Regardless of whether you believe a flagship needs to be the biggest, baddest or most expensive vehicle in a manufacturer’s line up, the Escalade has it covered for Cadillac. With a dearer cost of entry, the most cubic inches from its engine and the most imposing grille, this is the highest-rolling Caddy you can buy.
The crest-and-laurel company’s top ticket machine is all-new for 2015. As in past generations, the Escalade borrows extensively from its lower-brow cousins, the Tahoe, Suburban and Yukon, all of which have also undergone massive re-dos this year. The big rig’s fancy duds look both more contemporary and formal with smoothed out flanks highlighted at either end by impressive and dynamic lighting set ups.
In the rear the LED taillights extend up well past the belt line to the roof, the giant scale of which can only be fully appreciated when standing next to the towering fixture. At the front, the stacked and bejeweled LED lighting represents an industry-first application of Total Internal Reflectance high beams. Without a full physics lesson, suffice it to say, they’re bright, clear and automatic, which is nice.
The rear doors have been reshaped and reconfigured to enable much easier passenger ingress and egress both to second and third row seating positions. A truncated greenhouse profile lends to a shorter overall height for the Escalade now too.
Cadillac installed power operated, fold-flat rear seating that takes up a bit more space than last year’s seating arrangement. This means the new Escalade ESV is slightly less capacious than it was before, but that’s rather like saying the Sahara is slightly smaller now after some dust blew away in the last sand storm. The reality is, when the power tailgate is opened, the cargo capacity behind the third row of seating is larger than most mid-sized SUVs can hope to deliver. Fold down a row or two and you can start loading in items measured in cubic kilometres. This thing is massive and there are more nooks, crannies and compartments than before.
While the refreshed exterior is still distinctly an Escalade, the interior sees an even greater change, making it now distinctly Cadillac. Most surfaces are swathed in cut-and-sewn Mulan leather accents or trendy open-pore wood. My particular test truck featured the two-toned black and Kona-brown hues throughout that help break up what could otherwise be a rather stark black interior. A beige option is also available.
2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV Premium headlight, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
It’s the centre stack and gauges that make the Escalade’s interior unmistakably Cadillac thanks to the application of the brand’s CUE infotainment system. I have expressed my displeasure with this system in past experiences with the CTS, and I like it no better here. While slick in appearance, from a functional standpoint, the touch screen with haptic controls is overly convoluted and requires considerable attention from the driver for even most rudimentary operations – that is, when they respond at all. The simpler system with knobs and buttons complementing the touch screen found in the Suburban or Yukon Denali is a more user friendly set up.