When it comes to the power department, however, the Caddy unequivocally puts the smackdown on the Lincoln and most of its other competitors. Short of a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, or a GL 63 AMG, there aren't many other fullsize luxo-utes that can run with this big dog. The 403-horse 6.2L aluminum-block Vortec pulls strongly at higher revs, making for effortless highway passing. But, for whatever reason, the seat-of-the-pants sensation doesn't feel quite like the claimed 403 hp, unless you really stomp on it. Below 3,000 rpm, the engine feels a little lazy, ironic for a 376ci engine. Chalk that up to the sumo-like 5,818-pound curb weight it's forced to contend with, as well as a tall 3.42 axle ratio trying to spin the boat-anchor 22s. We wonder how much more responsive it would be with the standard 18s. The porky weight took its toll on fuel economy. The 6.2 is also not yet equipped with GM's Active Fuel Management system. These two factors conspired to give the Escalade a thirsty observed average fuel economy of just 12.0 mpg.
Though we're always fans of a good ol' American V-8 rumble, for a vehicle that's ostensibly competing with the likes of Lexus and Range Rover, we thought the engine noise and exhaust note were a bit on the loud side. Perhaps Cadillac looked at the hundreds of customers of the last-generation 'Slade who opted for aftermarket exhaust systems before they even tore off the window sticker and decided to meet them halfway with the rumbly pipe. All the more surprising then, it doesn't offer the aforementioned dual polished exhaust outlets.
With any vehicle, there's always room for improvement. As good as it is, the new 'Slade is no exception. For all of its superficial stylistic gingerbread, it falls short in the "Wow, that's really cool" department. Here are a few suggestions that would really get us custom truck enthusiasts talking and smiling. Although we appreciate the subtle use of the traditional cursive Cadillac script on the doorsills and dashboard, backlighting them with a soft, indigo blue at night would be a really unique, classy touch. Secondly, the absence of retractable running boards on a vehicle that otherwise prides itself on gadgetry and style, especially at this price point, is embarrassing. For its mid-cycle interior re-fresh, we'd suggest a console shifter and the three-spoke steering wheel from the Cadillac car models to give it a truly distinctive, exclusive look that would unmistakably position it among the premium European and Japanese luxury SUVs. And at this level, genuine wood trim should at least be an option. Finally, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, give us the dual polished exhaust tips. The reduced backpressure might quiet down the exhaust, as well. And although impressive on paper, the 6.2 Vortec could use an extra helping of low-end torque. The 400-plus hp is likely a strong selling point, but a beefier bottom-end would make a bigger seat-of-the-pants impression.
But, at the end of the day, what matters is moving metal off the showroom floor, and by all indications, the new Escalade is off to a strong start. Sales are far outpacing last year's model, and incentives and rebates are nearly nonexistent on the new model. So, who are we to tell Cadillac what to do? But, once the initial buzz and novelty wears off, Caddy needs a few other tricks up its sleeve to keep its big baller ride at the top of its game. There's nothing inherently wrong with the overall package. Just the details need a little refinement. By sweating the details, Cadillac will be able to prove it can play in the major leagues with its king of the SUV hill.
Vehicle: '07 Cadillac Escalade
Base Price/As Tested: $56,405 / $66,110
Engine: 6.2L V-8
Transmission: 6L80-E six-speed automatic
Horsepower: 403 hp at 5,700 rpm
Torque: 417 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm
EPA Fuel Economy: 13 city / 19 highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 12 mpg