2004 Cadillac Escalade

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2002 Cadillac Escalade

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Cadillac skips a year and comes up with an improved luxury SUV.
Pros:
  • Better design
  • Unique styling
  • Fast
  • Roomy
  • Decent handling
Cons:
  • Overly light steering
  • Poor fuel economy
  • High step-in

Cadillac skipped the 2001 model year to come up with its 2002 Escalade, which is a big improvement over the first version of this luxurious sport-utility vehicle.

The Escalade arrived as Cadillac's first truck in 1999. The automaker really didn't want to offer it, but its disgruntled dealers watched empty-handed as Lincoln dealers made lots of money selling the big Lincoln Navigator luxury sport ute, which arrived in 1998.

Caddy had to move fast, so the first Escalade was just a rebadged version of General Motors' big GMC Yukon Denali SUV. The fact that the Yukon Denali was a pretty luxurious truck helped the Escalade gain reasonable acceptance among the luxury truck crowd, but Escalade lacked Navigator's third-row seat and sufficient Cadillac input.

Model Year Skipped
Cadillac knew it had to develop something more distinctive. And it has done just that with its new-generation Escalade. It continues to share a platform with the Denali, but it's a much-improved platform that delivers better ride, handling and braking. Platform sharing is becoming common throughout the world, so Cadillac has nothing to be ashamed about here.

Third-Row Seating
The Escalade finally has third-row seating. It also has the most powerful SUV V8, which propels the all-wheel-drive version. A rear-drive model with a smaller—though still potent—V8 also is offered.

This is the first Cadillac to carry the new wreath-and-crest logo. That's appropriate because the Escalade is also the first production Caddy to have the automaker's edgy new styling, with sheer, chiseled shapes and sharp, tailored lines. Such styling was first seen on Cadillac's controversial looking Evoq auto show car. The Escalade also has distinctive alloy wheels, which always help dress up a sport ute.

The Escalade lists at $50,285 with all-wheel drive and the 6.0-liter 345-horsepower V8. The price is $47,290 for the rear-drive version, which has a 5.3-liter 285-horsepower V8 that's more powerful than the previous Escalade V8.

Neither model is inexpensive. But the Escalade has so much equipment, including a rear-obstacle detection system, that the only option is a $1,550 sunroof.

Very Fast
The all-wheel-drive Escalade weighs fully 5,809 pounds, but its engine is so strong that this sport ute streaks to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds—exceptional for such a large, luxurious truck. The rear-drive model also is heavy at 5,553 pounds, but hits 60 in a respectable 9 seconds. That's not a bad time for a big luxury truck.

The smooth, electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission upshifts smoothly and downshifts fairy quickly—and is beefed up to work with the 6.0-liter V8.

The 345-horsepower V8 loafs at 2100 rpm at 75 mph. One can just picture the Escalade barreling across Texas with a wealthy rancher at the wheel and the sound system cranked up.

Low Fuel Economy
However, the 6.0-liter V8 delivers only an estimated 12 mpg in the city and 15 on highways. Figures for the lower-horsepower V8 are a little better, at 14 and 17. At least only 87-octane gasoline is required and the 26-gallon fuel tank is large—although not as big as the one in the fuel-thirsty Lincoln Navigator.

All-Wheel Drive
The all-wheel-drive system, which requires no driver involvement, is a plus all by itself. It delivers most power to the rear wheels for a balanced rear-drive feel unless wheelspin is detected by the system. Cadillac predicts that 80 percent of Escalade buyers will get the all-wheel-drive model, which is not designed for off-road use.

The Escalade suspension has electronic damping that helps provide a remarkably smooth ride for a vehicle that is, after all, just a big sport utility. However, the ride occasionally gets bouncy—as with an old-style Caddy luxury sedan.

Overly Light Steering
The steering is quick but is excessively light on highway—not a good combination for a fast, high, heavy vehicle. The brake pedal has a nice feel and stopping distances are commendably short.

Handling is good, but Escalade owners are advised not to push too hard. It's a good thing that the 345-horsepower version has Cadillac's sophisticated StabiliTrak traction-stability system for surer roadability.

Roomy Interior
The quiet leather-and-wood interior—larger than the old one—has room for eight. The retro-style gauges look classy, but most are small and hard to read quickly. While all door handles are easily gripped, the ignition switch is hard to reach on the steering column and should be on the dashboard.

The large front seats are nicely supportive, even if the Escalade isn't meant to be driven all that hard. But, as with the old Escalade, extra effort is needed to climb into and out of this tall sport ute.

The third-row seat area isn't just for kids, but is not easy to reach for those of any age. Running boards aren't wide enough to be of much use to those with large feet. And narrow rear-door openings hamper egress.

Removable Seats
A large hatch swings open to reveal a cargo area that is disappointingly small with the 50-50 split third-row seats in place. But those seats fold to allow a decent cargo area. They're fairly light and also can be removed fairly easily.

Both second-row seats can be folded flat into the floor to create a giant cargo area with the third-row seats removed.

One suspects that Cadillac still would rather not be selling trucks, but the world has changed and Caddy makes lots of money with the Escalade. This uniquely styled sport utility is mostly a success, offering lots of power, comfort, utility and luxury.

Just like those big, ol' Cadillac sedans.

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BB04 - 9/23/2014 1:22:01 AM