SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: 2002 Cadillac Escalade ENGINE: 6.0-liter V-8 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 345 hp @ 5200 rpm/380 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 116.0 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 198.9 x 78.9 x 74.2 in. STICKER PRICE: $50,985
Cadillac has redesigned the Escalade sport utility for the 2002 model year. The new face of Escalade is striking. Our tester, for example, was painted in "infrared," a deep red metallic. But the new chiseled, more angular styling of Escalade, and the almost-flat grille, are what seemed to appeal to people on the roads. We received several "thumbs up" signs from other drivers who apparently appreciated the new styling. No longer rounded like the Tahoe and Yukon that spawned it, the flat face with projector headlight lenses, is extremely attractive.
And of course, being a Cadillac, Escalade is filled with a host of luxury features that set it apart from the other two vehicles in its family.
Standard equipment (our tester had no options) included removable third row seats with a split fold and stow design; leather seating areas; zebrano premium wood trim; ten-way power front seats with heated cushions and backrests; heated second row seats; OnStar communications; a Bose premium sound system; steering wheel radio controls (more on that later); a full-size spare wheel; all-wheel drive; Stabilitrak stability system; four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes; road sensing suspension; and more.
The steering wheel-mounted sound system controls were much better than those found on several other cars. The buttons are mounted deep inside a dished steering wheel, so it's almost impossible to hit the switches during normal driving. Few things annoy me more than changing the station or media while I'm making a turn, and then having to spend the next five minutes finding where I was before the mistake.
Escalade is powered by a 6.0-liter V-8 engine that delivers 345 horsepower. Cadillac calls it the most powerful SUV in the industry, and they may be right. In any case, we were able to use all the power available and had no problems pulling out into traffic on entry ramps, or pulling away from the other slower cars at traffic lights. Extra power is a definite safety advantage, especially when you're driving a big, heavy vehicle like the Escalade. The all wheel-drive version of the Escalade weighs 5800-plus pounds -- that's nearly three tons. So it needs all the power it can get.
The engine drives the wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. Escalade also has full-time four-wheel drive with an automatic torque split that gives it better handling in all road conditions. While we didn't encounter snow or ice, we did have a few heavy rain days during our test week, and the Escalade did a good job of keeping us on the road. Cadillac has also added Stabilitrak, which keeps the vehicle from skidding while you're in a turn, another safety advantage.
The best safety advantage, of course, is size. There are few vehicles that can hit Escalade and cause damage to it or the passengers.
Speaking of passengers, there is seating for eight in three rows of seats. The third row is removable if you want to take advantage of the 97.6 cubic feet of storage capacity. With the third row down and the second row up, there are 41.1 cubic feet, so the Escalade can be used to carry a lot of stuff.
The feature that impressed me the most on the Escalade (let's face it, I drive a lot of cars and it's the details that stand out among all the metal) was a feature called Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist. In the rear bumper are four sensors that emit ultrasonic signals. They advise you when there is something behind you that you may not be able to see. Anything more than 18 inches tall can be "seen" by the ultrasonic sensors. When you get within a certain distance, a "beep" is emitted and a yellow light is lit on the C-pillar, just where it's noticeable in your mirror. Get closer and you get another "beep" and a red light appears. Between the yellow light and the red light you get a pair of lights.
I liked this feature because it is sometimes difficult backing out of my driveway in the morning with all the school traffic on the road. Driving out nose first is faster and safer, but this requires backing the car into the driveway. Backing is okay, but I'm always afraid I'm going to dent the garage doors again and suffer the slings and arrows of humiliation. I can get closer to the garage doors more safely with a rear parking assist. Otherwise, I often end up about ten feet away (depth perception must go early with old age… ).
Also, the Escalade had folding outside rearview mirrors. So if your garage is narrow, all you have to do is remember to fold in the mirrors before entering and you won't tear the walls down. You also have to remember to fold them out when you get out of the garage, though.
So yes, I liked the Escalade design, and I loved the performance, but my favorite feature was the one that kept me from denting my garage doors. See, I'm easy to please.