In the world of luxury SUVs, the name Cadillac Escalade represents both big prestige and big size. But if you’re already at the top of the heap, what do you do to stay there? Well, if you’re Cadillac, you offer buyers more of what you know they want. That is, even more Escalade, the suburban-sized Escalade ESV.
But it’s also so much more than a “people mover.” This one is an ego-elevating status symbol to be sure. And from J. Lo to All Pro, Escalade targets some pretty impressive takers. Since its inception in 1998, Caddy’s Escalade multi-purpose vehicles have taken pop- culture by storm and cornered the market for superior, if excessive, comfort and style. Following up the one-two punch of the original full-size Escalade sport-ute, and Escalade EXT crew-cab pick-up, Cadillac strikes again with the Suburban-derived 2003 Escalade ESV.
Sharing the same bold-faced grill as its comrades, the ESV boasts familiar Escalade art and science lines. The distinguished Caddy wreath and crest logo rests proudly between twin HID headlamps. The stretched body displays its massive presence with grace and greatness. Some 22 inches longer than Escalade, the ESV is Cadillac’s largest vehicle, and the largest in its class as well. At the rear, the generous step bumper neatly encases the trailer hitch, and Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist sensors.
If you thought it looked good driving by, why not step inside? With more tricks and treats than Escalades past, the ESV cabin features lots of driver perks, and a healthy 20-inch increase in length. And you can enjoy all these features in the comfort of soft leather buckets with too many body-pampering adjustments to list here! When seated comfortably, the driver faces an updated dash that is sure to captivate. A leather-and-wood wheel commands this ship while the new graphic-hungry gauge cluster and Driver Information Center help you navigate. Completing this transformation is the revamped 9-speaker Bose Audio system with in- dash 6-disc CD changer. And whether you want to look cool or hot, the new dual-zone climate control system offers manual or automatic modes to keep your thermostat in check.
Second row passengers will find ample room in the split folding bench or optional dual reclining heated buckets, and can enjoy a rear-seat entertainment system with DVD player, stereo controls and wireless headphones. But wait , there’s more! A third row bench completes the maximum capacity of eight passengers, and when removed it’s kudos to all that cargo room. Just raise the rear liftgate, remove the third row seat, and you get 63.6 cubic feet of space. Fold the second row, and it’s an outrageous 108!
But with all those rows to hoe, can this beast of burden carry its weight? Yes! The all- wheel drive ESV is powered by GM’s Vortec 6000 V-8. This high-output 6.0 liter is capable of delivering 345 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque and a 7,400 pound towing capacity. And once you get all 5800 pounds of Escalade moving off the line, it can run from 0-60 in a swift 7.6 seconds. It takes the 1/4 mile in 15.7 seconds at 83 miles-per-hour. So this heavyweight can move, too.
The Hydra-Matic 4-speed automatic transmission is Cadillac-slick, and features GM’s Tow/Haul mode that delays shifts to make towing a breeze. The independent torsion bar front suspension and 5-link automatic air-leveling rear, with Road Sensing electronic control, work hard to manage the ESV’s mass in corners. There’s a strong push on entry, and noticeable oversteer on exit. But the improved 4-channel Stabilitrak system does a fine job of reigning it in and helps pave the way to one of the smoothest rides in the big SUV segment.
To bring this heavy hitter to a halt, the ESV gets four-wheel discs with ABS and Dynamic Rear Proportioning. 60 to 0 in 136 feet shows how well it works. But we don’t care for the numb pedal feel and heavy nose dive. We are impressed, however, with the refined feel of the ESV’s all-wheel-drive system, and its new Borg-Warner single-speed open differential transfer case.
As for fuel mileage, the EPA predicts that the ESV will deliver 12 miles-per-gallon in the city and 16 on the highway, while 14 miles per premium gallon can be expected in normal use. So whether you’re cruising the Sunset Strip or just taking the kids to school, you’re living large in the Escalade ESV.
But can you afford high-times on the high-road? The base ESV will run you $57,195. Add our test vehicle’s optional entertainment package and chrome wheels, and pay $59,285 to drive this maxed-out, suburban-sized SUV off the lot.
That’s a lot of money for working stiffs like us. But for divas and directors, rock stars and rappers, and quite a few suburban starlets, it’s a small price to pay for the high style king of the modern American road.
Engine: Vortec 6000 V-8
Torque: 380 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.7 Seconds @ 83 MPH
60-0 MPH: 136 Feet
EPA Mileage: 12 MPG City 16 MPG Highway
Motorweek's Mileage Loop: 14 MPG Mixed City/highway