2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

by Greg Wilson

Redesigned for the 2002 model year, the Cadillac Escalade SUV is based on the recently-redesigned full-size GM truck platform, and includes a standard 345 horsepower 6.0 litre V8 with an 8500 lb towing capacity, a 4-speed automatic transmission with Tow/Haul mode, eight passenger seating, a high-end Bose stereo system, and standard all-wheel-drive. It retails for $72,700.

Cadillac Escalade Big luxury in a bold package

Full-size, luxury SUVs may be the antithesis of contemporary, environmentally-friendly, personal transportation, but they have a loyal, and growing following. There are now at least a half dozen of these plush behemoths on the market with more to follow. Vehicles like the Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX470, Mercedes-Benz ML500 and G500, Range Rover, BMW X5, and Cadillac Escalade combine luxury, utility, off-road ability, safety, power and comfort in a way that makes them, quite possibly the ultimate multi-purpose vehicles.

Most have seven or eight passenger seating, four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, big cargo areas with multi-functional seating arrangements, powerful V8 engines, full luxury features, and comfortable, quiet cabins. The downside to these super SUV’s is poor fuel economy, high purchase prices, difficulty parking and maneouvering in tight spaces, and a high step-in height.

The Cadillac Escalade was first introduced in the winter of 1999, and was Cadillac’s first truck in its 56 year history. It was very similar to the GMC Yukon Denali which was based on the last generation GMC Yukon/Chevy Tahoe. The latter two were essentially shorter versions of the indefatigable Suburban, and all of them were derived from the GM full-size truck platform.

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

The 2002 Escalade is the second-generation Escalade, and is based on the recently-redesigned Tahoe/Yukon/GM pickup platform. Though it doesn’t look it, the new Escalade is shorter and wider than the previous model – it’s shorter by 58 mm (2.3 in), wider by 48 mm (1.9 in.), and about the same height. The wheelbase is shorter by 38 mm (1.5 in.). Still, the new Escalade actually has more headroom, hiproom and legroom than the old model � a function of a clever cabin design.

New features on the 2002 Escalade include a standard 345 horsepower 6.0 litre V8 ‘Vortec’ engine (replacing the 255 horsepower 5.7 litre V8), a new four-speed automatic transmission, larger 17 inch wheels and tires, an anti-skid system (StabiliTrak), and a computer-controlled road-sensing suspension.

Seating has been expanded from five to eight passengers with the addition of a standard three-person, third-row removeable seat that is split 50/50. The instrument panel and seats have been redesigned, and there are more standard features. New features include driver/passenger automatic climate control, ultrasonic rear parking sensors, and a Driver Information Centre with trip computer.

Bold new design

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

The 2002 Escalade’s chunky new styling gives it a different identity to its Chevy and GMC cousins, and resembles the styling of other new Cadillacs such as the Cadillac Escalade EXT pickup and the upcoming CTS sports sedan and XLR sports car.

The sharp angles and creases of the bodywork give the Escalade an imposing, almost-military look. The huge grille and massive headlights are almost intimidating – I can just imagine what’s it’s like to see an Escalade coming up behind you in the rearview mirror.

Frankly, I didn’t like the Escalade’s styling when I first saw it in a photograph, but I have to admit, it looks better in your driveway. And there’s no denying the styling is distinctive.

Abundant horsepower

The 2002 AWD Escalade receives a new 6.0 litre V8 engine that generates 345 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm. That compares to the previous engine which developed 255 hp @ 4600 rpm and 330 lb.-ft. @ 2800 rpm. As you can see, there’s 90 more horsepower and 50 lb-ft more torque – however note that maximum torque is delivered at significantly higher revs. In theory, this means that the engine isn’t as responsive at lower engine speeds, but I didn’t notice any lack of power. Despite its hefty curb weight of 2635 kg. (5809 lb.), the Escalade just leaps off the line and continues leaping all the way past legal speed limits. GM’s published 0 to 60 mph time is 8.6 seconds, and the � mile is 16.6 seconds, very quick for a vehicle that weighs almost three tons.

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Vortec 6.0 litre V-8
Click image to enlarge

GM claims the Escalade has more horsepower and torque per litre than any competitor � this may exclude the high-performance BMW M-series and Mercedes-Benz AMG models. Still, the Escalade has plenty of power, and offers a commendable maximum towing capacity of 3856 kg (8500 lb.).

As you might expect, fuel consumption is thirsty: in the city, the Escalade consumes 20.4 litres per 100 km (14 mpg) and on the highway 14.5 litres per 100 km (19 mpg). Fortunately, it uses Regular fuel, but when it comes time to fill up its 98 litre fuel tank, just pray you don’t overextend your credit card limit.

I found the Escalade’s new 4-speed Hydra-Matic heavy-duty automatic transmission to be exceptionally smooth, gliding with ease and precision between gears. It offers the GM’s unique Tow/Haul, which adjusts shift points to take into account the extra load of trailer. If you tow, this is an excellent feature to have � I’ve tried it on other GM vehicles with a trailer in tow. It causes the transmission to downshift sooner when going down hills, and stay in gear longer when climbing hills.

You would never know that the Escalade has four-wheel-drive – its permanently-engaged all-wheel-drive system has no buttons or levers to switch and provides power to all four wheels all of the time. A viscous coupling supplies a constant 38/62 front/rear torque split. In addition, a traction control system is integrated with the all-wheel-drive system. With 380 lb-ft of torque, it’s a good thing the Escalade has all-wheel-drive and traction control – it helps prevent wheelspin and instability in slippery conditions. In addition, standard StabiliTrak, a computer-controlled anti-skid system, automatically corrects sliding and loss of directional control by braking individual wheels and retarding the throttle.

The Escalade isn’t intended for serious off-road duty. Though it’s rugged and has ten inches of ground clearance, it doesn’t have a Low Range gear for steep hill climbing and descending. For trips to the cottage on gravel and pot-holed roads, it’s fine, but it’s not a backwoods trailblazer.

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

The Escalade’s ride is very comfortable for a big, heavy truck. It has a truck-like ladder frame, an independent front suspension (short-and-long-arm with torsion bars and a stabilizer bar), and a solid rear axle with coil springs and automatic load leveling. The Escalade’s big P265/70R-17 inch tires contribute to the comfortable ride. In addition, a computer-controlled �road sensing’ suspension package anticipates bumps and adjusts shock valving to smooth out the ride, reduce wallowing and pitching, and enhance lateral stability. From the driver’s point of view, the body is stable in the corners with minimal lean, and doesn’t pitch or dive during acceleration and braking. These are common problems with other SUV’s because of their height, weight and truck-like suspensions.

On the freeway, there’s surprisingly little wind noise for a vehicle with such a tall, blunt nose. The engine is quiet at cruising speeds, doing only about 1700 rpm at 100 km/h and 2100 rpm at 120 km/h. I found the Escalade to be a great highway cruiser � easy to drive, comfortable, powerful, with great visibility. It’s also easy to drive in town, but it is difficult to find a parking space that’s big enough.

A heavy vehicle needs good brakes, and the Escalade’s four-wheel disc brakes with twin piston calipers and an improved anti-lock braking system with rear proportioning provide good performance for such a heavy vehicle, but not exemplary performance. GM quotes a 60 mph to 0 braking distance of 49.3 metres (162 ft.). A GMC Yukon Denali tested at last year’s Car of the Year runoffs sponsored by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada stopped from 100 km/h in 44.1 metres (145 ft.).

The Escalade’s standard variable-assist power steering is easy when parking and comfortable on the highway. And while the Escalade’s turning diameter of 12 metres (39.3 ft) is not tight, it’s better than the previous model.

Luxurious interior but cramped third seat

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

The Escalade’s interior is a place where you can really get comfortable, (with the exception of the third row seat.) The cabin is wide and there’s plenty of headroom and legroom for first and second row passengers. The seating positions are high with a good view outwards, and the soft leather seats are wide with high seat cushions.

A new third row seat allows the 2002 Escalade to carry three more passengers, but it’s not an easy seat to get to, and it’s not very comfortable once you’re there. It’s narrower than the second row seat, the seat cushion is low to the floor, and there’s no room under the second row seat to put your feet, so your legs stick up in the air in a rather uncomfortable position.

Third row passengers have outboard cupholders and a covered storage bin and there are two outboard height-adjustable head restraints, and three rear seatbelts (centre lap belt). The third row seat is split 50/50 and both sides have folding seatbacks, or can tumble forwards when not in use. Plus both split seats can be removed completely from the vehicle.

The second row bench seat is split 70/30 – to fold the seats, the cushion pulls up against the front seats, and the backrest folds down flat. The head restraints automatically fold out of the way when folding down the backrest.

Second row passengers are treated royally in the Escalade. They have their own heating/air conditioning controls, stereo controls and headphone jacks, seat heaters, and other conveniences. I liked the centre, folding armrest which includes a storage tray and two cupholders. There are also two 12 volt outlets, another two folding cupholders on the back of the centre console, and map pockets on the back of the front seats. To keep cool, second and third row passengers have their own roof-mounted air vents.

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

Front passengers have two, wide captains chairs with inboard folding armrests and integrated shoulder belts. Luxury touches include a round aluminum-look clock on the console, leather-wrapped, chrome-tipped column shift lever, leather/wood steering wheel, and warm walnut trim on the console and doors. There are seven round instruments in the gauge cluster including a tachometer and a transmission oil temperature gauge, and a trip computer and message centre are standard. A compass and outside temperature display are located in the rearview mirror.

The overhead console contains redundant controls for the rear heating/air conditioning system, just in case you want to heat up or cool down the rear passenger area.

Between the driver and passenger is a wide centre armrest/storage container with dual levels � the lower portion is very deep and includes a 12 volt outlet and coin holder. The upper portion has a notebook or cell phone holder.

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Click image to enlarge

A great-sounding 11-speaker Bose Acoustimass Audio System is standard, but the six-disc in-dash CD changer is located separately from the AM/FM/cassette unit at the bottom of the centre console. Automatic climate control is standard, but I would have expected a dual zone system in a vehicle of this price range.

The overly large outside mirrors can be folded in by pressing a button on the dash � handy for narrow garages or carwashes.

The optional Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist system consist of sensors in the rear bumpers that warn of hidden objects when backing up. A series of yellow and red lights plus an audible warning tone warn the driver of the proximity of the object behind the vehicle. I found this system very handy for parking because I could tell how close I was to the other car even though I couldn’t see its bumper through the rear window.

For safety, the Escalade includes front and side airbags, and three point seatbelts for all outboard passengers. Centre passengers have lap belts and no head restraints.

With the third row seats in place, there is enough cargo area for four or five grocery bags, but there’s certainly not enough cargo room for the luggage of eight passengers. Tumbling one of both rear seats forwards provides lots of cargo space without having to carry the seats out of the vehicle, and storing them in the garage. The cargo area is four feet wide, and with the third row seats removed, the load floor is about 40 inches long. With the second and third row seats removed, the load floor is about six feet long.

A large, lift-up rear hatch provides access to the cargo area, but it’s big and heavy, and requires some effort to lift from rest. It does not offer a separate rear liftglass. The liftover height is quite high (30 in.), but a rear step bumper helps when getting in to the cargo area. The rear bumper has a built-in tow bar. Just inside the rear hatch is a power door lock button and a 12 volt powerpoint for coolers or other electrical devices.


I liked the Escalade’s smooth powerful powertrain, comfortable ride and many luxury features. I thought it was amazingly nimble for its size and weight. I dreaded filling up the gas tank and I was nervous about scraping the roof in low parking garages. And I was intimidated by its $72,000 price tag. But for those with the means to own a multi-purpose luxury vehicle, the Escalade is a vehicle that seems to have more of everything..

The Escalade is manufactured in Arlington, Texas

Technical Data:

2002 Cadillac Escalade
Base price $72,700
Type 4-door, 8 passenger full-size luxury SUV
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 6.0 litre V8, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder
Horsepower 345 @ 5200 rpm
Torque 380 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires P265/70R17 all-season touring radials
Curb weight 2635 kg. (5809 lb.)
GVWR 3175 kg. (7000 lb.)
Max towing cap. 3856 kg. (8500 lb.)
Wheelbase 2946 mm (116.0 in.)
Length 5052 mm (198.9 in.)
Width 2004 mm ( 78.9 in.)
Height 1885 mm ( 74.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 1801 litres (63.6 cu. ft.) 3rd seat removed
  3064 litres (108.2 cu.ft.) 2nd seat down
Fuel consumption City: 20.4 l/100 km (14 mpg)
  Hwy: 14.5 l/100 km (19 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca