Here in the Middle East, nothing, absolutely nothing comes even close to matching the appeal of a full-sized SUV. Your garage, even if it's crammed with exotic supercars and high-end luxury saloons will be deemed incomplete if it doesn't have at least one of these mighty trucks parked in there.
If supercars satisfy your need to be noticed and heard, SUVs do that and then give you that feeling of omnipotence when you lord over the fast lane watching lesser rides making way for you without you even trying. As a super-sized luxury SUV that gets you all the attention and respect you crave, the Cadillac Escalade, with its colossal road presence, chromed finery and the massive V8 lump under the bonnet, has enjoyed quite an enviable spot in this market. With the 2012 version of this behemoth launched here, I had a taste of this ‘high' life for a few days last week.
Having been introduced in haste back in 1999 to compete with Ford's Lincoln Navigator, the Cadillac Escalade remains one of the few truck-based body-on-frame SUVs in the market. In keeping with the general Cadillac design theme, nothing about this truck's exterior is rounded or smooth.
The boxy, sharp-edged exterior is dominated by the imperious grille and the large headlights that slant up vertically. However, the Sport version that I got to drive has less of the usual ornate and glitzy bits, like for example the grille surround elements, which are usually in shiny chrome, are replaced with body-coloured plastics. So are the redesigned front-fender vents, side mouldings and door handles. Thankfully, the 2012 Sport collection also offers new 22in polished aluminium rims that are much subtler than the showy pieces of jewellery that adorn regular Escalades. But don't despair, if it's bling that you are after, the Escalade is still available in standard versions with all the usual jazz.
The interior is large and comfortable, sporting big, supportive leather seats. Even the second row of seats offers limousine-like luxury. But the cabin has strikingly limited number of storage pockets, especially for a car that's expected to carry up to eight passengers. The Escalade's simple and understated dashboard and instrument panel offer a remarkable contrast to the flashy exterior as well as the sense of opulence from all that wood and leather. But the heady feeling of ruling the road offered by the high driving position is second to none. Adding to that sensation is the exceptionally responsive 6.2-litre V8 mill in the Escalade that makes 403bhp and 565Nm of torque which heaves the 2,704kg truck effortlessly forward. Its handling capabilities are not any better than your average large SUV, but then you shouldn't be expecting athletic performance from a car this big and heavy. And considering it's a body-on-frame truck and that it's on 22in wheels, the Escalade's ride is fairly comfortable, although
ot as refined or luxurious as a Lexus LX570 or an Infiniti QX56.
GM claims its Active Fuel Management technology bumps up fuel economy by around six per cent. And in the course of our three-day stint with the Escalade, we got average figures of 22 litres-per-100km, not very far from the claimed 18 litres-per-100km. It's also fun to watch the way this fuel management technology works in the live counter on the instrument panel. While at highway speeds, when the fuel economy is at around 13-14 litres-per-100km, just lift your foot off the pedal, and you see that four of the engine's cylinders are deactivated and the figure drops down to 2-3 litres-per-100km. Now stomp your right foot on the loud pedal and all eight cylinders start firing with the fuel consumption jumping to an astounding 96-97 litres-per-100km. Apparently this switch between four and eight cylinders takes just less than 20 milliseconds.
Apart from the Sport variant, most of the changes to the Escalade line-up for the 2012 model year are to its security system, which gets some improved anti-theft features, such as an inclination sensor that sets off an alarm when the system senses a change in the angle of the vehicle, so you'll get to know if someone tries to nick your precious ride by towing, flatbedding or just jacking it up. Also new is a shock sensor and a wheel lock system that prevents theft of its wheels and tyres. But one of the Escalade's standard features that I could get used to is the remote start button on the key fob that starts the engine and blows the AC in full blast — a handy feature especially in the coming hot summer months.
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade isn't the most luxurious or technologically advanced SUV on the market today. Its Japanese and European competitors have gone far ahead in these aspects. But if you're someone who appreciates attention and needs a lot of rich and lavish space inside your car, the 2012 Cadillac Escalade could just be the right set of wheels for you.