The Cadillac Escalade and its larger sibling, the Escalade ESV, transform into the model’s next generation for 2007.

Both receive a 6.2-litre all-aluminum V8 engine with variable valve timing, replacing the 6.0-litre of 2006, with a corresponding rise to 403 hp from 345 hp. Both are based on GM’s new full-size SUV platform, which the Escalade shares with the Tahoe, and the Escalade ESV with the Suburban. Interior and exterior styling are new, and both receive curtain airbags with rollover protection for all seating rows, Generation 7 OnStar with one-year “Directions & Connections” service plan featuring turn-by-turn navigation, and available factory-installed 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels. The Escalade ESV also includes an available second DVD system to keep third-row passengers enthralled, with an eight-inch flip-down screen. Both models feature all-wheel drive and a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and external heavy-duty transmission cooler.

Features on both models include 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, four-wheel discs with ABS, three-row seating, deep-tinted glass, fog lights, Xenon headlamps, power liftgate, heated mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming and integrated turn signals, roof rack, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer fluid, rear wiper/washer with fixed delay, automatic tri-zone climate control, front and rear centre floor consoles with power outlet, and cupholders, cruise control, rear auxiliary heater, driver information centre, tire pressure monitoring system, self-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals, leather-wrapped wheel with integrated controls, rear locking differential, automatic rear-level suspension, trailer package, power locks with keyless entry and remote starter, OnStar, ultrasonic rear parking assist, heated leather seats, six-CD changer and XM Satellite radio with three free trial months.

Available options include IntelliBeam automatic high/low headlamp control system, rearview camera system, power-adjustable running boards, sunroof, 18- or 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels, heated steering wheel, cooled front seats, second-row power release fold-and-tumble seats, and touch-screen navigation system with voice recognition.

The idea of a Cadillac truck shook the traditional automotive world when the Escalade debuted for 1999, but it’s now a fixture on the scene; unlike the early ones, which were basically Chevrolet trucks with wreath-and-crest badges, the Escalade’s seriously-in-your-face grille and big-wheel styling certainly sets it apart.

The new fully-boxed frame is 49 per cent more torsionally stiff than its predecessor, and its large brakes work very well. The interior is very plush, with superb fit-and-finish and quality materials, but second-row seating is tight and the third row is strictly for children. There are several seating arrangements available, including power fold-and-tumble second row (although you need to manipulate them back into their upright position), second-row chairs or bench, and two- or three-passenger third row seating. The stretched ESV is a better choice if you frequently carry extra passengers or cargo, and as if one DVD isn’t enough, there are separate ones for both second and third row; the navigation system will also play a DVD on its screen if the truck is parked.

The larger powerplant moves this heavy truck much better than the previous engine did, and it can feel almost nimble, at least until you’re trying to fit it into a downtown parking spot. It’s a dinosaur in a world of rising gas prices, but for those who can afford it, you won’t find a more luxurious hauler in GM’s stable. And, surprisingly, prices on this new generation have dropped.

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