First Drive: 2012 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum AWD
Good Enough for Today's Cadillac?
It's fair to say the Cadillac Escalade is the vehicle that saved Cadillac. Almost overnight, Cadillac went from being a go-to choice for retirees to a cutting-edge brand featured in hip-hop videos and on MTV's "Cribs." The Escalade paved the way for CTS sedan and the brand's Art and Science design philosophy, which brought a new style and substance to Cadillac -- and its sales helped rake in the cash to make it happen. But the Escalade is showing its age. While the 2012 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum that just came for a visit is still an impressive piece, it was clear from our drive that it's due for a redo.
The Escalade ESV Platinum represents the pinnacle of Cadillac extravagance. This $88,610 body-on-frame behemoth is powered by a 6.2-liter V-8, is 222.9 inches long, and weighs in at a hair under three tons. Not only can the Escalade ESV haul seven people, but it can do so while carrying 45.8 cubic feet of luggage. Remove the third row (it doesn't fold flat), and flick the C-pillar-mounted switches that fold the second row captain's chairs down and forward, and cargo space balloons to 137.4 cubic feet.
While it may be easy to dismiss our Radiant Silver Metallic (a new color for 2012) Escalade ESV Platinum as little more than a gussied-up Chevy Suburban or GMC Yukon XL Denali, the Escalade has arguably aged far better than its cousins. Covered with chrome trim and rolling on dub deuces (22-inch rims in English) the Escalade ESV Platinum still looks fresh and commands the same respect it did back in 2007 when the current generation first made its debut. The Platinum-trimmed Escalade is visually differentiated from lesser Escalades by its unique wheels, Platinum badging, and its LED headlights, which each feature seven large bulbs that give the headlights a bug-like appearance.
Inside, the Escalade ESV Platinum is unmistakably a member of the GMT 900 family. Except for a few minor details like the center stack and trim pieces, the Escalade's interior closely mirrors the cabins of the Suburban and Yukon XL, and even shares the same steering wheel.
Being an Escalade of the Platinum persuasion, the ESV's interior is decked out with every available option, including French-seamed leather, an Olive Ash and Walnut Burl dashboard, real aluminum trim, a wood-rimmed (and heated) steering wheel, heated and cooled seats and cupholders, and four individual DVD screens. Yes, four of 'em -- there are two mounted in the front headrests, one mounted on the ceiling for the second row captain's chairs, and one mounted on the ceiling for the third row bench seat.
The 2012 Escalade ESV Platinum is powered by a burbly 6.2-liter V-8 (the only available engine) that produces a healthy 403-hp and 417 lb-ft of torque, bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our all-wheel-drive tester (a $3000 add-on) is rated at a paltry 13/18 mpg city/highway, but its 31-gallon tank should keep distances between fill-ups at a minimum. That said, if you're dropping $88,610 on an Escalade (or any luxury SUV, for that matter), you can probably foot the fuel bill.
Stomp the go pedal and the Escalade is great. It accelerates briskly, and sounds great doing so. Throw a twist into the mix, though, and the Escalade -- even with its Magnetic Ride Control system - becomes dynamically challenged. Steering is both vague and sloppy, giving the driver no sense of what the front wheels are doing, leading to constant corrections even while traveling in a straight line at highway speeds. Body roll also seems excessive, though that might have just as much to do with the couch-like seats as the suspension. The Escalades brakes are weak sauce, too; they work, but never fail to remind you they're tasked with hauling 5982 pounds to a halt. Parking this beast is also problematic. While Cadillac did add guiding lines to the Platinum's standard backup camera (it's a godsend), the turning radius is horrendous, requiring lots of time and patience to squeeze the Escalade into average-sized spots.
Basically when it comes down to it, the Escalade drives like what it is: a 5-year old body-on-frame SUV. But we know the folks at Cadillac are more than capable of engineering something that's better in all regards. Even though its Bling King appearance references the fresh, young Cadillac that created the CTS-V, our Escalade ESV Platinum dynamically drives like what a Baby Boomer expects in a Cadillac -- fine in a straight line, but just not up to snuff with its luxury SUV rivals at Infiniti, Land Rover, Lexus, or Mercedes-Benz. We're not exactly clamoring for another luxury crossover, but the thought of a well-sorted Escalade-V more representative of the new Cadillac warms our hearts. Until then, the Escalade ESV Platinum will continue to toe the line between old and new.
|2012 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum AWD|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE ENGINES||6.2L/403-hp/417-lb-ft OHV 16 valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||5982 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||222.9 x 79.1 x 75.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||13/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||259/187 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.31 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Now|