Restyled for 2007, the Escalade -- the SUV of choice among highly paid rap stars and professional athletes -- is stuffed bumper to bumper with enough excess to please those who can afford it.
The bottom line on the tester, the Escalade's relatively nimble all-wheel-drive version, was $61,620.
The federal fuel economy estimates are woeful: 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. That means the typical Escalade driver is likely to annually burn up at the gas pump the equivalent cost of an uplevel flat screen television. Premium fuel is recommended, not required, but it's my guess that most Escalade buyers will put premium gas in their $60,000 baby.
And why not? If you are fortunate enough to have an Escalade in your driveway, you want to pamper it.
It's an impressive vehicle. Even acquaintances who consider big-as-a-house SUVs sinful conceded that the tested Escalade was a magnificent-looking piece of automotive engineering.
General Motors is making a big deal out of exterior styling changes, and the hype is fairly justified. The '07 Escalade has a more aerodynamic look and a handful of attention-grabbing tweaks.
The chrome-laden grille is the approximate size of Colorado, yet side ventilation ports on the front end are comparatively small. Chrome accents are thoughtfully sprinkled on the Escalade's body. Running boards are almost invisible but come in handy when you open the doors and need an easy step up.
A sleeker-angled windshield (57 degrees) cuts through the wind easier than on the previous-generation Escalade, and less wind noise enters the cockpit when the brute is punching a hole through the air at freeway speed.
Power is supplied by a 6.2-liter, all-aluminum V-8 with variable valve timing technology. The 403-horsepower power plant -- with a maximum torque rating of 417 foot-pounds -- is first-rate.
Yet, even with all its power, accelerations are not neck-snapping affairs. Instead, you get a strong run-up to highway speed. Keep in mind the Escalade tops 5,500 pounds.
Its bulk and comparatively high center of gravity both demand that it be handled with care, even with traction/stability controls, road-sensing suspension and stop-on-a-dime brakes.
While it looks as big as a tank, the Escalade is actually pretty easy to drive, and you quickly become comfortable behind the wheel. Steering is responsive and firm enough to negate concerns that you might drift out of your lane on twisty roadways.
There's adequate stretch-out space in all three rows of seating. The Escalade can be configured to carry up to eight people.
Cadillac officials have touted the 2007 Escalade's "all-new interior" decked out with "premium materials." Ebony and Cashmere are the two interior colors.
Yes, that's all very nice, but I liked the simplified interior cabin look and uncomplicated center stack of controls. Everything was easy to understand and use, and I didn't feel like a first-time visitor to the cockpit of a Boeing 747.
Interior touches included the major gauges behind the steering wheel -- white needles with blue light inlays set off by continuously lit, white-LED backlighting.
The power liftgate that can be triggered at the touch of a key fob button also was cool, and convenient for loading bulky cargo.
More convenience can be found in the leather-covered, second row seats that will fold and tumble under their own power at the touch of a button.
A strong safety package includes head curtain side air bags in all seating rows.
The long list of luxury features on the tester included ultrasonic rear-park assist, a tire pressure monitoring system, power/folding exterior mirrors with heat and a six-disc CD changer hooked into a Bose surround-sound audio system.
Dress it up any way you like with extra amenities: XM Satellite Radio, an information-stuffed navigation system and a rearview camera to see what's behind you when backing up.
What does all this cost?
If you have to ask, Escalade is not in your orbit. For those who can afford this Caddy, you'll be happy to know that the Escalade is the best it's ever been.
Cadillac Escalade at a glance Make/model: 2007 Cadillac Escalade AWD Vehicle type: Seven-passenger, four-door, all-wheel-drive, full-size, luxury sport-utility vehicle Base price: $56,405 (as tested, $61,620) Engine: 6.2-liter V-8 with 403 horsepower at 5,700 revolutions per minute and 417 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm EPA fuel economy: 13 miles per gallon city; 19 mpg highway (premium gasoline recommended) Transmission: Six-speed automatic with overdrive Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion Brakes: Power-assisted, four-wheel discs (vented on front) Suspension: Independent, coil-over-shock with special features on front; multi-link on rear (stabilizer bars front and rear) Fuel tank: 26 gallons Maximum cargo volume: 108.9 cubic feet Curb weight: 5,665 pounds Height: 74.3 inches Length: 202.5 inches Wheelbase: 116 inches Width: 79 inches Ground clearance: 9 inches Track: 68.2 inches on front; 67 inches on rear Towing capacity: 7,700 pounds Tires: P265/65R18 steel-belted radials Final assembly point: Arlington, Texas
About the writer: The Bee's Mark Glover can be reached at (916) 321-1184 or email@example.com.