Cadillac expanded its sport utility vehicle lineup to three models when it added the full-size Escalade ESV during the 2003 model year. Not only is this the largest luxury SUV on the market, but it's also the biggest Cadillac ever produced. Measuring 22.5 inches longer than the regular Escalade, the ESV provides more than 20 additional inches of interior length.
For 2005, a premium instrument cluster features bright chrome trim, and burled walnut is added to the interior. Touchscreen navigation includes a 6.5-inch screen, and GM's OnStar communication system gains upgraded hands-free capability. Built in Mexico, the Escalade ESV competes against such vehicles as the Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX 470 and Lincoln Navigator, but the ESV's dimensions set it apart.
In addition to a 345-horsepower V-8, the ESV has full-time all-wheel drive and GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability system. Technical features include a Road Sensing Suspension System and Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist. XM Satellite Radio, a trailering package and a tire-pressure monitor are standard.
An ESV Platinum Edition equipped with 20-inch chrome-plated aluminum wheels and a premium interior that included an ebony and shale dashboard, shale leather upholstery and pleated door panel bolsters joined the lineup for 2004. A dual-screen DVD entertainment system is installed. The Platinum Edition continues into the 2005 model year.
Cadillac notes that the ESV "shares the same bold exterior design and commanding road presence" as the regular Escalade. High-intensity-discharge headlights flank an eggcrate grille. The front fascia incorporates recessed tow hooks and rectangular fog lamps.
Chrome badging features the Cadillac wreath-and-crest insignia. Signature seven-spoke chrome-plated aluminum wheels hold 17-inch tires. Power folding and heated mirrors are equipped with turn-signal indicators. A functional step bumper at the rear shrouds a Class VII trailer hitch. Built on a 130-inch wheelbase, the ESV measures 221.4 inches long overall, stands 75.7 inches tall and has a ground clearance of 10.7 inches.
Depending on the ESV's seating configuration, either seven or eight people can luxuriate on soft, aromatic Nuance leather seating surfaces. The front bucket seats have 14-way power adjustment, power-adjustable side bolsters, power lumbar and seatback recliner controls, and independently heated seatbacks and cushions. Second-row bucket seats have heated cushions, and customers can choose a bench seat for this row. The third-row bench seat folds down and can be removed to increase cargo capacity. Front- and second-row seats are heated and cooled in the Platinum Edition.
Under the Hood
The Escalade ESV's 6.0-liter V-8 generates 345 hp and 380 pounds-feet of torque; it mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Full-time all-wheel drive is standard.
Dual-stage front airbags, a passenger-sensing system and side-impact airbags for the front seats are installed.
Despite the ESV's massive dimensions, engine response is quite vigorous and the automatic transmission is well behaved. The suspension is on the soft side, but the ESV handles with a reasonable degree of confidence. Visibility is terrific because of the massive glass area. The second-row seats are especially comfortable and grant ready access to the back row.