"We designed Cadillac 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," said Eric Clough, director of design, Cadillac Interiors.

What words and images come to mind when you think of the Cadillac Escalade? It wouldn't be surprising if you said: "big, bold, and beautiful, plus bling." The crown jewel of the Cadillac brand carries all of these superlative monikers and elite images. So what would you do, if you were a Cadillac designer, engineer and marketer, when the time came to completely refresh this prodigious SUV?

GM's luxury division did just what you'd likely expect: the all-new 2015 Cadillac Escalade took a trip to the More Store. The new model is bigger, bolder, more beautiful, and has even more bling! It was vital to carry forward what has worked to make it a success, but at the same time, to update the high-end hauler with the latest goodies in the automotive technology/infotainment world, and as is the trend today, boost the power while improving the fuel economy.

We had recently driven the Escalade's stablemates, the 2015 Chevy Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon/Yukon XL/Denali, so we were familiar with the all-new platform and mechanicals that The General's models all share. New doors are inlaid and tucked into body side openings, which significantly improves the quietness of the interior and aids in increasing aerodynamics and improving fuel economy. Lightweight aluminum hood and liftgate panels help to reduce overall mass.

The first thing you'll notice is Escalade's updated exterior styling: It's even more bold and blocky, with more of the sharper angles of the "Art and Science" design cues found on Cadillac's other models. Its headlamps use the industry's first Total Internal Reflection LED high-beam function, which incorporates four vertically stacked crystal lenses and LEDs (low beams have five crystal lenses with LEDs). Cadillac script is branded in the headlamp bezel, while tall, thin vertical LED taillamps stretch to the top of the backend and are appointed with the brand's wreath-and-crest insignia, which illuminates in the dark. Chrome-finished 20-inch dual seven-spoke chrome aluminum wheels are standard, with 22-inch aluminum wheels available.

Slipping inside, you'll find a lavish and tasteful interior with features such as hand-stitched and hand-wrapped supple leather, along with genuine metal and wood trims. Three unique interior environments get different types of genuine wood: gloss American Walnut is paired with the Shale environment, open-pore Natural Finish Elm accents the Kona Brown environment, and the Jet Black environment is complemented by low-gloss Santos Palisander wood.

The Escalade is powered exclusively by GM's 6.2-liter V-8 producing 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque (up 17 hp and 43 lb-ft), this V-8 enables 0 to 60 mph performance in less than 6 seconds. Fuel economy for the 2WD is also up to 21 mpg on the highway, and 4WD versions get 14 city and 20 highway mpg (up from 13 city, 18 highway). The 2015 model has a standard automatic locking rear differential, and the standard-wheelbase model is rated to tow up to 8,300 pounds and the ESV can tow up to 8,100 pounds. Cadillac expects some 75 percent of buyers will choose 4WD, which has been updated for 2015, and includes Cadillac's standard Magnetic Ride Control, with sport and touring modes.

We drove both the standard- and long-wheelbase Escalade models for a distance of close to 200 miles. It is very similar to its stablemates in its power, braking, steering and its overall ride and handling, due to the new electric variable-assist power steering, new 4-wheel-disc brakes, and new tires that enhance efficiency, ride quality, handling and stopping. However, Cadillac has worked its luxury mojo with the suspension and quietness, giving it a more car-like stable and tranquil ride. Notable drive attributes are plenty of torque on tap, improved brake pedal feel, and being able to hold gears near redline before shifts. We also appreciated confident braking and steering that maneuvers this nearly three-ton beauty like it's a much smaller vehicle. The interior is laden with luxury with new seats that are comfortable, but not cushy. We particularly liked the ambient lighting and the storage cubby behind the radio controls, as well as other places to stow and hide valuables in the doors and back, with clever stowage schemes. The ESV model adds a couple more inches of legroom and more room for carrying gear.

Cadillac's CUE infotainment system features state-of-the-art voice recognition, with touch controls similar to tablets and other mobile devices. The eight-inch center screen uses capacitive-touch technology and gesture recognition, which allows tapping and swiping, and uses proximity sensors to activate common options and controls as the user's hand approaches. For techies, Escalade features five USB ports, five 12-volt outlets, a 110-volt outlet, a rear entertainment Blu-Ray player, and can connect up to 10 Bluetooth devices.

The Escalade's instrument cluster has a reconfigurable, high-resolution 12.3-inch, digital driver information center display paired with CUE, with data also shown on an available, full-color, head-up display on Luxury and Premium Collections.

A new Text-to-Voice feature for smartphone users reads incoming texts through the vehicle's speakers, allowing Siri Eyes Free enhanced connectivity and convenience for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 devices. Also new is OnStar's 4G LTE, with an available Wi-Fi hotspot, which will be available later in the year. An available Blu-Ray DVD rear-entertainment system ties to the audio system and includes a nine-inch, roof-mounted screen on standard-wheelbase model and two nine-inch screens come on Escalade ESV.

Keyless entry with push-button start, electric telescoping/tilting steering column, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood accents, a concealed center-stack storage with motorized door, and tri-zone climate control are all standard. There are also new fold-flat second- and third-row seats with power-folding third row; heated and cooled seats in front, and heated second-row bucket seats.

Safety features include seven standard airbags, rear-vision camera, and front and rear parking assist. A Driver Awareness package includes Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning System, and the patented Safety Alert Seat. A Driver Assist package adds Full Speed Range Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Collision Preparation, and Automatic Safety Belt Tightening. Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Alert are standard on Luxury and Premium models. New anti-theft feataures include glass breakage sensors, motion detectors, and a self-leveling inclination sensor that sounds an alarm if there are attempts to steal wheels or tires, or tow or lift the vehicle onto a flatbed truck.

Escalades come in Standard, Luxury, and Premium trims and are available in 2WD and 4WD. Priced starting at $71,695 and going up to $92,840 (plus $995 destination and delivery), the luxury ute competes with the Mercedes-Benz GL, Range Rover, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX 570, and Lincoln Navigator.

GM's all-new full-size SUV platform has kept the General's stable of offerings appealing, capable, and competitive, and Cadillac used it as the jumping-off point to go to the More Store to upgrade its Escalade. The luxury marque has imbued its updated people-mover and cargo-hauler with even more charm, smooth moves, and a collection of concierge services and technology on tap that moves the luxury and features needle to near redline.

"Cadillac's ongoing growth provides the ideal stage for the all-new Escalade to take a major step forward," said Uwe Ellinghaus, chief marketing officer, Global Cadillac. "Escalade has always had a bold character, differentiating itself from other luxury SUVs. Now, Escalade adds more sophistication, with advanced technology and hand-tailored craftsmanship."


2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV
BASE PRICE $82,290
PRICE AS TESTED $85,985
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 6027 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 130.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 224.3 x 80.5 x 74.0 in
0-60 MPH 6.1 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.6 sec @ 95.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 119 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.76 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.9 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 14/20/16 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 241/169 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.20 lb/mile