Friday, May 20, 2011

Cadillac Escalade ESV is in-your-face excess

Sacramento, California – A guy like me just can’t cozy up to a vehicle like the 2011 Cadillac Escalade ESV AWD Platinum – a luxury SUV with huge helpings of unapologetic, in-your-face excess.

There are consequences to be dealt with.

Things like: Do I really belong in a vehicle like this? It’s so HIGH above me.

It’s the same thing I would feel in the presidential suite of a five-star hotel, or sipping $50 drinks amid tuxedo-clad business people in a mahogany-laden bar.

Alas, you do what you gotta do, even if it’s test driving a nearly $90,000 top-end vehicle in the ESV lineup.

First impression: It’s huge. Big as North Dakota, overflowing a parking space like Shaquille O’Neal in a petite-size suit. Up to eight passengers can fit in the thing, and I have no doubt another eight could fit in the rear cargo area.

I thought I was going to have to get a running start to jump up into the cockpit, but the power-retractable assist steps (on either side of the vehicle) jumped out from under the SUV when I yanked open the front door. This scared the living daylights out of me the first time it happened, but I was grateful for the assist once I was seated.

From the 14-WAY!!! power front seat with heat/cooled cushions and backrests, I was surrounded by leather, hardwood trim and polished metal. The sound system spoke in concert hall tones.

I felt very small, sort of like the fuel mileage numbers – 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. I realize that the high price of premium gas is a minor annoyance to the demographic buying this super-size Escalade, but I was cheered by the fact that the tank could also be filled with E85.

While feeling tiny in the cockpit, there were advantages – large exterior mirrors and a generous 360-degree viewing zone from my perch behind the steering wheel. At least no one can sneak up on me, I thought. Likewise, I couldn’t sneak up on anybody in this massive transporter, but that too has its charms: No one gets in the way of this baby when it’s coming down the line.

The Escalade ESV AWD Platinum is so large and well-balanced that 70 miles per hour feels more like 50 mph. It jets away from fast-moving cars with seemingly no effort at all, courtesy of a 6.2-liter V-8 with 403 horsepower.

Luxury and convenience features are over the top, including tri-zone automatic climate control, a remote vehicle starter, heated steering wheel, power sliding roof and a power liftgate. That’s the short list. The power liftgate was particularly welcome as the rear hatch is sizable and would be a chore to deal with manually.

Unfortunately, there was no electronic device to assist with removal of the rear seats. They disengage easily enough, but man, hauling those heavy seats out the back end challenged my manhood. All things considered, it would be easier if those seats folded flat into the floor.

It takes some time to get used to driving – and stopping – this vehicle on city streets and on the open road. Happily, the Escalade ESV contains numerous, standard stability features and loads of top-tier safety features.

This Escalade is not my cup of tea, strictly from the standpoint of my fiscal net worth. And I’m certain that this SUV is the nightmare of any Prius-driving person who ranks saving the trees as one of his/her top three goals in life.

But for the well-compensated soul who favors plentiful room, ridiculous levels of luxury and perks galore, this Escalade is for you. I salute you and your bank account.

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