Even though sales of traditional SUVs have tanked, the Escalade isn’t about to go anywhere. Since its debut, the Escalade has been a visible social marker that signifies success and affluence and is characterized by its all-American opulence, from an oversize chrome grille and large chrome portholes and wheels to vertical LED taillights. The buyer’s first decision is which version to choose: the standard Escalade or the twenty-inch-longer ESV (think of the ESV as a Chevrolet Suburban in Cadillac clothes). Although the ESV is larger and weighs a bit more, opting for it doesn’t result in a fuel-economy penalty, at least according to the EPA scale. Both the short- and long-wheelbase models use GM’s 6.2-liter V-8, whose 403 hp is more than enough to motivate the Escalade, which can be configured to hold six, seven, or eight passengers. There is an extensive list of infotainment options for all those passengers, and they won’t lack for comfort, as heated and cooled seats and cupholders are also available. For those who want to keep their eco credentials intact, Cadillac offers the Escalade in a Hybrid version. (But really, what could be more incongruous than a giant SUV with a hybrid badge?) Using GM’s patented two-mode hybrid system paired with a 6.0-liter V-8, the Escalade achieves a respectable 21 mpg in the EPA combined cycle. No matter which version you pick, the Escalade’s ride is plush and somewhat bouncy — shades of Cadillac land yachts of yore — thanks to the Escalade’s pickup platform and body-on-frame design.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim Levels: Escalade, Luxury, Premium, Platinum, Hybrid, Hybrid Platinum
Body Style: SUV, 6-, 7-, or 8-passenger
Engines: 6.0L V-8/electric hybrid, 332 hp, 367 lb-ft 6.2L V-8, 403 hp, 417 lb-ft (E85 capable)
Transmissions: 6-speed automatic, continuously variable
Passenger volume: 153.0-167.0 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 5600-8300 lb; cargo
(behind third/middle/front seats) 16.9-45.8/
60.3-90.0/108.9-137.4 cu ft

Cadillac’s iconic Escalade carries over from 2011 mostly untouched. Base, Hybrid, and ESV models see the addition of two new exterior colors: radiant silver metallic and crystal red tintcoat. The Hybrid Platinum has new ebony interior wood accents; other Platinum models have ebony wood accents with an ebony interior. All Escalade models receive enhancements to the touch-screen navigation system.

Dual-stage front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are traction and stability control with rollover mitigation, Ultrasonic rear parking sensors and a backup camera, tire-pressure monitoring, and OnStar telematics with automatic crash response and emergency services and a one-year free trial. Blind-zone alert is optional.

All: 14-20 mpg city/18-23 mpg highway

  • Luxurious interior
  • Cargo and towing capacity
  • Busy center stack
  • Rough, truck-based ride and handling

Distinctly American and dressed to the nines,the Escalade is one way to announce to the world that you’ve made it.

  • Infiniti QX56
  • Lexus LX570
  • Lincoln Navigator
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-class

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