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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
Vehicle Overview Cadillac hastily launched its first Escalade full-size sport utility vehicle in 1998 as a reaction to the success of the Lincoln Navigator. Sales for Cadillacs SUV never reached expectations, but the automaker rejoined the fray with a boldly redesigned version that was introduced as an early 2002 model. A new V-8 engine made the Escalade the most powerful SUV on the market.
The Escalade may be equipped with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. XM Satellite Radio, a trailering package, second-row bucket seats and a tire-pressure monitor are now standard for 2004, and a second-row bench seat becomes a no-charge option. Buyers can now combine a sunroof with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Cadillac also offers an Escalade EXT model that features a pickup bed, as well as the jumbo-size Escalade ESV.
When it was unveiled for the 2002 model year, the Escalade was the first production model to display Cadillacs art and science design theme. This bold, sharp-edged form was first seen on the companys 1999 Evoq concept coupe and was described as elegant severity.
Squared-off headlights complement the multifaced appearance of the front end, which sports a prominent eggcrate grille. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights were added for 2003. Cadillacs wreath-and-crest insignia decorates the grille and liftgate. The Escalade rides a 116-inch wheelbase, stands 74.2 inches tall, and stretches 198.9 inches long overall and 78.9 inches wide. Seven-spoke cast-aluminum wheels hold 17-inch tires. A sunroof is optional.
Either seven or eight people enjoy the Escalades leather upholstery. The front seats have power lumbar, side bolster and recliner adjustment features, and the front- and second-row seats are heated. A second-row bench seat is standard, and each side of the available 60/40-split bench folds in a two-step process. The third row has a 50/50-split seat.
The center console is integrated into a Zebrano wood-trimmed dashboard. Power-adjustable brake and gas pedals include a memory function, and the tri-zone climate system comes with either manual or automatic control.
Analog instruments have aluminum rims, and a Bulgari-designed analog clock adds an elegant touch. The Bose stereo includes an in-dash six-CD changer; duplicate stereo controls are also installed 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 295 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque in the rear-drive Escalade. Four-wheel-drive 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 companys StabiliTrak electronic stability system teams with a Road Sensing Suspension System that adjusts to various road surfaces. Both versions include a weight-distributing trailer hitch and wiring harness for towing; the rear-drive model can tow 7,400 pounds and the four-wheel-drive Escalade can tow as much as 8,100. Cadillac claims the rear-drive Escalade can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 9.45 seconds, and the four-wheel-drive version can achieve that feat in a swift 8.57 seconds.
Antilock brakes, all-speed traction control and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. A passenger-sensing system was added in 2003. An Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist function warns of obstacles to the rear while the vehicle is backing up.