2003 Cadillac Escalade ESV

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Sometimes it is embarrassing to be an American. Cadillac's consumer research apparently has uncovered yet another SUV niche heretofore left unfilled: There is some segment of the U.S. citizenry who need or desire the spaciousness and utility that a Chevy Suburban provides, but who cannot bear to be seen behind the wheel of a vehicle bearing a pedestrian bow-tie badge. Even the GMC block letters adorning the Yukon XL (formerly known as the GMC Suburban) are not prestigious enough for these folks. Enter the Cadillac Escalade ESV, which is nothing more than a Suburban with full 'Slade treatment, including front and rear wreath-and-crest badges big enough to eat dinner on; a sumptuous leather interior; a $1295 DVD entertainment system; and a 345-hp, 6.0-liter V-8. My weekend trip to northern Michigan with two or three adults, two large dogs, and one large dog cage—an excursion somewhat justifying, to my mind, this enormous, $59,760 gas hog—was canceled, so I ended up driving the big white whale (our test car had the $995 White Diamond pearlescent paint option) several hundred miles mostly by myself. That this occurred on the same weekend as worldwide protests against the potential war with Iraq was not lost on me, but whenever I encountered hostile stares, I just averted my gaze, gunned the V-8, turned up the XM Satellite Radio, and imagined myself in a Honda Civic Hybrid.

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