2003 Cadillac Escalade

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2003 Cadillac Escalade
Available in 2 styles:  2003 Cadillac Escalade AWD shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

12–14 city / 15–18 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 3
2003 Cadillac Escalade 4.6 9
$ 3,929-14,697
October 5, 2002
Cadillac's Escalade truck (yes, truck) continues to draw young, upscale buyers into Cadillac showrooms, and for 2003, just one year after a major redesign, it has been upgraded with items such as satellite radio, passenger-sensing airbags, redesigned seats, improved vehicle stability system and a new rear-seat DVD player.

It seems that luxury SUVs just can't have enough gadgets these days, and the 2003 Escalade is proof. About the only thing missing is a microwave oven. Creature comforts are a priority, and to that end each manfucturer strives to make its trucks as plush as a family room. DVD players for rear-seat passengers are prevalent. Kids can play video games, watch movies or listen to music while mom or dad does the driving.

One of the test vehicle's most interesting options was its XM satellite radio. XM radio consists of 100 coast-to-coast digital channels delivered via satellite, so stations never change now matter how far you drive. The channel choices are as vast as the country: hip-hop, opera, CNN, bluegrass, ESPN and every kind of music you can imagine. Plus, comedy and 24-hour news. The XM radio receiver is a $325 option, and requires a $9.99 monthly subscription fee. The XM's wide selection of music was a delight to the ear especially when heard through the Escalade's excellent Bose stereo system.

The Escalade's stacked headlights and massive grille give it incredible road presence. Tough looks aside, this luxury SUV drives like a kitten. Its road-sensing suspension uses electronically controlled shock absorbers to make constant adjustments for driving conditions and load. This system reads the road and adjusts the shocks every 30 milliseconds, yielding a velvelty smooth ride in town or on the highway. For my taste, the ride is actually a little too soft, and the steering a little too easy during city driving. On the highway, the suspension firms up a bit and the 17-inch wheels roll as easily as ball bearings.

The Escalade's image of power is reinforced by the 345-horsepower, 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 engine that is standard in the four-wheel-drive model. Considering the Escalade's nearly 3-ton weight, it has startling acceleration. Yanking this much weight around quickly results in an Environmental Protection Agency mileage rating of 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 on the highway. The two-wheel-drive version gets the smaller 5.3-liter V-8 with 285 horsepower. Most Escalade buyers will opt for the all-wheel-drive system not only because it provides four-wheel traction, but also because it is the only way to get the 345-horsepower engine.

The StabiliTrak vehicle stability program is now a four-channel system and that allows each individual wheel to be controlled with anti-lock braking and traction control. The new system, Cadillac says, does a better job of maintaining control in stopping and swerving.

Inside, the seats are wide and covered in very soft leather. Heated seats in the front and second row are standard. The instrument panelÕs design and layout has been revised, a Bulgari analog clock sits on the console and the wood-and-leather steering wheel now has fingertip controls for nine functions. A three-zone climate control system allows the driver, front-seat passenger and second-row riders to select their own temperature.

The second-row bucket seats have reclining backs and inboard armrests. The seats can be folded to create a flat floor. A folding third seat is handy for kids, but legroom is so skimpy that it is not very useful for adults.

The second-generation Escalade is not only bolder and more audacious than the first one, but it also works considerably better: more power, bigger brakes and a folding third seat.

The base price for our all-wheel-drive model was $53,305. Options included the rear-seat entertainment system, chrome wheels, satellite radio and second-row bucket seats. The sticker price was $56,559.

Four years or 50,000 miles.

Point: The 2003 Escalade is improved in the areas of passenger comfort. The instruments have a simpler design, the seats are better, satellite radio is an fun option and a DVD entertainment center is available for the back seat. The StabiliTrak system is more sophisticated, too.

Counterpoint: I think the Escalade is a bit ostentatious. Something more subtle would suit me. I would prefer a firmer ride and steering with a bit more feel. The third seat is mainly for children.

Engine: 6.0-liter, 345-hp V-8 Transmission: automatic
All-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Curb weight: 5,809 lbs.
Base price: $53,205
As driven: $56,559
Mpg rating: 12 city, 16 hwy.
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    Expert Reviews 3 of 3

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