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SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

1999 Cadillac Escalade

By Tom Hagin


SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 45,875
     Price As Tested                                    $ 46,525
     Engine Type               OHV 16-valve 5.7 Liter V8 w/SCFI*
     Engine Size                                 350 cid/5733 cc
     Horsepower                                   255 @ 4600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               330 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                    117.5"/77"/201.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     5592 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    30 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P265/70R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            13/16/14         
     0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                        1666 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         6000 pounds

     * Sequential central-port fuel injection

Some years ago I toured Bruce Canepa's vehicle fabrication shop in Santa Cruz, California. Canepa specializes in customizing General Motors full-sized SUVs and is world-famous for his attention to detail.

As new Yukons, Tahoes and Suburbans pulled up for the Canepa transformation, I wondered why General Motors didn't offer its own upscale variation of the same vehicles. It took a few years and GMC's top-line Yukon Denali appeared first. Now Cadillac has entered the fray with its Escalade, the first four-wheel-drive to ever wear the prestigious Cadillac crested wreath.

OUTSIDE - In addition to its almost chrome-free appearance, Escalade buyers get their own distinct grille, hood and front fenders, along with body-color bumpers, rearview mirrors and fender flares. Integrated running boards are also body-colored, and a set of reflector optic headlamps sit above inset fog lamps. Cadillac's familiar logo sits prominently in the center of the grille, which is wrapped in the only bright trim piece on the entire truck. A Class III receiver-type tow hitch is cleverly hidden behind the rear valance, and a pair of tow hooks reside behind the front bumper. Escalade-specific six-spoke polished aluminum wheels resemble those on the Denali's, but again, the insignia on each wheel identifies this SUV as a Cadillac.

INSIDE - Five adults can travel very comfortably in the Escalade. The interior is more luxurious than the Yukon Denali, with softer "Nuance" perforated leather upholstery, much like the material used in the company's sedans. Strips of Zebrano wood trim inserts make things inside even more luxurious. Heated seats are standard for four passengers and separate audio controls and headsets are provided for those riding in back. GM's OnStar navigation system is standard equipment and now features a new three-button keypad in the overhead console. The driver presses a button, then speak into the built-in microphone to have a myriad number of tasks performed. A three-channel HomeLink system, which can be programmed to open garage doors and automatic gates and operate home lighting systems, is also standard.

ON THE ROAD - Under the hood is GM's venerable 5.7 liter, 350 cubic-inch V8, a design that goes back more than 40 years. Technology like sequential central-port fuel injection, computerized engine management controls, 100,000-mile platinum-tipped spark plugs and electronic ignition have modernized the engine to make it more efficient than ever. It produces 255 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough for most duties. Lots of torque means impressive towing capabilities, as evidenced by Escalade's 6000-pound towing capacity. Four-wheel-drive is handled by AutoTrac, a system that allows the driver to choose between 2WD, automatic 4WD, traditional 4WD High and a four-wheel low range. It's activated on-demand by pressing dashboard- mounted buttons. An electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox available.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Escalade rides on a full truck chassis, specially tuned for a smooth, comfortable ride. The front suspension is fully independent and utilizes A-arms and torsion bars, while the rear is a typically truck solid rear axle with two-stage leaf springs. Bilstien- brand shocks are used as well, along with massive anti-sway bars front and rear. Large and heavy, the Escalade feels every bit like a 5500-pound vehicle. It handles well enough, and can even tackle twisting roads with relative ease. Quick direction changes, however, produce lots of sway and body roll. Speed-sensitive steering which GM calls Electronic Variable Orifice (EVO) power steering, is standard. EVO gives good, communicative road feel, and the Escalade handles as well as any of the current crop of trucks and SUVs. Braking duties are handled by large front disc and rear drum brakes, with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system offered as standard equipment.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side impact beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Swing-out doors in place of the traditional tailgate are a no-charge option.

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