EXPERT REVIEW

The Detroit Newspapers's view

A ground-up redesign of the Cadillac Escalade EXT for 2007 has given this luxury pickup a more distinctive, grown-up appearance. Under the skin, the improvements in ride quality and powertrain capability are impressive.

We tested a 2007 Escalade EXT with more than $7,000 worth of options and a bottom line of $61,320.

HE: It had to be serendipity that we parked the Escalade EXT next to a Lincoln Mark LT pickup at the pumpkin farm this past weekend. But it gave us a great opportunity to do a walkaround on both vehicles and get a good firsthand impression of the differences between these two competitors.

SHE: It was striking — the Lincoln still looks like a big, fancy Ford F-series pickup, while the Cadillac looks much more like an SUV, especially from the front. Which makes it look more like a dual-purpose vehicle, as opposed to just a pickup.

HE: I like the new exterior, which is cleaner and more grownup than the original. And that Cadillac face is, well, in your face. It’s pretty aggressive. You can even see cues from the Cadillac Sixteen concept in the headlamps and grille. Cadillac was also clever to offer those snazzy $2,995 custom wheels in a 22-inch size. I think my only real issue with the exterior is the carryover “flying buttress” theme; those triangular plastic pieces behind the cab tend to cut down on visibility, although they do tend to minimize the EXT’s utilitarian roots.

SHE: I think parts of the Escalade EXT are almost too utilitarian when I was expecting upscale. It has that midgate feature that lets you remove and store the rear window and lower the seatback to extend the length of the bed. That’s great for the workhorse Chevy Avalanche. But it’s just too much work on a $60,000 vehicle like the EXT. I was expecting more pushbutton power features on the midgate and the tonneau cover. People who shop in these price categories don’t want to be crawling in and out of the cabin, twisting knobs and dials.

HE: We need to talk about the rest of the hardware, which is shared with General Motors’ redesigned SUVs, including the Chevy Suburban and Cadillac Escalade ESV. The ride quality is remarkable, although the steering still has a few quirks and sometimes feels too isolated from the road. Cadillac fits the new GM 6.2-liter V-8, which is a 403-horsepower stump-puller, and the new six-speed automatic. It’s a terrific combination, in terms of sheer power, although fuel economy is less than impressive. The truck is so heavy, at nearly 6,000 pounds, that the government doesn’t require EPA mileage ratings. But as a reference point, the EXT’s sibling, the Escalade ESV utility vehicle, which features the same powertrain team, is rated by the EPA at 13 miles per gallon in city driving and 19 on the highway.

SHE: On the plus side, those front seats in the EXT are awesome — like giant armchairs. And the center armrest felt like an expensive end table, and yet it was quite comfortable. There’s something really soothing about the cabin, especially at night, with the softly illuminated blue needles on the gauges.

HE: I think I was most disappointed by all the metal and the fake wood on the instrument panel — two downmarket cues on what aspires to be a premium truck. I was also somewhat shocked to see that the edges of the IP don’t butt up evenly with the bottoms of the windshield pillars, which leaves you with the impression of poor assembly quality.

SHE: And yet the 2007 Escalade EXT is the most luxurious pickup that money can buy. It may not be perfect, but this is truly the Cadillac of trucks.

2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT
Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, five-passenger pickup.
Price: Base, $54,210 (inc. $875 shipping charge); as tested, $61,320.
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8; 403-hp; 417 lb-ft torque.
Where built: Silao, Mexico
Estimated 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA
Michigan: $1,904

Anita
Rating: 4
Likes: Very comfortable ride for a pickup. Midgate adds cargo flexibility. Decent standard safety features, including stability control and side curtains. Beautiful blue indicators on analog dials. Optional heated andcooled front seats. Nice flip-down rear armrest.
Dislikes: For this kind of money, should be more automatic/pushbutton features. Annoying exhaust noise at highway speeds. Tonneau cover is still primitive. Too much effort required to operate midgate.

Paul
Rating: 4
Likes: The most luxurious pickup that money can buy. Bold and distinctive face. Much cleaner exterior. Gobs of power. Modern, 6-speed automatic transmission. Nice, roomy front seats. Slick 22-inch wheels (a $2,995 option).
Dislikes: Too much metal and fake wood on IP. Edges of IP don’t match up with bottoms of windshield pillars. No iPod jack. Flying buttresses cut down visibility.

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