Friday, May 19, 2006

Cadillac Escalade tanks up on power

May 17, 2006

2007 Cadillac Escalade

He Drove, She Drove

By Paul & Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

It may be risky to recommend a big, gas-guzzling SUV in an era of rising gas prices.

But it's impossible to not get gushy about the redesigned 2007 Cadillac Escalade -- a mighty Motor City creation that's big on chrome from its luggage rack to its 22-inch wheels.

We're in agreement that the new Escalade, which gets a 58-horsepower bump for the new model year, is a winner. But one of us thinks that General Motors Corp. still needs to do a bit more work to bring it up to world-class quality standards.

We tested an amply equipped Escalade with five options, including a $2,495 "information package" that bundles such items as a DVD navigation system and a rearview camera, as well as a $625 climate package with heated-and-cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel. Bottom line: $64,815, including an $875 shipping charge.

SHE: One of my favorite things to do in the early morning is to pour myself a cup of coffee and check out what GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has to say on his blog. Recently, he told readers, "You'll be surprised at how much GM is at war -- and not with itself anymore." I think the new Escalade is an excellent example of that. It is a five-star vehicle in my book that more than competes with such newcomers as the all-new 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. If gas prices aren't really an issue for you, I can't think of another big SUV I'd recommend more than this one.

HE: One of my favorite things to do in the early morning is to go back to bed. Without Lutz. Actually, I suppose I could just curl up in the back seat of the Escalade. It seems that big. So big, in fact, that GM felt compelled to slide an even bigger V-8 under the hood of the '07 model, which now comes with a whopping 6.2-liter V-8. How's that for conservation consciousness?

SHE: Funny you mentioned that because that's one of my biggest gripes -- no variable-displacement system on the Cadillac V-8 to help conserve fuel. The EPA ratings are pretty appalling -- 19 mpg on the highway and only 13 in the city. That being said, if a person can afford a loaded Escalade with a $65,000 sticker, the price of fuel is probably not going to be an issue, not even at $3 a gallon. That's why I'm not afraid to recommend this.

HE: Well, there's that and, of course, the 403 horses that big V-8 churns out. I'm glad GM decided to team the engine with its new six-speed automatic, which is a very smooth, modern transmission. The 6.2 V-8 and six-speed are one of the nicest powertrain teams in the SUV universe, in terms of performance. Cadillac also did a fine job of tuning the chassis for a remarkably smooth ride for such a behemoth truck.

SHE: Chassis, nothing. The Escalade is all about status. When you climb behind the wheel into that command seating position and see those gorgeous gauges with the blue needles and the retro analog clock spread out in front of you, you can't help but feel like a master of the universe. And the Escalade has all of the safety and security features I expect in a luxury vehicle, from stability control and standard head curtain air bags that protect all three rows, to the OnStar communications system.

HE: I agree with you in some respects. But I have some serious reservations. Why do the seating positions looking progressively cheaper the farther back you go? Why don't the big plastic trim pieces fit together very well, especially in the third row? Why isn't there a power folding third-row seat, like you get in the Lincoln Navigator? Why do the second-row windows only roll down halfway? And why in the world doesn't a $65,000 luxury SUV come with a standard rear-seat entertainment system? Just asking.

SHE: Ooh, I can hardly wait to read Lutz's response on his blog.

Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, an automotive information services company.

2007 Cadillac Escalade AWD

Type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle
Price: $57,280 (incl. $875 destination charge); as tested, $64,815
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8; 403-hp; 417 lb-ft torque
EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway
Where built: Arlington, Texas
Estimated 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan : $1,923
Likes: Striking exterior design. Very comfortable ride. More expensive-looking cockpit -- at least the first row. Powerful 6.2-liter V-8. Huge front armrest. Smooth 6-speed automatic transmission.
Dislikes: Not enough legroom for adults in second and third rows. Sloppy trim fit in third row. Cabin wood looks fake
22-inch tires don't fill up wheel wells. Steering column doesn't telescope and only has manual tilt. Rear windows only roll down halfway.
Likes: Chrome, chrome everywhere. Bigger, better brakes. Terrific second-row amenities, including heated seats, audio controls. Excellent standard safety features. Retro-looking analog clock. Clever power release for second-row bucket seats. Power adjustable pedals. Bold 22-inch chrome wheels.
Dislikes: Dismal fuel economy. No power folding third row seat. No variable displacement system to save gas. Massive center pillars block vision.

Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, an automotive information services company.


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