We got a call awhile back from Anthony Stephenson, one of the head honchos at Big 3 Performance in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He told us the shop had just finished its version of an Escalade V that clicks off low 13-second quarter-mile times. He offered us the keys if we came down, so we sent Ben Wolkomir out there to flog the hefty SUV. What follows is his impression of the pumped-up Caddy.

When I look at a Cadillac Escalade, I see a vehicle that is as close as it gets to a luxury apartment on wheels. Its roomy interior boasts vaulted ceilings, plush carpeting, beautiful woodwork, supple leather furniture, a surround-sound stereo, a DVD player, a pile of televisions, and a high-rise view. Others may view Escalade ownership as a gluttonous extravagance, but I see driving an Escalade as a selfless act. While your passengers relax in timber-paneled leather-clad bliss, watching their favorite DVD, you are forced to white-knuckle the truck around every gentle bend, trying not to roll over. And, as for putting your foot down at a green light, forget it. The only thing you are likely to accomplish is draining your considerably large gas tank, while the import with the fart-can exhaust lights you up.

Jason Fowler, on the other hand, has a somewhat sunnier view of Cadillac's luxury SUV. Despite being somewhat disappointed in the performance of his last truck, an '03 Escalade with a dealer-installed centrifugal supercharger and exhaust, he was optimistic about Big 3 Performance and its plan to build his '05 Rip Tide Blue Escalade into the first Cadillac Escalade V.

Making an Escalade into a V-series Cadillac is no small task. Keep in mind that not even Cadillac has taken on such a monumental build. Cadillac has, however, laid out the criteria on which the Escalade's V-ness can be judged. First of all, V-series Cadillac vehicles must be capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds. All three Cadillac Vs have in excess of 400 hp. The Escalade comes equipped with a scant 345 hp and a 0-60 best of 8.4 seconds, a far cry from the 5.0 required to earn the coveted badge. Second, it must have a racetrack-tuned suspension. Anyone who has had any seat time in an Escalade knows it would be a stretch to call the handling of these land yachts racy. Third, they must also have racing brakes. While the Escalade stops well for a vehicle that is twice as heavy as a Corvette, I would still think twice before taking one out on a track. Last but certainly not least, it must have the signature V styling.

More Muscle
The first hurdle for Big 3 Performance to overcome was making an 18-1/2-foot-long, 6,000-pound monstrosity accelerate like a musclecar. The only solution was to add 355 horses. This kind of horsepower is easy to get if the motor only needs to last a quarter-mile or so, but for this truck to call itself a V, it needs to be daily driver reliable. Big 3 started by increasing the displacement of the engine from 6.0 liters to 6.6, using a custom stroker kit composed of 9.0:1 compression forged pistons, H-Beam rods, a forged crankshaft, a modified windage tray, and a high-flow oil pump. Next, a new valvetrain was installed, incorporating an aggressive Crane cam, hardened pushrods, Crane gold-series roller rockers, Crane valvesprings and retainers, and a double-roller timing chain set. Custom head gaskets and hardened head bolts keep this juggernaut from flying apart at the seams. MSD Ignition components provide enough spark to light up the city of Chicago, while Dynatech headers and a throaty MagnaFlow exhaust announce the V's presence to the world. By far, the biggest component to this monster build is the Magna Charger Radix intercooled supercharger. The polished supercharger replaces the stock intake manifold with an intercooled Roots-style supercharger and plenum. The Magna Charger uses an air-to-water intercooler, which sits under the blower, and places a heat exchanger directly behind the front grille for maximum thermal efficacy. Larger fuel injectors and a smaller pulley safely produce 12 psi of boost. The supercharged 402 breathes through a Granatelli mass airflow sensor and a functional ram-air intake that receives an ample supply of fresh air from two massive hoodscoops. A custom computer program keeps the monstrous motor running as smoothly as stock.

Now, 700 horsepower can be a lot of fun, if you aren't a stock heavy-duty GM all-wheel-drive transmission. In order to get all that power and torque to the wheels, significant changes must be made, even to GM's beefy HD trans. Extra bands and clutches were added to give the tranny enough bite to keep from slipping. A custom low-stall torque converter was implemented to handle the 750 lb-ft of torque and to retain the Escalade's street ability. Hardened gearsets and shafts replaced the stock units, and the stock pan and pump were replaced with higher-volume pieces. A significantly larger trans cooler keeps the transmission fluid from turning into magma under higher pressure of this ultra-high performance trans. The aim of the build was to safely handle the power, while retaining the tame feel of a Cadillac.

Stability And Control
With the powerplant well in hand, Big 3 Performance turned its attention to equipping the Escalade with a suspension fit for a BMW. The first step was to install a Ground Force lowering kit. Ground Force was chosen because it gives the truck an aggressive stance by bringing the front down 2 inches, and the sky-scraping rear end a full 3 inches, leveling the truck out without sacrificing the ride quality. To counteract the Escalade's natural tendency to roll over at low speeds, Eibach sway bars were installed. The rear bar measures a stout 32 millimeters, while the front sports a massive 35mm solid bar. Both bars are anchored by polyurethane bushings and hardened bolts. The end result is a vehicle the size of the Queen Mary, handling more like an off-shore racing boat.

Next on the list of necessary racing bits is a set of binders that can control 6,000 pounds of speeding SUV. The Baer EradiSpeed Big Brake kit fit the bill perfectly. The massive rotors are 50 percent larger than the OEM units but still retain the stock calipers. An aggressive ceramic brake pad and braided steel lines round out the brake upgrade. In order to clear the larger brakes, 20-inch chrome Vogue wheels were installed. The Vogue wheels give the truck an aggressive yet almost stock appearance.

Custom Styling
The final order of business was to give this Escalade a V-style makeover. A functional ram-air hood was fitted, and the hood and fenders were treated to a trick ghost flame paintjob. Next, the stock grille was ditched in favor of a stainless steel V-style grille, making it fit right in with the rest of the V family. Finally, V badges were added to the stock Escalade emblems and embroidered on the floor mats.