2012 Cadillac Escalade Sport Review
Your toupee is showing Mr Matinee Idol
By Shahzad Sheikh
The Cadillac Escalade is a heroic superstar amongst full-size SUVs. It’s the car that rap artists go out and buy as soon as they’re out of the ghetto. In the queue behind them are sports stars and athletes, and lurking not too far away, are the car thieves (last year this was officially the most stolen car in the USA). You also like to imagine this is what secret service agents roll in whilst wearing their black suits, dark shades and standard-issue frowns.
And to see one in the metal, especially in this 2012 edition ‘Sport’ spec, is to behold why it retains such a strong appeal. Few objects as blocky as this, and with as little flourish, can boast so much road presence. Perhaps it’s the brand, possibly the angular lines, more than likely it’s got something to do with the starkly contrasting bling dripping off the grille and seeping off the wheels, and undoubtedly it’s the sheer bulk of the thing. But it works, it just does.
It’s an undeniably handsome devil that stands tall and dignified despite the patently showy nature of its accessorising. It gets respect on the roads – and that’s sometimes a tall order here – men at security gates simply open them up for you, traffic parts and nobody tries to steal your parking space. Along with icons like the G-Wagon and Range Rover, the Escalade boasts that crucial ‘aura of importance’.
Getting on a bit
It’s an old-skool action hero with an easily worn outer veneer of cool, sure, but what the matinee idol isn’t letting on is that his hair is fake, his bones are creaking and his moves aren’t quite as balletic as they used to be. This the third generation Escalade, based on the GMT900 platform, also shared with the Tahoe, Yukon, Silverado etc…
The next generation car appears to be slated for 2014 which would put it a couple of years behind schedule due to the turmoil General Motors went through during the early part of the recession. In fact the entire range of full-size trucks and SUVs were almost abandoned in preference to a slightly smaller unibody platform, with smaller engines.
But truck sales have picked up, so the future is secure for this segment of vehicles – for the time-being at least.
What they should keep
So considering that their working on a replacement for this, what should they keep from this car? The imposing looks, for sure. The sound system was good, appropriately loud and one assumes, ideal for a bit of gangsta rap, but there didn’t appear to be standard Bluetooth phone connectivity which is a bit surprising for a car of this ilk and price.
Obviously the space is magnificent, and the manner in which you tower over everyone else, even making Land Cruisers look small is boost for the ego. Also hang on to the light steering and effortless drive, it’s even easy to place the car thanks to its boxy extremities, it’s not as difficult to manoeuvre as you might think.
Most importantly of all though, keep that motor – or at least the thrust, character and sound of the thing. It’s deep, it’s grunty (0-100kph in under seven seconds in something so big and beastly is mildly alarming and alarmingly amusing) and when you stomp on the loud pedal it’s like the start of a movie sequence where the special agents have just been told where the bad guys are hiding out, and there’s some woman somewhere with a time-bomb attached to her that’s about to go off, so it’s suddenly life and death against the clock, and… er… sorry… got carried away there.
What not to keep
But the last bit segues into this section nicely, because whilst those special agents might hit the go-baby-go button with a renewed sense of urgency, they won’t get very far before they’re smeared all over the side of a building they’ve just understeered into at a colossal momentum. The handling and dynamics of this SUV rather encourage the driver to keep things smooth and steady and employ a cruiser state of being.
Even high-speed straight-lining is off the menu for the wise because the brakes struggle to haul this behemoth to a halt. They’ll do it, but you’ll have to stomp on the brake pedal with both your feet, hold your breath, count every heartbeat and pray hard if you’re not to go careering off the side of a cliff – there’s always a cliff in a climatic chase scene, even if the protagonists are in the flattest city on earth.
And whilst there appears to be gargantuan amount of interior space, packaging lets it down. There’s hardly any luggage room if the third row of seats are in place (though they can be taken out) and by the way, why aren’t they powered folding as in most rivals in this class of vehicle? Also sitting in them is strictly for kids or people with very stubby legs because the floor is very high back there and for a tall passenger the knees will be chafing the earlobes.
Whilst we’re on about ‘this class of vehicle’ the interior trim fittings need to be brought in line, at the very least, with its siblings like the CTS, and probably should be borrowed from the new ATS which looks fabulous from the images. Plus it has to be laden with gadgetry – this is an American luxury SUV, it should boost stuff like front massage seats, split-screen displays and heads-up nav with off-road features, and that’s just for starters.
The wheels ruin it
They should also get rid of those massive 22-inch shiny wheels. Oh, was that a gasp I heard form you? Well it’s all very well having them on there to bling things up, but even with the clever magnetic suspension that normally works so well, the ride on this car – which should be comfy and pliant – is harsh and unforgiving.
It’s a measure of the improvement in build quality in this car that there aren’t many rattles and squeaks considering. I suspect that if this had smaller wheels, it would be a lot smoother, although that probably still wouldn’t resolve the lateral shimmy which is endemic of the body-on-frame style of construction. Plus of course it can’t go anywhere off-road with those wheels on it.
If it was cheaper, well…
Thing is though, I do still like the Escalade, simply because it’s got so much personality. The immense character and style of the Escalade could almost compensate for the shortcomings, but only if it was cheaper than you’d expect. Yet at AED255,000, base price, it’s getting into some pretty classy company.
On the plus side, Escalades are very popular in this region with new car sales still doing well. And they seem to hold their values very well, particularly up to the first three years, with only around 15-20% depreciation judging by my quick trawl through the classifieds, which is way better than average. Although the impending arrival of an all-new car in later 2014 might hasten devaluation next year.
Nonetheless, Cadillac’s in a good position with the Escalade. It’s been able to nurture and maintain a strong brand identity and appeal for the Escalade in a way that Lincoln failed to manage with the Navigator. But that all-new Caddy can’t come soon enough, discounting alone won’t be enough to stop a potential erosion in the cache of the ‘Escalade’ badge.
This is a flagship SUV for General Motors which means they should be benchmarking cars like the Mercedes GL, Lexus LX and yes, even the iconic Range Rover. If they can harness the strong image of the Escalade and combine it with far improved dynamics, design and delivery, they’ll be onto a winner. In the meantime if you’re gonna get a current Escalade you may as well go all the way and invest in some thumping tunes, mad medallions, an attitude and a good toupee. I’ll see ya in da hood, bro. Just cruizin yo.
Price: AED255,000 ($69,300)
Engine: 6.2-litre V8, 403bhp @ 5700rpm, 417lb ft @ 4300rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 6.8 seconds, top speed 170kph
Transmission: Six-speed auto, four wheel drive, 18L/100km