I must admit that when I first heard of the Escalade, I thought it was a joke. When I first saw it, I realized that it was indeed a joke, but that it wasn’t funny. The 1999 Cadillac Escalade was nothing but a cheap attempt to cash in on the sudden popularity of SUVs. Since Cadillac did not make SUVs, and did not have one waiting in the wings, as it were, they went for the oldest, cheapest trick in the book: they took a lesser vehicle – in this case, the GMC Yukon Denali – and prettied it up, Cadillac-style. Or rather, new Cadillac style. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig! What’s even worse is that there is no accounting for taste. The Escalade sold. Then it sold some more. In fact, it sold so well that they figured that they’d spend a few bucks on it and make it not suck. They did, and later versions of this urban monster are actually quite good, extremely luxurious, surprisingly agile, fast and rugged. Some would say that they’re still tacky, but that’s a matter of taste.
The original 1999 Escalade was powered by the old 5.7-liter Vortec V8, that old GM standby, and it was quite unimpressive. Later versions got bigger engine, including a much more powerful and modern 6.2-liter V8. With that under its massive hood, the Escalade could accelerate to 60 mph in 8.7 ponderous seconds, no mean feat for something that massive, and reach an artificially-limited top speed of 108 miles per hour. Better safe than sorry.
What’s incredible is that many years after its launch, the Cadillac Escalade is still doing quite well, thank you very much. The appeal is at garnered in the more youthful market is as surprising – for Cadillac – as it is lucrative, so you can expect to see these behemoths on the road for some time yet.