By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
When the invitation calls for ?black tie? the 2015 Cadillac Escalade is already dressed for the occasion ? with our test vehicle it was with the white jacket version of the standard, covered with a White Diamond tricoat exterior. The interior was ?jet black.? We looked everywhere for an Armani label, but all we could find was the elegant new Cadillac wreath-and-crest insignia, which illuminates in the dark.
From the highly detailed Galvano chrome grille and stacked LED headlights to the Magnetic Ride Control Suspension to the limousine-like interior appointments, the Escalade is optimal elegance. In fact, when we took it to the feed store to pick up a couple of deer blocks ? yes we feed the deer that visit our yard ? we felt overdressed.
?An exceptional level of craftsmanship is found in the 2015 Escalade, and it all centers on the premium, layered materials and extensive use of cut-and-sew stitching ? the way fine furniture is produced,? said Eric Clough, director of design, Cadillac Interiors. ?We designed Escalade with what we call the beauty of contrast ? a distinctive combination of bold, SUV character, but also the refinement of the Cadillac form vocabulary and technology.?
As before, everything about the fourth generation Escalade is larger than life and even though the interior space is slightly smaller it?s better designed with more for more people space and cargo room. There is no compromise, for Escalade owners, it has it all in full size whether it be the maximum cargo space of 94.2 cubic feet or the 8,100 towing capacity. If we have any complaints about the Escalade it was the size, it?s really too big for the two of us, but that?s a personal choice.
Even in the giant size (nearly three tons with four-wheel drive), the Escalade has big performance. Under the hood is a 420-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 with variable valve timing, Active Fuel Management and direct injection. The transmission is a smooth, positive eight-speed automatic. It can be shifted manually using a toggle-like button on the steering wheel-mounted shifter stalk, but it?s not the most ideal situation ? steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters would be a big improvement. That said, most Escalade drivers probably don?t care and like this system just fine.
Standard equipment on the Escalade is General Motors? outstanding Magnetic Ride Control. It?s the same super-fast acting automatic damping system that?s used on several performance models, like the Corvette and Camaro. On the Escalade, the system can be switched by a button on the left side of the center stack screen to Normal or Sport mode. The ride gets a bit stiffer on the Sport setting, but there?s less body lean on corners. In fact, the Escalade handles very well for such a big vehicle and the electric assist steering gives the driver a good road feel.
Performance levels are impressive with 0 to 60 mph times of just under six seconds according to Cadillac. Fuel economy is never going to be great on something this big, but the cylinder deactivation system works well to raise the EPA numbers significantly to 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. We averaged 17.9 mpg in mixed driving conditions.
To be big in any automotive market today a vehicle has to be have all the latest technologies and the Escalade gets a top rating in that category with features like a wireless charging spot on the center armrest for mobile devices, an OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot connection for the passengers and the Cadillac User Experience (CUE).
The standard CUE system uses an eight-inch screen at the top of the center stack that works like a tablet allowing the driver to ?tap? or ?swipe? the screen to control audio, navigation and other vehicle functions. The system even has proximity sensors to activate common options and controls as the users hand approaches the screen ? it knows what you want to do. There is also ?favorites? section that gives quick access to phone, audio, navigation controls from one location on the screen. The system will even read incoming texts to you through the vehicle?s speakers and it can link to an iPhone?s Siri Eyes Free system to when you have a quick question.
Rather than the traditional instrument panel behind the steering wheel, the Escalade uses a 12.3-inch screen for the digital driver information center. The driver can select what and how he/she wants the screen to look and act. It has the capability to show details on the audio, Bluetooth and navigation in addition to the traditional instrumentation. The Escalade Platinum edition also has a four color head-up display, rear entertainment system with three screens and a refrigerator in the center console.
The Escalade seats are not only good looking and comfortable, they massage. The driver?s seat also pulses on the left, right or both sides to warn the driver of where a dangerous situation may be occurring. In the back, the third row seats can be lowered or raised at the touch of the button and of course, the rear hatch is power.
A few of safety features we particularly like are the full speed range adaptive cruise control, front and rear automatic braking, automatic collision preparation and automatic safety belt tightening. It also has an airbag that deploys from the center between the front row passengers to keep them from banging into each other in certain kinds of collisions.
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade comes in two sizes, with rear- or four-wheel drive and in four trim levels: Standard, Luxury, Premium or Platinum. Base prices for the four trim levels are $74,960, $78,960, $91,265 and $91,265 respectively and including the destination charge. The 14-inch longer ESV model is $3,000 more and four-wheel drive adds $2,600. Our Escalade 4WD Platinum test vehicle included the very cool, power assist steps that pop out when a door is opened and disappear when the doors are closed.
In our minds we fought the idea of driving such a large vehicle, but admit we enjoyed every minute of it. When your life calls for ?black tie?, this is the SUV for you, heck it?s even better dressed than most limousines. It?s definitely the Cadillac of SUVs.
For more details check the Internet at http://www.cadillac.com/escalade-suv.html .