Ah, the Escalade. Is this American bruiser about to give Euro rivals like the Range Rover Sport, X5, M-class and Q7 a bit of a hiding?
In a word, no. Or more accurately, it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. The left-hand-drive only Escalade is like one of those misleading on-line dating descriptions – it all reads well but, in real life, it’s all horribly wrong. The ingredients are promising. There’s a single top-spec, one-model line-up, imposing chrome-laden styling, a sumptuous interior, mighty 409bhp V8 engine, six-speed auto and a name that carries a high degree of cultural awareness. But to look at, to sit in and to drive, it disappoints in every single area. Read on to find out why…
It doesn’t look that bad, does it?
Car design is a subjective area, but I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would call the ‘Slade handsome or stylish. Compared with the Range Rover Sport or X5, it’s ungainly, gauche, heavy-handed and poorly proportioned. It may look sharp and snappy in the right context – cruising down the Strip in Vegas or tooling along the waterfront in Miami – but in Europe it just looks too big, overwrought and out of place.
What’s it like once you climb aboard?
The Escalade may be big on the outside, but its interior packaging verges on the ludicrous – there’s no more room than in a family saloon. And for what is essentially one of Cadillac’s flagship models, build quality is shoddy. Too many of the plastics are hard and brittle, panel gaps are rough and ready, and the layout would cause heart palpitations at German brands’ ergonomics departments. Lift the lid of the centre console storage compartment and it feels as if it would easily snap off. And whoever decided that end of the column shift gearlever would be a good place for the manual gear button should hang their head in shame. It may have seven seats, but the third-row bench is bulky, heavy and difficult to remove. And they don't fold flat, either, leaving a disappointingly small, stepped boot space.
Not good to look at, not good to sit in… Surely it must be a bit better to drive?
No, no good at all. Driving the ‘Slade is like shepherding a vast and unwieldy blancmange. Body control is all but none existent, with nausea-inducing levels of pitch and roll, and you could sue the suspension under the Trade Descriptions Act. The steering wheel and front axle barely acknowledge each other’s existence, and the gearbox shuffles through its gears with too little finesse and too much driveline shunt. The Escalade is heavy – it weighs in at a thick-ankled 2609kg – and it feels every kilo. Where rivals like the X5 and Rangie Sport do a pretty impressive job of shrugging off their weight, the Escalade always feels as if it’s struggling to get going and then struggling to slow down. Its on-paper performance may be respectable, but you have to work that big 6.2-litre V8 very hard, with predictably catastrophic economy results. That’s early teens, and lots of Nectar points.
Please tell me it makes good these shortcomings by being an absolute bargain?
Sadly not. When it arrives in showrooms this month, the Escalade will wear a £49,950 price tag. That’s footballer’s money. Okay, the ‘Slade is absolutely loaded to the hilt with goodies, but get some perspective. The V8-powered Porsche Cayenne S is cheaper. The top-line Audi Q7 4.2 FSI is cheaper. Or for a smidgeon more, you could have the Mercedes R500 Sport, the BMW X5 4.8 or twin-turbodiesel V8 Range Rover Sport on your driveway. Of course, the depreciation you’ll suffer if you buy a new Escalade just doesn't bear thinking about, either... Need we say more?
There’s no doubt the Escalade will appeal to a very small number of UK buyers, who want something different, buyers who will turn up their noses at the Caddy’s European rivals because - despite being infinitely superior – they are deemed too mainstream or predictable. Think of the giant Caddy as the ultimate niche model. Just don’t confuse exclusivity with desirability, will you?