2002 Cadillac Escalade
This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.