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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
February 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview As the old saying goes, If at first you dont succeed, try and try again. Cadillac hastily launched its first Escalade sport utility vehicle in 1998 as a reaction to the success of the Lincoln Navigator and other upscale, full-size SUVs from General Motors. Sales of that version of the Escalade never reached expectations, but Cadillac rejoined the fray in February 2001 with a boldly redesigned version; it was introduced as an early 2002 model. A host of technical upgrades included a new V-8 engine, which made the Escalade the most powerful SUV on the market. It comes with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).
Cadillac has announced a long list of revisions for the 2003 Escalade. Some of these changes include new high-intensity-discharge headlights, an optional XM Satellite Radio and a Panasonic DVD entertainment system. StabiliTrak, GMs electronic stability system, has been upgraded to four-channel operation and is now featured in RWD models.
The power-adjustable brake and gas pedals come with a memory function and are new for 2003. The mirrors now have turn-signal indicators, the instrument panel has been restyled, and second-row bucket seats are now optional. A new driver information center reports on up to 30 functions, and the new tri-zone climate system comes with either manual or automatic control.
The Escalade and its new Escalade EXT sibling are the best-equipped full-size GM SUVs, and they rank above the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe and the GMC Yukon. The Escalades rivals include the BMW X5, Lexus LX 470, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Escalade has played a key role in the resurgence of Cadillac among upscale, younger buyers, says Marketing Director Susan Docherty. Sales figures appear to bear out that claim. Automotive News reports that 31,270 Escalades were sold during 2001 thats a 34-percent increase in sales during the same period in 2000.
When the Escalade was unveiled for the 2002 model year, it was the first production model to display Cadillacs art and science design theme, which represents a bold, sharp-edged form that was first seen on the 1999 Evoq concept coupe and described by the company as elegant severity. Led by a prominent eggcrate grille, the Escalade displays styling details that resemble both the Evoq and the Imaj concept car.
Squared-off multireflector headlights complement the multifaced appearance of the front end, which Cadillac describes as gemlike. A Cadillac wreath-and-crest insignia decorates the grille and liftgate. The Escalade rides a 116-inch wheelbase, stretches to 198.9 inches long overall and 78.9 inches wide, and stands 74.2 inches tall. Seven-spoke cast-aluminum wheels hold 17-inch tires. A sunroof is optional.
As many as eight Escalade occupants may enjoy pewter- or shale-colored leather upholstery. The front seats have power lumbar, side bolster and recliner adjustment features, and the front- and second-row seats are heated. Each side of the 60/40-split, second-row seat folds in a two-step process, which creates a continuous, flat cargo floor. The third row has a 50/50-split seat.
The center console is integrated into a Zebrano wood-trimmed dashboard. Storage slots in the console hold CDs or cassettes. An upper compartment in the leather-upholstered lid opens separately and has a hole for a power cord, which permits easy 12-volt accessory connections.
Analog instruments have aluminum rims, and a Bulgari-designed analog clock adds an elegant touch. A newly enhanced Bose stereo includes an in-dash six-CD changer. Stereo controls are repeated on the leather and wood steering wheel. Touching a button folds the side mirrors close to the body to enable squeezing through tight spots. GMs OnStar communication system offers Personal Calling and Virtual Advisor features.
Under the Hood
A 5.3-liter V-8 engine develops 285 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque in the RWD Escalade. 4WD models get a 6.0-liter V-8 that produces 345 hp and 380 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines drive a four-speed-automatic transmission.
The Escalade is the only GM SUV that comes with the companys StabiliTrak system as a standard feature. StabiliTrak teams with a Road Sensing Suspension System that adjusts to various road surfaces. Both versions include a weight-distributing trailer hitch and wiring harness to tow as much as 7,700 pounds with RWD or 8,500 pounds with 4WD. Cadillac claims the Escalade can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 9.45 seconds with 2WD and a swift 8.57 seconds with 4WD.
Antilock brakes, all-speed traction control and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Dual-stage airbags and a passenger-sensing system are new for 2003. An Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist function warns of obstacles to the rear while the vehicle is backing up.