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 inches longer than the regular Escalade, the ESV provides more than 20 additional inches of interior length.
For 2005, a premium instrument cluster featured bright chrome trim, and burled walnut was added to the interior. Nothing has changed for the 2006 model year.
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 Escalade ESV has full-time all-wheel drive and General Motors' 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.
Joining the lineup in 2004 was 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 seating surfaces and pleated door panel bolsters. The 2006 Platinum Edition also includes a dual-screen DVD rear entertainment system that has a screen for the second row and another for the third row.
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 include turn-signal indicators. A functional step bumper at the rear shrouds a 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, which also features burled walnut accents and embroidered floormats.
Under the Hood
The Escalade ESV's 6.0-liter V-8 generates 345 hp and 380 pounds-feet of torque; it teams 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.