Like its shorter brother, the ESV is powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 good for 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can send power to two or four wheels. All-wheel drive is a $2500 option, worth it if you're going to be driving in inclement weather. Around-town fuel economy takes a one mpg hit if all four wheels are powered, but the difference between 13 and 14 mpg is negligible, especially with highway mpg capped at 18. With gas at $3.50 and rising, it's going to hurt either way, though all luxury SUVs fall firmly into the "if you can buy it, you can fuel it" category.
Opting for the Platinum package is akin to checking every box on the option list -- the only options that aren't available over and above the package are all-wheel drive and an engine block heater. On top of the maxed-out features list, which includes power-folding running boards and chrome 22s, is extra leather trim throughout the cabin, olive ash and walnut burn wood trim, fancier aniline leather for the front two rows of seats, three-screen DVD entertainment system, LED headlamps that look eerily like a close-up of an insect eyeball, and most important, heated and cooled front cupholders.
But as cool as those cupholders and running boards are, they don't make up for some of the Escalade's fundamental antiquity. At the top of the list is the third row, which does not fold flat into the floor the way it does in just about every other SUV on the market. Instead, it has to be removed and stored somewhere -- if you live in a condo, you're screwed. Then there's the lack of a telescoping steering column and the somewhat surprising absence of GM's cool heads-up display.