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2017 Cadillac Escalade: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader January 2017

The Cadillac Escalade has long been known for its bold, expressive styling, its large size, its luxurious interior and its brawny V8 engine. The 2017 Cadillac Escalade continues to carry that torch, albeit with more elegant styling and a much higher-quality interior. Plus, with its standard 6.2-liter V8 and magnetically controlled suspension, it possesses plenty of value over its more humble full-size General Motors SUV siblings.

However, we must say that the Escalade is for the most part a lot of sizzle and not enough steak. Even with the vehicle's immense size, the third-row seat in the regular-length model is barely usable for anyone other than a child (its full-size SUV competitors and most large crossovers are more spacious). The extremely high load height in both the regular and extended-length Escalade ESV models also make it difficult to lift heavy items into the cargo area. And good luck to the poor dog who tries to leap aboard. There are also the usual issues of relatively ponderous handling and hefty fuel bills.

So if the Escalade is your type of SUV, know that the 2017 edition is the best one yet. Just also know that objectively, most other luxury SUVs will probably make more sense.

What's New for 2017?

For 2017, an automatic parking system and Cadillac's rearview camera mirror make their debut on Escalade's list of available features.

What We Like

Brawny styling; muscular V8; strong towing capacity; abundant standard feature content; reasonably priced compared to rivals

What We Don't

Barely usable third-row seat in regular model; extremely high load height; thirsty engine; relatively cumbersome driving experience; interior no match for those of some similarly priced competitors

How Much?

$73,400-$95,200

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Escalade is offered with only one engine, a 6.2-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a standard 8-speed automatic and it returns 15 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in combined driving with rear-wheel drive. Those numbers are the same with optional 4-wheel drive, apart from a 20 mpg highway estimate.

There are no fuel economy estimates for the Escalade ESV due to its extra weight and heavy-duty truck classification -- but they would be worse.

Standard Features & Options

The Escalade comes in two body styles, a regular-length model simply called the Escalade and a long-wheelbase version dubbed the Escalade ESV. Both are available in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum.

The Escalade base trim ($73,400 regular; $76,400 ESV) comes standard with 20-inch wheels, a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, LED headlights, automatic wipers, power-folding mirrors, a hands-free power lift gate, side assist steps, keyless start, parking sensors, a surround-view parking camera, a self-parking system, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated and cooled power front seats with driver memory settings and power-adjustable pedals, heated second-row seats, a power-folding third-row seat, the 8-in CUE tech interface, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, five USB ports and a 16-speaker Bose audio system.

The Luxury trim ($78,400 regular; $81,400 ESV) adds 22-in wheels, adaptive headlights, a sunroof, power-adjustable second-row seats, Cadillac's rear camera mirror and a variety of accident-avoidance technologies (forward-collision, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning systems as well as automatic braking and lane-keeping assist).

The Premium Luxury ($82,900 regular; $85,900 ESV) gains adaptive cruise control, an enhanced automatic braking system and a single-screen rear-seat entertainment system.

The Platinum ($92,200 regular; $98,200 ESV) adds power-retractable side steps, special styling elements inside and out, upgraded leather upholstery, more adjustable front seats with massage functionality, and a dual-screen rear entertainment system.

Safety

The 2017 Cadillac Escalade comes with a long list of standard safety features, including dual front airbags, front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, traction control, stability control, front and rear parking sensors, a self-parking system and a surround-view parking camera. Available safety features include forward-collision warning, blind spot montoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning systems as well as automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, a collision-preparation system and the Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates if a driver strays from the lane.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Escalade a 4-star overall crash score, along with 4-star frontal, 5-star side and 3-star rollover scores. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested either Escalade model.

Behind the Wheel

The Escalade may have changed a lot over the years, but the basic concept remains: big power, a muscular sound and a driving position that looks down on virtually every other vehicle on the road.

If that's what you're looking for, the Escalade is an excellent SUV for the job. The interior is a vast improvement over that of prior models, which themselves were vast improvements over their predecessors. We're impressed with how well Cadillac has managed to keep up with the latest in interior design, though the Escalade still can't touch similarly priced rivals such as the Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class for overall quality. Then again, it comes with more standard feature content than those vehicles.

Space can also be an issue, as the third-row seat in the regular version is right on top of the floor, shoving knees toward the roof and with little room between it and row number two. That high floor also reduces cargo capacity and raises the load height uncomfortably. This is the result of the Escalade's old-school truck rear suspension, something the Lincoln Navigator and Infiniti QX80 have bettered, allowing them to boast considerably better interior space. This problem is admittedly mitigated by the extended-length ESV.

On the road, the Escalade drives much as you'd expect: like a big, bulky truck. Now, at least, Cadillac's impressive Magnetic Ride Control suspension system irons out some of the uncouth body motions and jiggling of GM's other full-size SUVs. The ride is subsequently much better. The Escalade may be quick thanks to its 420-hp V8, but it's no sports car, a fact especially obvious when you go around corners. It'll feel more ponderous to drive than luxury SUVs like the Range Rover and Mercedes GLS.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 GMC Yukon Denali -- GMC's own Yukon Denali is nearly mechanically identical to the Escalade. It also uses many of the same chrome accents and bold styling cues. If you can't find an Escalade at the price you want, consider visiting your local GMC dealer to find out if they'll give you a good deal on a Yukon Denali.

2017 Lincoln Navigator -- The Navigator's dated styling certainly can't compare to the Escalade's, but from a functional standpoint it's the superior vehicle. It's also the only full-size luxury SUV besides the other GM models to offer an extended-length version.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class -- The GLS can't match the Escalade's towing capability or extended-length version, but it boasts superior driving manners and interior trappings, plus a price tag that isn't actually that different from the big Cadillac's.

Used Land Rover Range Rover -- A new Range Rover's starting price of around $86,000 may be comparable to the Escalade's, but it comes with considerably less standard equipment. As such, used models are worth a look if you're interested in another luxury SUV offering a king-of-the-road driving experience.

Autotrader's Advice

Keep it simple. The base-model Escalade is so incredibly well equipped that all the upper trim levels seem a bit superfluous. Their elevated price tags also put them uncomfortably close to vehicles like the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, which in turn start to make the Escalade seem like the antiquated truck behemoth it is.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Cadillac Escalade: New Car Review - Autotrader