Excuse me for a second while I attend to this nose-bleed. It happens every time I clamber up behind the wheel of Cadillac’s latest Escalade.
I’m not saying it’s high up there, but I wondered whether I might need oxygen. It’s so high up there, on a clear day you can see Russia.
Yes, I get that drivers these days love SUVs because of their up-high, see-everything-around-you, command driving position. But I just don’t see why the Escalade needs to sit so high off the ground.
Look at the distance between the top of the tires – 22-inchers come standard – and the bodywork. You could drive a small Buick through the gap.
What’s interesting is that Cadillac charges an extra $1,750 for a pair of power-retractable side steps. Yet without them, I can’t imagine how anyone, apart from maybe a Harlem Globetrotter, would be able to climb-up behind the wheel. Not without a set of Home Depot ladders.
And I had to laugh when I went to the Cadillac’s Escalade website. There, in Cadillac’s usual gritty Lower Manhattan photo location, is a new Escalade with a very pretty model walking alongside.
It’s only when you look closely that you notice that not only is she at least seven feet tall, she’s walking along a tall sidewalk. Anything to disguise the Escalade’s towering loftiness.
But once up there behind the wheel, this flagship Caddy is a pretty wonderful place to be.
These days, Cadillac has the luxury bit nailed. The cabin is a wide ocean of open-pore exotic wood; best-of-the-best semi-aniline leather that’s been hand-stitched by Italian artisans; massaging, heated and cooled seats.
Then there’s the noise. Or the absolute lack of it. I thought this thing was remarkably quiet until I read the specs: Bose Active Noise Cancellation. A bunch of teeny microphones dotted around the cabin work with the Bose audio algorithms to play out-of-phase wave-canceling tones to mitigate unwanted engine noise. It’s nothing less than voodoo.
To heighten the luxury look and feel of the ’Slade even further, for 2017 it’s offered with a so-called Radiant Package. For an extra $2,695 you get a new grille finished in a sexy, pewter-like Galvano color, with new seven-spoke 22-inch Pimp-My-Ride rims, and a new, super-shiny exhaust tip.
Apart from that it’s pretty much business as usual. As before, the short-wheelbase Escalade offers its two rows of seating, plus that super-cramped third row. Want even more interior space? The mighty Escalade ESV – nose to tail it’s longer than a super-tanker – is still available if you want to go into the celebrity-slash-prom-queen transportation business.
Trust me, the short-wheelbase I’m driving is gargantuan enough. There are New York apartments smaller than this.
What’s surprising however, is just how well this latest Escalade drives. Under that mile-long hood, the 6.2-liter V8 still punches out its 420-horseys delivering zippy acceleration and strong, mid-range thrust. And to save gas, it’ll seamless switch to four-cylinder mode.
But it’s the smoothness of the ride that really impressed me. Maybe it’s the inclusion of Cadillac’s latest Magnetic Ride Control dampers, offering a choice of a comfy Touring setting, or more taught Sport mode. Or the continued evolution of the truck’s sophisticated independent suspension.
The result? It rides just like a Cadillac.
Yes, there are still shortcomings. Third-row seating is still best-suited to kids, or family members you really don’t like. And the rear load-platform is ridiculously high – don’t try lifting anything heavy into the back, unless you want a hernia.
And one obvious negative is that the $86,000 base price of our Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury model – or $94,130 Radiantly-equipped – will buy you a very nice Range Rover or Mercedes-Benz GLS.
But I guess that if you’re looking for the ‘height’ of luxury, the Escalade delivers.