for the lower door and dash panels. GM designers have also covered all of the lower seat frames in plastic, so none of that unsightly hardware is visible when the second-row buckets are tumbled forward.
Forget the tremendous power, the comfy seats, the luxurious interior, and certainly the 12.7-mpg real world fuel economy (though a 200-mile highway trip registered 17.6 mpg). Driving this rig just makes you feel cool, from the frequent casual glances to the shock-and-awe looks when this hulking SUV tears away from a red light. Those occasional sprints are great fun, especially when the 6.2-liter V8 forces the exhaust to bark out a sweet burble, but keep in mind that this ride tips the scales at more than 5,700 pounds, so 403 horsepower here isn’t like 400 horses in the 3,200-lb. Chevy Corvette. Nevertheless, the 2007 Cadillac Escalade feels plenty quick and powerful on the highway, yet is equally adept at strolling slowly along on congested city streets. It’s in those urban quarters where drivers may most appreciate the large side mirrors and clear rear view, though the wide C-pillars and second-row headrests limit rear three-quarter visibility. Not that there’s much to worry about – traffic has a tendency to clear when that massive chrome grille rolls up.
Besides its power, the 2007 Escalade’s powertrain is notable for its refinement. At low and high revs, the engine remains composed and quiet, with the only noise intrusion coming from the wind and a minor dash squeak on our test truck. The six-speed automatic transmission makes good use of the Vortec’s output and offers smooth shifts, but it can get caught up hunting for the appropriate gear (though this is the exception rather than the norm). On the column-mounted shifter are buttons for the tow/haul mode and a manually-interactive shift feature. Drop the gear selector to M and a simple tap of the button performs requested up and down shifts, albeit with a slight delay and only if the truck’s computers determine it won’t trash the powertrain. Cadillac engineers claim that the placement on the shift lever is logical, though those who must take a hand off of the steering wheel to use it may long for something more akin to the paddle shifters on a DSG-equipped Audi or Volkswagen. True, the button may be awkwardly placed, but there’s no denying that being able to drop ‘er down to second headed into a corner and watch the revs climb as you throttle out will get you smiling. The four-wheel antilock disc brake system is connected to a well-modulated pedal, and GM engineers claim that the setup has tested positive for its ability to slow a 7,400-lb. towed load when descending a steep grade.
During our drive through the mountains east of San Diego, we got a good sense of how the 2007 Cadillac Escalade handled. Considering its size, body roll was very well controlled, and the optional 22-inch tires provided a smooth and comfortable ride despite the relatively short sidewalls. Some of the effects of roadway expansion joints could be felt, but not significantly, and the spacious and well-padded front and second-row buckets help, though the lack of side bolstering will leave you sliding around in quick turns. Padded door sills and armrests further accent the focus on comfort, as do the quick-acting heated seats with three settings and the power fold-and-tumble second-row buckets that make third-row access fairly easy. However, that rearmost seat is a bit tight for average-sized adults.
Other quibbles center on the tilt steering wheel, which lacks the expected power adjustment and telescoping function. Also conspicuously absent are one-touch up power windows that are common to numerous luxury cars. The rack-and-pinion steering, admittedly better than the outgoing recirculating ball unit, needs a speed-sensitive feature to give it more heft and road feel at higher speeds. And finally, the cargo area’s high liftover height makes dealing with the two 50-lb. third-row sections all that more difficult. Word is the seats will remain hefty, though the elusive pull-up strap will be made easier to use.
With all of the aftermarket products available, are buyers opting for the Escalade’s optional 22-inch wheels?
According to GM, the answer is yes. Though the 2007 Cadillac Escalade has only been on sale for about a month as this is written, sales figures indicate that roughly 50 percent of buyers are forking over the extra $2,995 for the big 22s.
When are the 2007 Cadillac Escalade ESV and Escalade EXT models expected to go on sale?
Both models will go on sale in May of 2006.
Chevy will be offering the Tahoe with a two-mode hybrid system for 2008. Are similar plans in the works for the 2008 Escalade?
The 2008 Cadillac Escalade will be offered with a two-mode hybrid system, hitting the lots about six months after the Chevrolet Tahoe version.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Cadillac Escalade AWD
Base Price: $57,280 (including a $875 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 6.2-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 403 horsepower at 5,700 rpm
Engine Torque: 417 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Curb Weight, lbs. (AWD/RWD): 5,751/5,555
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): TBD
Observed Fuel economy: 12.7 mpg
Length: 202.5 inches
Width: 79.0 inches
Wheelbase: 116.0 inches
Height: 74.7 inches
Legroom (front/second row/third row): 41.3/39.0/25.6 inches
Headroom (front/second row/third row): 40.3/39.2/37.9 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Eight
Max. Cargo Volume: 108.9 cubic feet
Max. Payload, lbs. (AWD/RWD): 1,349/1,445
Max. Towing Capacity, lbs. (AWD/RWD): 7,400/7,600
Ground Clearance: 9.0 inches
Competitors: Audi Q7, Chrysler Aspen, Hummer H2, Infiniti QX56, Land Rover LR3, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus GX 470, Lexus LX 470, Lincoln Navigator, and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Toyota Land Cruiser, Volvo XC90 V8.
Photos courtesy of Cadillac