2012 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum
One of my favorite things about the Cadillac Escalade is that it is incredibly relaxing and easy to drive. The leather seats are as wide and cushioned as a couch, very little sound permeates the cabin, and the steering has enough power assistance to make changing course a breeze. The soft suspension and lazy engine create a serious sense of disconnection from the road. You don't drive an Escalade, per se, you just sort of sit around and occasionally offer suggestions as to the SUV's direction.
Even though our tester was upgraded to the Platinum trim level, which brings top-spec upgrades like nicer leather and wood trim, the Escalade's interior cannot hold a candle to three-row competitors from Germany or Japan. As nicely finished as it may be, the Caddy's cabin just doesn't have the sumptuous, expensive feel of some of its rivals. Our particular Escalade was the gigantic ESV variant; I actually believe that the Cadillac has more interior room than my kitchen -- although the extra space is probably useful if you're transporting six people and all their gear.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
I know it's old and exorbitant and wasteful, but I can't help but really like the Cadillac Escalade ESV. In fact, I'd be happy living in it -- there's that much room, as Jake already implied. I agree with him that the Escalade is smooth and easy to drive, but I must point out that its girth can create some uncomfortable moments on narrow city streets.
The ash and walnut wood inlays on the dash are beautiful, but there are subpar details in the materials quality, too: the glove-box door and the many items pilfered from the Chevy Suburban parts bin, for instance. Speaking of the 'burban, I now really miss our 2007 Four Seasons example, which felt 90 percent as cool as this Caddy for 60 percent of the price. Still, I love the Escalade's fabulous V-8 burble, its abundant power, and its oodles of presence.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
If you're into big and flashy, passenger vehicles don't get much bigger or flashier than the Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum, which weighs three tons and has headlamps that look like LED-illuminated blocks of ice big enough to help build an igloo. The interior is lined with high-quality, French-stitched leather, polished sheets of beautifully grained wood (both olive ash and burled walnut), and a very good, if not class-leading, navigation/stereo touchscreen interface. And with the 403-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 and Cadillac's ingenious magnetic ride control suspension system, the Escalade ESV accelerates and handles far better than an 18.6-foot-long SUV has any right to.
All this luxury and capability comes at a price, though, $86,045 to be exact, in the case of our test vehicle, a top-of-the-line Platinum model. And although lesser Escalade ESV models are available starting at about $66K, all Escalades ESVs are, at their core, gussied-up Chevy Suburbans. So, for my $86K, I'd rather buy a base four-wheel-drive Chevy Suburban at $44,760 to serve my utility needs, leaving me plenty of money to also purchase a Cadillac CTS sport wagon, which starts at $39,015 and is much more what I expect a Cadillac to be.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I seem to always have black Cadillacs when I am going on a date, and they always impress. This time it was, "Whoa! You drive an Escalade?!" The Escalade name is one that is well known in American culture and is often associated with luxury, grandeur, and the owner having made it to the top echelon of society. Even with its work horse pickup truck underpinnings, as Jake says, the Escalade - even in long-wheelbase ESV guise - is remarkably easy to drive. Despite much of its antiquated technology and numerous low-quality interior pieces, it's easy to understand why rap stars, suburbanites, and wealthy people all around choose the big Caddy. It has a plush interior, plenty of space, drives like a large sedan, has great sightlines from its high perch, and comes wearing the name "Escalade."
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
On a cold day, it's nice to climb into (and I do mean climb, because it's quite a big step up even with power running boards) a vehicle with heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated (and cooled) cupholders - makes you almost not regret living in a northern climate. It's been a while since I drove an Escalade of any type, and once behind the wheel of this ESV (the long-wheelbase model) I'm again reminded of how large it is. Turn your head to look behind you, and the rear hatch seems to be a first down away. There's enough space that all three rows of seats have plenty of head- and legroom, and in this Platinum edition, the second row passengers have the added luxury of video screens affixed to the back of the front-row seats so that they don't have to strain a neck from having to look up to a headliner-mounted screen. Still, as large as this vehicle is (it weighs in at almost three tons), it doesn't feel like a tank to drive, as it is relatively maneuverable around town and cruises swiftly and silently on the highway.
As befits a vehicle costing more than $85,000, the seats are covered in attractive, chocolate brown leather, but I'm not a fan of the Cadillac logo stitched onto the upper rear seatback of all six chairs - I don't need to be reminded that I'm in a Cadillac every time I turn my head. Also, the analog clock on the dashboard looks nice, but it's not easy to read the time on it. Luckily, there's a digital clock on the touchscreen.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
This is possible only the second time I've driven an Escalade, and although I tend to prefer cars to SUVs, I can see why people covet this big, flashy truck. Its comfortable, lined with (mostly) high quality materials, and can haul up to eight people (the middle-row captain's chairs in this vehicle bring it down to seven) and tow almost 8000 pounds. It's hardly a bargain when looked at side by side with competitors from Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz but it has a distinctly American character that helps it stand out in the marketplace. Those massive headlights don't hurt either.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
2012 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum
MSRP (with destination): $83,495
PRICE AS TESTED: $86,045
6.2-liter OHV V-8
Horsepower: 403 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 417 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
22-inch aluminum wheels
285/45HR-22 Bridgestone Dueler H/L tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (behind first/second/third row): 137.4/90.0/45.8 cu ft
Legroom (first/second/third row): 41.3/39.5/34.9 in
Headroom (first/second/third row): 41.1/38.5/38.1 in
Towing: 7700 lbs
Flex Fuel capability
Magnetic ride control suspension
Fully automatic locking differential
Bose audio system
Heated and cooled cup holders
Heated steering wheel
Automatic tri-zone climate control
Heated and cooled front seats
Heated second row seats
Second row power release
Rear seat entertainment
Third row DVD screen
Power retractable assist steps
Rear parking assist
Stability and traction control
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
All-wheel drive- $2550
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
The ESV is 21 inches longer than the Escalade.