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Review: 2002 Cadillac Escalade

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SEE ALSO: Cadillac Buyer's Guide

By Annabelle Frankl

Well, thank goodness for electric mirrors (as in the ones that fold inwards at the touch of a button), or else I might be writing to you from the entrance to my garage, forever stuck in the gateway. Yes, if you’re looking to get into confined spaces, this may not be the vehicle for you. It’s actually half the length of a city bus, and about as wide, but given the room and comfort inside, perhaps I should have been charging for the ride!

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Cadillac Escalade Electric Mirrors

A behemoth of a vehicle, the Escalade is very imposing to look at, but laughingly easy to drive (which is perhaps why one sees so many bottle blondes bombing around LA in them). It’s actually rather obscene, I think, to be a single person and have one. I mean, what purpose does such a huge SUV serve, other than giving off formidable amounts of attitude and imbuing the driver with a certain amount of ‘don’t mess with me’ street cred?

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Vortec V8 Engine
Boasting a 6.0 (yes, six) liter SFI V8 engine with 345 hp at 5,200 rpm, and 380 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, the Escalade can claim to be the most powerful SUV on the market. Acceleration is fantastically quick, and quiet smooth. Fast speeds are quickly attained and the size, and quietness, of the vehicle often belie the true speed of the vehicle. Best keep an eye on that speedometer. It’s road-sensing suspension also ensures an extremely smooth ride – indeed, speed bumps feel like mere pebbles, easily absorbed no matter what the speed – and virtually eliminates the customary SUV problems of rolling around corners and poor handling. The AWD ensures maximum amount of traction and stability, and I’m sure the specifications of the Escalade help in this area too – with a curb weight of 5,554 lbs and a width of 78.9 inches, you’d be hard pressed to roll this baby. In fact, with the presence of Stabilitrak, you’d be hard pressed to even get bent out of shape. This system is designed to recognize if the vehicle is losing control, and applies front brakes and traction control as deemed appropriate.

The speed-sensitive steering is extremely maneuverable, especially when parking, when one is aided by one of the best turning circles I’ve come across in ages, plus dipping side mirrors and reversing aid. However, this aid went to red with about 3 feet of space left behind the vehicle, which to me is rather generous and leaves one with no help for that last squeeze. Visibility, as one might expect when you’re 5 feet off the ground, is very good, although little vehicles (i.e. pretty much every sedan on the road) can easily disappear from view behind one’s left shoulder.

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Along with all the stability measures mentioned, safety measures include the Escalade’s semi-perimeter boxed frame with Hydroformed front and rear sections, a process that uses high-pressure hydraulic forces to form the steel sections into precise contours, thus adding extra resistance to impact. Also, front and side airbags for driver and front passenger. And the fact that you’re bigger than pretty much everyone else on the road. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for driving this vehicle with a good dose of personal responsibility; because if you hit someone in a sedan, little car or, god forbid, a convertible, they are going to come out of it a lot worse off than you.

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Stabilitrak Cut-A-Way

Cadillac has certainly done a good job with the Escalade’s aesthetics. It has a very rugged, yet classy, exterior. Mine came in gleaming ‘sable’ black, with huge P265 70R17 all-season, steel-belted radials on 17”, 7-spoke milled finish aluminum wheels with crest and shield, protective body-colour cladding, chrome roof rack and imposing chrome front grill and body-colour bumper. The interior, for the most part, continues this classy theme, with Nuance leather seating, wood and chrome trim. 10-way power heated front seats with 2-position memory, heated and reclineable 2nd row seats, and a 3rd, 50/50 split, removable row, which folds down with ease, mean up to 7 or 8 can be transported in comfort. However, what’s with the bog-standard, crappy plastic dash/radio controls??? Given that I’ve driven a number of GM vehicles, I find it hard to believe they would offer the same facia in a luxury $54,000 vehicle, as they do to a first-time, economy sedan customer. The ‘brushed chrome’ effect on the dials and classy black/white illumination is fine, but why not continue that theme throughout? Cutting corners, perhaps? I now understand why Shaquille O’Neal et al get their SUVs thoroughly detailed, so as to avoid such unpleasantries!

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Change Of Seating

Luckily, hidden behind this horrible façade, lies a 250-watt, 11-speaker Bose music system, with 6-CD in dash, and two sets of rear-seat headphones, which does its best to distract attention from bad design elements. The Escalade also has a mini computer with fuel information (in 4 languages), although given a fuel ‘economy’ of 12/15 city/highway, you may want to avoid acknowledging such figures. Thank goodness the 26 gallon tank means fill ups are spread as far apart as possible – just don’t look at the total amount when it is time to fill up. Other features include the Onstar system, steering wheel radio controls (although the wheel design is rather peculiar, thus making the controls a little hard to access), cruise and also electronic climate control.

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Seating Options

So, $55,000 or thereabouts. I have to admit to, somewhat guiltily, really enjoying driving the Escalade. No, it’s not what one might consider a fuel-efficient, economically-minded, environment-friendly vehicle. If you’ve got kids, you’ll need an upper-body workout just to get them up into the back seat. If you don’t, shame on you for driving such a gargantuan representation of ‘look at me, ain’t I cool’ horsepower. But I did have a lot of fun, and garnered a lot of attention, and friendly jealousy, during my one (oh-too-short) week of testing.