A few years ago, with slumping sales and an average buyer age climbing higher, it didn't take a genius to figure out that Cadillac needed help--it came in the form of gussied-up large Chevy and GMC SUV platforms, specifically the Tahoe and Yukon.

The success of the Escalade (off the Tahoe platform) and the Escalade EXT (off the Avalanche platform), has now led to the Escalade ESV (off the Suburban platform). Offered with few options (moonroof or DVD entertainment system), the ESV comes with the high-output 6.0-liter V-8, rated at 345 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, all-wheel drive, and GM's impressive road-sensing electronic shocks. Capable of towing up to 7500 pounds on special occasions, the ESV's strengths are in how it handles day-to-day chores, maneuvering through traffic with a quick step.

But don't be fooled; this is a rather large, seven (or eight) passenger Suburban-size sport/utility, with a large shadow, thirsty tank, and expensive pricetag. With sensors in the suspension, steering electronics, braking module, and wheels, the StabiliTrak computer can predict what's about to happen and adjust the shocks before things get out of control. Although it sounds confusing, the results in ride quality, bad-road handling and control, and overall comfort are impressive--just what you'd expect from a $60,000 SUV--and it doesn't even have Quadrasteer (maybe that'll come later).

Although it didn't take Cadillac long to figure out how to get more sales and dramatically lower the average age of its buyers, it still needs to do some identity separation to keep people interested in these big Cadillacs, further distinguishing themselves from other GM marques. In fact, Cadillac is continuing to get buyers interested by moving back to cars, somewhat, with its next Cadillac SUV, a car-based midsize all-wheel drive called the STX (seen in our last issue).