BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Dressed in shiny black body paint with shimmering slabs of chrome accenting the massive chiseled prow and 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels, a new 2015 edition of Cadillac's luxurious full-size Escalade SUV -- packing a land yacht's collection of high-tech mechanical hardware as well as the trappings of a super-luxury coach -- rolls along the Sea Islands Parkway that connects barrier islands like Ladys, Hunting and Saint Helena along the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina.
As the glitziest and most luxurious SUV ever to bear the laurel wreath crest of Cadillac, the Escalade of 2015 vintage is an all-new fourth generation rendition. It has the same 116-inch wheelbase length as 2014 models but the overall length and width expand slightly to bring additional wiggle room to the vast passenger compartment.
This one's also a sprint champ.
Punch the throttle but prepare for a launch surprise because this big wagon -- tipping scales to a figure nearing three tons -- is charged with massive motor power.
Below Escalade's square-cornered hood there lurks a new EcoTec3 aluminum-block V8 engine which displaces 6.2 liters and applies GM's Active Fuel Management (AFM) technology which cuts by half the number of cylinders engaged in the combustion process when boosted power is not needed to conserve fuel. The big-beef plant produces 420 hp at 5600 rpm and huge torque of 460 lb-ft at 4100 rpm with all of that muscle translated through GM's electronically controlled Hydra-Matic 6L80 6-speed automatic transmission.
Cadillac configures the 2015 Escalade with rear-wheel 2-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive traction. The new 4WD mechanism brings set-it-and-forget-it automatic activation all-wheel-drive.
Escalade also employs Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) variable suspension device which controls wheel and body motion magnetically to effect continuously variable shock damping. The MRC provides driver-selectable sport and touring modes via dashboard toggles.
Brakes install a disc at every wheel -- ventilated front and rear -- with Duralife brake rotors and linkage to a 4-wheel anti-lock brake system with electronic traction and skid controls.
A rack and pinion steering system gets new electric power assistance, which abets powertrain fuel efficiency.
Cadillac engineers worked hard to improve Escalade's fuel-burn scores, adding aero enhancements like active grille shutters and slicker mirrors plus the powertrain's AFM cylinder deactivation. EPA fuel economy tests for the 2015 Escalade tally to 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway for 2WD issues and 14/21 mpg (city/highway) for 4WD versions.
With a thick bumper lip, glimmering lenses stacking high in corner headlamp clusters and a 3-bar grille reflecting bright chrome around the Cadillac crest badge, that daunting prow on Escalade looks like it's raring to trounce a stretch of rough pavement.
At the tail, the vast liftgate is defined by taillamps -- vertical strips on each side.
Escalade's passenger compartment uses real wood, real metal and real hides with premium cut-and-sewn leather upholstery and suede accents.
Three rows of seats accommodate up to seven riders. There's a pair of broad buckets on the front row, a second tier with power fold-down buckets or bench plus a pair of seats on the third row that also fold via a power tab. At the back of the cargo bay, a power-assisted liftgate opens and closes with the tap of a finger button.
Cadillac lists the 2015 Escalade trim variations as Standard, Luxury and Premium.
High-tech hardware abounds -- there are five USB ports, five 12-volt power outlets, one 110-volt outlet, one backseat Blu-Ray disc player and a 16-speaker audio kit.
Also, Cadillac's electronics interface -- CUE -- appears on all editions. It features a touch-sensitive 8-inch display in the center stack and steering wheel tabs to control climate, audio, phone and navigation functions with finger touching, swiping and pinching movements.
The optional Driver Awareness Package adds safety features like a Safety Alert Seat, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Side Blind Zone Alert.
2015 Cadillac Escalade
Engine size: 6.2-liter
MSRP: Starting price $72,970
Curb weight: 5,594 lbs to 5,840 lbs
Horsepower: 420 horsepower
2015 Cadillac Escalade Base
2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD
2015 Cadillac Escalade Luxury
2015 Cadillac Escalade Luxury 4WD
2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium
2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium 4WD
2015 Cadillac Escalade Platinum
2015 Cadillac Escalade Platinum 4WD