Are celebs and chauffeurs missing out? The Escalade has tons of luxuries for front seat passengers.
Here’s the thing about the Kardashians: my kids see how they live on TV and get the idea that we can live like that, too.
Love them or hate them, they don’t live a bad quality of life. And it makes you think, if they can live that life, why can’t we? After all, who doesn’t like to roll like a celeb?
The week we drove the Cadillac Escalade, my kids were pampered, spoiled and treated like celebutantes (but only when in the car; otherwise they had to pitch in and do the dishes just like the rest of us).
The Escalade we drove was not just any luxury SUV; it was the Platinum edition, which means top of the line all the way. The price of the model we drove —MSRP of about $91,000— is pretty hefty. So here’s the thing: if your car is more like a living room and travel with a posse, it’s probably worth it.
Who This Car is For:
- Luxury is a must
- You need room for 5 or more passengers
- Top technology is important
- Wifi is an important feature
- Your kids would like to do their homework in the car (or, you would like them to)
- You road trip often
- You need 4WD (and don’t mind using it)
- Towing ability matters—8300 lbs of it
- You don’t mind sporting a luxury badge
What you need to consider:
- Third row is not as roomy as the second row
- Second row captains chairs reduce seating capacity to 7 (8 if the center row is a bench seat)
- Center console is a cooler which means I can’t put my handbag there
- The Escalade is a big SUV; getting in and out requires stepping up on the running boards, and to reach the roof rack you need to stand on them, too
- MPG is 15 city/21 highway
- Premium fuel is recommended
- You might be completely spoiled after driving the Escalade
I was skeptical. And I nearly missed a great experience
Last summer we drove the Chevrolet Tahoe on our summer vacation and after 10 days, I thought I couldn’t possibly like another SUV as much. I loved the interior space, especially the head room in the second row, the confidence the truck gave me on the road and the top safety and tech features. I couldn’t imagine what else an auto maker could possibly add.
So I was skeptical that the Escalade would be a different experience from the Tahoe. But when I checked it out for our summer road trip to Georgia and Florida, I was surprised at what I found: the two SUVs have the same DNA but clearly, different stylists.
The secret is in the details—and massaging chairs
The Cadillac experience starts with fine interior finishes like hand stitched leather, plush carpeting and seats that cradle you and massage you. Yes, massage you. Front seats only (center row seats are heated, though) and it’s a pretty good massage. There are several settings including one designed to keep you awake by nudging your tushie as you drive.
Then, there’s the technology. Cadillac calls it the CUE system, or Cadillac User Experience system. A touch screen and touch sensitive control panel allows you to swipe volume, climate and other controls. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, it’s so easy to manage you forget about buttons and knobs.
Badass design, inside and out
When the newly redesigned 2015 Cadillac was introduced, I was invited to a party where the new model was unveiled. The sheet was lifted and new design features were revealed. The design took the existing frame, added some new features and brought back some popular old ones. One of the biggest design changes were in the tail lights; inspired by the original Cadillac fins, they stream top to bottom on either side of the car. Wow, I thought. It’s sort of like jeggings and a crop top on a Kardashian-sized booty: accentuating the obvious and maybe not so flatteringly. However, I was looking at the Escalade without the tail lights illuminated and couldn’t see what the designers saw: a subtle glow that frames the SUV’s rear end in a much more elegant way than I’d imagined. Looking at the car lit up in the driveway made me smile; I liked it. Part of what I like is that the lights are not overly bright, but just bright enough to do the job, including the reverse lights. I found backing up to be easy and amply lit (of course, the rear view camera helped quite a bit, too).
A big SUV that left me saying ‘Yes, I can!’
Probably the most daunting prospect in driving the Escalade is its size: This is a big truck. In fact, it shares its DNA with the Silverado, Yukon, Suburban and other trucks and SUVs built by GM. However, Cadillac’s designers understand that not all of its drivers are 6’3” fellows who can hop in without the help of a grip bar or running board, or see out the back without a rear view camera. The size of the Escalade alone demands help to make it drivable. Enter more of Cadillac’s details: starting with the running boards that are retractable (you can leave them extended if the sound of them popping in and out when doors open and close bothers you). Running boards at your service!
Then, for drivers who are a bit more height-challenged, the Escalade has adjustable pedals that extend or retract, too, with a touch of the icon on the touch sensitive control panel, and the height of the lift gate can be set so if you’re not in 7-inch high Christian Louboutins, you can reach the button to close it (or, you can use your key fob).
The surround alert system notified me if someone or something was near the car when it was in reverse, and the rear view camera gave me both a surround view and guide lines so I could see that I was backing up safely.
Blind spot monitors were key, too; this let me know that if there were other cars or trucks beside me on the road so I could safely change lanes.
All this technology is great in any car, but especially in the Escalade; it can be hard to see out the back or even along the sides of the car when you have a full house or a packed cargo space.
Stuff management: Plenty of space, but management is key
Another feature that the 2015 Escalade proudly features are fully fold flat seats. The third row seats fold flat, and when the center seats are folded forward a flat cargo floor is created. But the seats also fold forward and fit flush against the backs of the front seats. It takes up a bit of space, but it also creates a larger cargo well when you’re hauling things like furniture, appliances or the contents of a college dorm room and you need the larger space.
With the third row folded flat the Escalade has plenty of space. But with one or both seats up (it’s a 60/40 fold) for passengers, space is reduced. Still, it there are plenty of spots for cargo and if you really need it, roof rails that can accommodate a cargo carrier or skis.
Where to put my handbag?
In some trucks the center console is large enough to hold a handbag, and that’s my favorite place to put it. The Silverado, for instance, can hold a large handbag as well as a few other items in the center console; so can the Tahoe. The Platinum Escalade, though, has a cooler in the center console. While I really liked the cooler, I am not sure I’d opt for that rather than a console that can hold my bag. I ended up putting it on the floor behind the console, which is flat, and since the second row has only two seats, my bag essentially sat in the aisle, which worked because no one stepped on it there.
Pampered passengers are happy passengers
Pampering … oh yeah, that: Luxury brands are known for pampering features that make their owners smile with delight. The Escalade didn’t disappoint. From the cooler that kept our bottled water cold to the heated an cooled massage seats to three screen entertainment system to the 4 G LTE wifi—which in our crowd was preferred over the in car DVD system— to the multiple charge ports including a household plug, to buttons that flip seats down or restore them upright to a remote starter that let us cool down the car before we got in it so my sweet little babies wouldn’t break a sweat in the hot summer heat, yeah, we were pampered.
One last word: WiFi
Maybe it’s a sad state in the evolution of technology, but wifi matters. We search for free hotspots, safe places to check email and send files, and we gripe when it takes more than a millisecond to download a video. So one morning during our vacation, my dad was frustrated with the slow wifi in our rental house that prevented him from sending out his monthly email newsletter. He has a lot of subscribers, he noted, so maybe he was overloading the wifi system? But he’d been trying for more than an hour and had no luck. He wondered if I had any idea if something was wrong; I didn’t know, but suspected it was a bandwidth issue. But I had a solution: we went out to the Escalade, started the engine and I connected him to the wifi (push the button on the rear view mirror and follow on screen instructions). A minute later he was on line and clicked send. 30 seconds later he got confirmation that all 1,500 emails were sent. Wow. He was now free to take his kayak to the beach and start his day on the water.
I truly liked having wifi in the car that solved the problem. More selfishly, I liked having wifi throughout the trip that let me listen to podcasts through my phone, stream Pandora and catch up on Mad Men (while my husband drove and I sat in the back seat). Being in the car all day can leave you feeling disconnected to your world, but the Escalade and its 4 G LTE wifi made the experience more like being in a living room on wheels that at the end of the day let you off in a lovely place.
What We Loved
- Retractable running boards
- Heads Up Display
- Adaptive cruise control
- Touch sensitive controls—and a shiny surface that didn’t get mucky or fingerprint-y from sunscreen-saturated hands
- Three-screen entertainment system with remote control and wireless headphones
- Center console cooler
- Center console wireless phone charger (charger case needed on some phones)
- Massaging heated and cooled front seats
- Automatic push button everything
- Plush leather trimmed interior
- Center row captains seats
- Smart key that unlocks the door when you approach the car
- Remote start (Key fob or with OnStar phone app)
- Adjustable lift gate—you can set it to open to the height you want
- Rear window that opens with the key fob—so you don’t have to open the gate to get items from the back
- Door handles that light up when you approach the car
- ‘Platinum’ is a keyword for ‘Everything is Included’
What you need to know
- Escalade pricing starts at $76,000; price of the model we drove: about $91,000
- 4 year/50,000 mile warranty
- 6 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty
- 24/7 roadside assistance
- 4 year scheduled maintenance included
- Premium fuel recommended
- 15 MPG city/21 MPG highway
Disclosure: Cadillac provided the 2015 Escalade for my review; all opinions expressed are my own.