This summer my brood went from a four-pack to a family of five. With three wee ones in child-safety seats, I jump at the chance to test-drive any vehicle that boasts three rows. Tack on the 2013 Cadillac Escalade's price tag of more than $75,000 and I thought I was in for the one of the best weeks of my automotive life. Boy, was I mistaken.
While the 2013 Cadillac Escalade may have three rows and a long list of standard luxury features, its high step-in height and severe lack of legroom or cargo space left me sorely disappointed.
This three-row SUV was a behemoth to drive and seemed even larger when I was parking. It felt bloated on the road. When merging onto the highway, I felt like I really had to push its 6.2-liter V-8 engine to get up to speed.
The base Escalade has a starting price of $64,165, including a $995 destination charge. My test car was a well-equipped Premium trim and came in at a jaw-dropping $75,220. Don't pick your jaw up yet; the top-of-the-line Platinum trim starts at $80,940.
There's no doubt about it — the Escalade is flashy. Thanks to the 22-inch "ultra-machine finished" wheels and chrome-trimmed everything, it's an SUV that turns heads. It's big and bulky, but with its recognizable hash-tag-like grille, it's undoubtedly a Cadillac.
Like most SUVs, the Escalade has a high step-in height and heavy doors. Thanks to the power running boards, it wasn't an issue for me, but my small children struggled with the height. By struggled I mean couldn't climb in by themselves, leaving me to lift them up and into the Escalade every time. It also took a significant heave-ho to lift my newborn and her infant carrier into the second row.
With the third-row bench in use, the cargo area is non-existent. An umbrella stroller and maybe a couple bags of groceries might fit, but that's it. I had to keep the cargo area completely clear because my 4-year-old and I used it as a loading dock of sorts. Thanks to her two younger sisters and their child-safety seats in the second row, she was banished to the tiny third row. Unfortunately, she's not quite coordinated enough to buckle up by herself, so I had to hurl myself up into the cargo area to reach over the back of the third row and buckle her. I appreciated the extra calorie burn, but by the second day of 20-minute buckle-ups I was cursing Cadillac. Thankfully, a power liftgate comes standard or else my daughters would have added even more colorful words to their vocabularies.
It's a three-step process to fold and tumble the third-row seats. The seats were bulky and heavy, and I broke a sweat anytime I had to maneuver them. If you're comfortable with a four-seater SUV, the Escalade's third row can be removed, and if you ever go to Costco, you may have to do that.
The 2013 Cadillac Escalade has a 6.8-liter V-8 engine with 403 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission; it uses regular unleaded gasoline. With rear-wheel drive, the Escalade gets an EPA-estimated 14/18 mpg city/highway. My all-wheel-drive test car gets 13/18 mpg. During my test drive of mostly city driving, I only averaged 10 mpg.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
With plush leather seats that are heated and cooled and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, the Escalade's interior is not only fancy but also comfortable. Unfortunately, that's where my positive marks end for the Escalade. I struggled from the get-go with its multimedia system and had to reference the owner's manual to pair my smartphone to it. That was a first for me. While the multimedia system comes standard, I just wasn't a fan. The controls weren't well laid out, making it one of the least intuitive systems I've used in a while.
Even though the 2013 Escalade has seating for seven with second-row captain's chairs or eight if you opt for the available three-seat bench in the second row, I find the numbers to be laughable. My family of five — with three in child-safety seats — lacked legroom in all rows and were cramped overall. With my two youngest in the second-row captain's chairs, my preschooler and her booster were put in the third row. Considering the complete lack of legroom in the last row, she is probably the largest person I would allow back there.
For an SUV of this size, I expected more storage. What's the point of having a beautifully appointed car if it's cluttered and has items rolling about? While the center console was beautiful to look at, I needed more nooks and crannies for all the junk that comes with hauling around a bunch of munchkins, and I could have used some more cupholders and bottleholders.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
The 2013 Escalade has received an overall safety rating of four stars of five from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also earned five stars in front and side crash tests and three stars in rollover crash tests. It hasn't been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Although the Escalade has three rows of seats, it only has two sets of lower Latch anchors, which are found in the second row. My infant's rear-facing car seat was a tight fit in the Escalade's second row; this isn't a surprise as many cars have this problem. However, even my daughter in her forward-facing convertible had complaints. With the front seats set for my 6-foot-2 husband, my middle daughter's feet were touching the seatback (and that's with her knees bent).
The Escalade Premium has standard rear-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system with antiroll control and traction control, a blind spot warning system, a backup camera with rear parking sensors and six airbags, including side curtains for all three rows.
Get more safety information about the 2013 Cadillac Escalade here.