Starting the motor brings the Vortec 6.2 liter gas powered V8 to life. It’s got a nice rumble, but is not overbearing. Despite the power rating of 403 hp and 417 foot pounds of torque, it just doesn’t seem enough for the Escalade. This SUV weighs 7,400 pounds. Add in the large 22” wheels, and this thing has to gulp down fuel to just pull away from a stop sign.
During my first drive, I made the mistake of leaving the fuel economy screen on the dash. It was an eye opener to see the instant fuel economy meter drop down to single digits when merely accelerating away from a light. I quickly changed the on screen display so that I could prevent myself from getting caught up in the mileage, which is rated at 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. It would have been interesting to do a back to back test with the newer Escalade Hybrid, which is rated at 20/23mpg, but the Hybrid is also a smaller vehicle. It’s approximately two feet shorter and 600 pounds lighter than our ESV test rig.
Given the direction of the automotive industry towards more efficient and greener technology, the Escalade continues to feel like a throwback vehicle. It seems quite old fashioned, relying on a large displacement V8 motor to move a very heavy full sized vehicle. While the Escalade was nice to drive, it was disappointing to know that the plush comfort was coming at a high cost combined with low efficiency.
Interior/Exterior Styling and Features
In my opinion, the entire design of the Escalade is dated. To quote a colleague, “it’s a dinosaur.”
Exterior wise, it’s boxy and hard edged, making it stand further apart from the more current designs, which emphasize fluidity and aerodynamics. It honestly does look like a vehicle that would hold much more relevance in the market ten years ago. The most modern exterior feature appears to be the LED headlights. They provide excellent night time vision, and the grill is trademark Cadillac. The power running boards are a nice feature and a must have for ease of entry and exiting of the vehicle.
Inside, our test Escalade was spec’d with the Bose 5.1 surround sound system, satellite radio, navigation, single disc CD/DVD, rearview camera, and Bluetooth. These are all basic features that should be part of a vehicle of this caliber, so no surprise there. The only issues were the navigation and control of the features. The interface seems old fashioned, the dash screens were a little small, resolution was low, and the buttons less intuitive. The all important navigation also seems a few generations old compared to the newer more advanced German and Japanese examples. Another minor issue is the steering column, which only allowed for tilt adjustment and not reach.
Overall, inside and out, the Cadillac does a great job of conveying a large, luxury image. There is no shortage of interior room and the overall proportions seem good for this large SUV market segment. But after the initial excitement of testing a large $88,295 Cadillac, came the lows of realizing just how old this model has really become. The driving experience is numb. The interior dash is clean, yet dated. And the exterior styling is definitely showing its age. The Vortec 6.2L motor, though quite powerful, seemed to still be not enough to move this heavy SUV.
Honestly the overall test was disappointing. The features are all there, but the driving interface and experience are not.
Value/ Who should buy it?
Families. If you regularly have to carry around kids and gear, then the sheer size of the Escalade will make life easier. We took a few longer trips as a family and even shorter trips were great. Access is easy, both getting in and out, and the entertainment system kept the kids distracted and the drive peaceful.
2011 Cadillac Escalade ESV PLatinum:
- Engine: Vortec 6.2L V8 Sequential Fuel Injection with Flex Fuel and Active Fuel Management
- Power: 403 HP at 5700 RPM
- Torque: 417 lb/ft at 4300 RPM
- Transmission: 6 speed automatic with overdrive
- EPA estimated MPG: 13 City / 18 Highway
- Price: $66,080 / $88,295 as tested
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