Cadillac didn't join the sport utility club until the 1999 model year, when it took a GMC Yukon Denali, added a few more luxury features and Cadillac styling cues, and dubbed it Escalade. The Yukon and sister-SUV Chevrolet Tahoe are redesigned for 2000, but Escalade and Denali will carry on the old design for a while longer. Both are expected to adopt the new Yukon/Tahoe design for the 2001 model year. Until that happens, Escalade carries over with minimal change.
You expect posh accommodations from Cadillac, and you get it with Escalade. The leather upholstery is the same kind used in Cadillac's cars, and wood trim adds warm accents to the interior. Front buckets and a split, folding rear bench provide seats for five and all seating positions are heated. Standard features include the OnStar satellite navigation and communications system, a cellular phone with hands-free operation and a Bose sound system with a CD player and six-disc changer.
Most of the styling changes to make the Escalade look like a Cadillac are at the front, where the Cadillac crest resides in a grille unique from the Denali's. The four-door Escalade has standard running boards, fog lights and a trailer hitch for towing up to 6,600 pounds. The 1999 Escalade came with a two-way tailgate (flip-up window and drop-down tailgate). The 2000 model offers swing-out cargo doors as a no-cost option.
Under the Hood
A 255-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 engine teams with a four-speed automatic transmission and GM's Autotrac 4WD system. Autotrac has a setting that automatically engages 4WD when needed, plus settings that allow running in 2WD only or with 4WD locked in for off-road or highway travel.
Cadillac resisted offering an SUV of its own until it saw how successful Lincoln was with the Navigator, a more luxurious rendition of the Ford Expedition. Cadillac was late to the party, and now it will be late offering a more modern SUV to compete with Navigator.