2004 Cadillac Escalade

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2002 Cadillac Escalade

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Cadillac's first sport-utility vehicle gets better for the 2002 model year with a new V8 that's more powerful than any other SUV's, standard third-row seats, and a now a two-wheel-drive version. Just be sure you like big, bold, silver grilles, because you get that, too.
Pros:
  • Great V8
  • Luxurious leather and wood interior
  • Now, standard third-row seats
Cons:
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Big step up to get inside
  • Light feel to the steering

If the big, in-your-face grille on the 2002 Cadillac Escalade isn't enough to grab your attention, the V8 just inches from that grille certainly will.

The new 6.0-liter Vortec 6000 overhead valve V8 generates 345 horsepower—more than any other sport-utility vehicle. Mated to a four-speed automatic, the engine is available only on the Escalade and only on the all-wheel-drive trim.

The 2002 Escalade, or "Slade" as some fans are calling it, is the first substantive redesign of the model that debuted in fall 1998 as Cadillac's first SUV. And it goes far to halt criticism that Cadillac's premium SUV is a mere—and pricey—makeover of other General Motors Corp. sport utilities.

Many similarities with other GM SUVs
To be sure, this 2002 Escalade still shares its platform with lower-priced GM siblings, specifically the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

For example, the Escalade, Tahoe and Yukon all have a 116-inch wheelbase, 198.9-inch overall length and 78.9-inch width. Front-seat room is identical among the three, and even with its more powerful engine, the Escalade has the same 26-gallon gas tank that the Tahoe and Yukon have.

But the arresting grille of the Escalade, which stopped some people in their tracks during my test drive, and the big, vertical headlights alongside as well as the bigger-than-before 17-inch wheels add a distinctive and Cadillac-like presence.

Immediate sense of spaciousness
Inside, there's more room than in the predecessor Escalade, which was the 2000 model since there were no 2001 Escalades.

There's an immediate sense of spaciousness as you climb up into this tall vehicle and settle in the front seats. They seem wide and so does that center console between the seats. Even large-sized adults can find comfort here.

The second-row seats in the 2002 Escalade also are roomier than before, providing 2.7 more inches of legroom and 0.3 inch more shoulder room than the predecessor vehicle had.

For the first time, a third-row seat—capable of holding three riders—is standard in the Escalade. "Women shopped us and went to the [Lincoln] Navigator for the third-row seat," said Susan Docherty, Escalade brand manager.

Navigator has always had a standard third-row seat.

But note that third-row riders in the Escalade can sit squeezed together, the middle person has no head restraint and only a lap belt, and the seat sits close to the floor.

But third-row headroom of 38.6 inches and 36.1 inches of legroom surpass that of the Navigator. The Navigator, however, has more headroom and legroom in the second-row seats than does the Escalade.

Luxury appointments
Zebrano wood, highly polished and with lots of vertical lines, is swathed all over the Escalade center console and on other areas inside and also helps differentiate this SUV from others.

Leather seats with lots of cushion, striking silver-colored circles around the gauges and a Bose Acoustimass sound system all add distinction.

But the new, in-dash, six-CD player is located down at the center console area rather than higher up on the dashboard by the other stereo controls.

The ride is eminently comfortable with most bumps nicely cushioned. The Escalade manages large bumps with a bit of bounce, as you'd expect in a truck-based SUV, but it was never jarring.

Easy to drive
There's no shifting or input needed from the driver to engage the all-wheel-drive system. It's on all the time, normally splitting the torque so 38 percent goes to the front wheels and 62 percent go to the back.

But when wheel slip is detected, the system can immediately transfer power to the wheels that have a firmer grip so the vehicle can get moving.

There is no extra low gear, but traction control is included. So is Cadillac's StabiliTrak system and road-sensing suspension.

Inside, the vehicle is impressively quiet, though I did hear wind noise at highway speeds. It seemed to emanate from the large outside mirrors and standard roof rack.

Eager power
Power comes on quickly, despite the fact the Escalade is a hefty 5,809-pounder. Just a touch on the accelerator can push you back in the seat, and most of the time shift points aren't noticeable.

Justly proud of the new Escalade's segment-leading horsepower, Cadillac even touts the Escalade as "the most powerful SUV" on the vehicle window sticker.

Note the vehicle's 345 horses are just three horsepower above the 342 of the previously most powerful SUV, the Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG.

The Mercedes, however, maintains its place as the "fastest" SUV since its torque of 376 lb-ft at between 2800 rpm and 4500 rpm can help propel this vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.

It takes the heavier 2002 Escalade—with 380 lb-ft of torque available at 4000 rpm—8.57 seconds, Cadillac said.

Fuel economy is poor. I averaged 13.6 mpg during combined city/highway driving. On a long 13-hour highway run I got 14.9 mpg. Note that the U.S. EPA rates the Escalade at 12 mpg in the city and 15 mpg on the highway.

This and that
The speed-sensitive recirculating ball steering feels too light and numb for my tastes.

Thankfully, the Escalade comes standard with running boards. I needed them to climb up inside, especially when I was maneuvering to get in and back to the third-row seats.

The Escalade has a healthy 10.7 inches of ground clearance and offers excellent visibility from inside. Unfortunately, though, rear-door openings aren't as large as I'd like, and rear-door windows go down only about halfway.

For the first time Escalade is offered as a two-wheel-drive model. This means a savings of nearly $3,500 compared with the nearly $52,000 starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2002 all-wheel-drive Escalade.

But the 2002 Navigator, which starts at just under $45,000 for a two-wheel-drive version, continues to be priced less than the Escalade.

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BB06 - 9/15/2014 10:10:16 PM