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1999 Cadillac Escalade

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1999 Cadillac Escalade
Available in 1 styles:  Escalade shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

12 city / 16 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 7
1999 Cadillac Escalade 4.5 2
$ 652-8,300
April 6, 1999

Jaguar now stands alone.

With the arrival later this year of the BMW X5, nearly every mainstream luxury maker offers a sport-utility. For those of you keeping tabs, that list includes Land Rover, Lexus (two), Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Infiniti, Acura and Cadillac. (Even Volvo and Audi offer all-wheel-drive station wagons, pseudo-sport-utilities to be sure, but legitimate competitors in this segment.)

The 1999 Escalade, the first truck in Cadillac's 96-year history, is a perfect example of how automakers are responding to cries from buyers and dealers for more, more, more sport-utilities now now now.

Here's what the numbers told Caddy execs: 32 percent of households with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 own an SUV, while only 15 percent own a luxury car; and, in 1997, of all owners who left Cadillac for another brand, 21 percent bought or leased a sport-utility.

Cadillac says it developed and brought the Escalade to market in less than a year. Even the most efficient automakers still take at least 24 months to make a new vehicle. How Cadillac did it in 12 is simple. The Escalade isn't really a new vehicle.

Instead, the Escalade is very similar to the GMC Denali, another full-size sport-utility made by General Motors. Take another step back, and you see that the Denali is very similar to the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, two other GM sport-utes. All are based on the platforms of GM's big-selling full-size pickups. This is the chassis for another sport-ute, too, the even-larger Suburban sold by Chevy and GMC dealers.

So, how GM can sell a Tahoe, a Yukon, a Denali, an Escalade and a Suburban, each with separate marketing campaigns, is either a text-book case of brand management or just another sign that sport-utilities have taken over America.

What sets the Escalade apart from its GM stablemates is its level of standard amenities and its price (about $46,000).

Enter the Escalade and you'll find the Bose Acoustimass music system with its four wide-range speakers in the doors, two high-output speakers in the headliner and one subwoofer in the console. There's an AM-FM stereo and cassette player. Both an in-dash single disc CD player and a six-disc CD changer are standard. The sound in this vehicle, which is bigger than some Silicon Valley bedrooms, is quite nice.

There's also OnStar onboard. That's GM's security-concierge service that now works without a telephone. Instead, there's a tiny microphone near the visors. With the touch of a button, you're in contact with real-live operators who can give your directions, tell you where the nearest McDonald's is located or call for help in an emergency. Thanks to global positioning systems (GPS) satellites, those operators know exactly where you are.

With an Escalade, owners get OnStar as standard fare, and the monthly service charge is waived for a year.

Otherwise, inside this truck there's acres of leather upholstery and a fores t of Zebrano wood trim. You'll find both on the steering wheel of the Escalade. The front seats are huge and comfortable.

Under the hood, there's a 5.7-liter V-8 engine. Rated at 255 horsepower, it's a decent powerplant. Still, in a vehicle that weighs nearly three tons, a bit more oomph would be appreciated. And though its 480-mile cruising range and use of regular unleaded fuel are to be commended, its fuel economy figures of 12 mpg in the city and 16 on the highway are horrendous.

Also, on board is the same less-than-smooth ride found on all of the big GM sport-utes. While I can accept that in a Chevy or a GMC, it really bugs me in a Cadillac. Something smoother, more sophisticated is what generations of Cadillac buyers have come to expect. With the next generation of these SUVs right around the corner, perhaps the next Escalade will be improved.

The outside of the Escalade exhibits generic GM sport-ute styling. Bumpers are the same color as the body. Running b rds are standard. Most distinctive: the chrome-surround grille centered with Cadillac's wreath and crest logo; the unique head lights with wrap-around blinkers; and the beautiful aluminum six-spoke wheels.

In total, the Escalade offers Cadillac dealers a way to lure buyers of upscale American sport-utilities away from nearby Lincoln dealers and their much-ballyhooed Navigators. In its first few months on the market, Navigator has outsold Escalade by about three-to-one but the Cadillacs have been a bit slow getting into dealerships. Regardless, buying a huge truck at a Cadillac or Lincoln store remains a concept that takes a while to get used to.

What we drove: 1999 Cadillac Escalade, a four-door luxury sport-utility with a 5.7-liter V-8 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission.

Base price: $45,875

Price as tested (includes delivery charge): $46,525

Curb weight: 5,573 pounds

Length: 201.2 inches

Turning circle (curb to curb): 40.7 feet

Towing capacity: 6,000 pounds

Standard features: Autotrac four-wheel-drive; chrome aluminum wheels; OnStar system with 1-year service; dual front air bags; remote keyless entry; theft deterrent system; four-wheel anti-lock brakes; daytime running lights; fog lamps; front and rear air conditioning; power windows and locks; Zebrano wood trim; power, heated front seats; Bose stereo with six-CD changer; luggage carrier.

Options on test vehicle: None

EPA figures: 12 mpg (city); 16 mpg (highway)

    Expert Reviews 2 of 7

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