2004 Cadillac Escalade ESV

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2004 Cadillac Escalade ESV

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Available in 2 styles:  2004 Cadillac Escalade ESV AWD shown

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13 city / 17 hwy

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    Expert Reviews 2 of 2



Escalade ESV Platinum's luxury eases long haul

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. - Once, a long time ago, the Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum sport-utility would have seemed out of place at this family beach resort, a coastal barrier island just a seashell's toss from the South Carolina border.

The Ocean Isle of my youth was somewhere between undiscovered and taken for granted. My parents would rent a cottage almost every summer, and my brothers and sister and I would play in the surf all day until we were burned red and exhausted. Then, under the stars, we would go out and watch the sand crabs scurry on the beach.

Today, the Escalade ESV, Cadillac's version of the super-size Chevy Suburban, and especially the limited-edition (5,000 a year) Platinum Edition version, fit right in at Ocean Isle. Oh, this seven-mile spit of sand hasn't gone South Beach or Newport Beach yet, but it has become more fully developed and now there's even a very fancy restaurant that sits adjacent to a gated community.

Still, my extended family -- 12 of us including three 1-year-old nieces and nephews -- forged our own memories of a weekend at Ocean Isle. And the Escalade ESV got plenty of appreciative nods.

Before the Hummer H2 and various Bentleys began populating music videos and parking lots for pro athletes, the Escalade was the chariot of choice, the begetter of bling-bling.

And make no mistake, the nearly $70,000 Escalade ESV Platinum is the king of bling.

Our smooth-sided test vehicle was painted quicksilver, a light gold-beige color. But its huge 20-inch chrome wheels and tires reflected the noon-time sun and attracted many a glance. The massive chrome grille, coupled with dinner-plate-size Cadillac wreath-and-crest emblem on the vehicle's front and rear, told the other tourists that we weren't just driving any old Chevy or GMC SUV.

Ocean Isle's permanent population of 426 swells to around 22,000 during the summer. And the Cadillac SUV's proportions seem similarly expansive. It's nearly 18.5 feet long, just over 6.5 feet wide and just under 6.5 feet tall. The vehicle's ultrasonic rear-parking assist system is much appreciated, as normal parking lot spaces require much negotiation.

It weighs nearly 6,000 pounds unloaded (5,820 pounds), only gets 13 mpg in city driving (17 mpg on the highway) and the use of premium unleaded fuel is recommended.

But when a family of four travels more than 1,800 miles -- we spent time in another favorite spot, Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, too -- with eight bags (we later added a ninth), a cooler, three baseball gloves and more, a vehicle of some size is required.

And this one provided transportation at its most luxurious.

Our kids, who have enjoyed rear-seat DVD players on long trips in the past, got a new treat this time -- a second seven-inch screen above the third-row seats joinin g the first above the second-row seats. Up front, their mom and I enjoyed the Escalade's XM satellite radio, which provided great reception even when we were far from the beaten path.

Both the front- and second-row seats of this seven-seat vehicle had buttons that allowed them to be either heated or cooled. In the hot and humid South, reaching for the seat-chiller button was my first task after switching on the ignition.

Two of the front cup holders even offered heating and cooling buttons for our drinks, although experiments with both Styrofoam cups of coffee and plastic bottles of water proved the system worked only adequately well.

From its wide leather seats and chrome-trimmed gauge faces to its plentiful use of walnut, including on the steering wheel and far up on the dashboard, the Escalade ESV Platinum doesn't shrink from its country-club aspirations. The vehicle also comes with a DVD-based navigation system, the OnStar safety/concierge system, a B se audio system and even an analog Bulgari clock.

With the third row down, the Escalade ESV offered spacious cargo room. The vehicle is 22 inches longer than the base Escalade.

On the road, the all-wheel-drive Escalade ESV with its 345-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8 engine cruised effortlessly over interstate and back road. The ride was smooth, although the vehicle's size and weight made for less-than-precise handling.

Even on days when I drove 250 to 300 miles, I never tired of piloting the Escalade ESV and fidgeting with its gadgets.

Sure, we once visited Ocean Isle Beach in a battered station wagon. And, these days, a minivan would have offered similar passenger and cargo space at half the price. But for those who can afford it, the Escalade ESV Platinum brings luxury to the forefront, or, in this case, the shore-front.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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