HENRIETTA, Okla. -- On a road trip we're cruising the I-40 across Oklahoma's prairie in the biggest, glitziest and most luxurious SUV ever to wear the crest of Cadillac -- Escalade ESV Platinum.
Dressed in high-gloss White Diamond Tricoat body paint and projecting a blunt in-your-face prow with shimmering chunks of chrome accenting a toothy grille, the 2013 Platinum edition of Cadillac's full-size and extended-length SUV rolls on 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels and carries a land yacht's collection of high-tech mechanical hardware as well as the trappings of an uber-luxury coach.
The extended-length Escalade ESV has a 130-inch wheelbase with the body stretching to 222.9 inches, or more than 18 feet long.
It's also a sprint champ.
Punch the throttle but prepare yourself for a launch surprise because this big wagon -- tipping scales to a figure approaching three tons -- is charged with massive motor power.
Below Escalade's square-cornered hood there lurks an aluminum-block V8 engine which displaces 6.2 liters and applies variable valve timing (VVT) to optimize camshaft timing and enrich the low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower
The plant produces 403 hp at 5700 rpm and torque of 417 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.
All of that muscle is translated through a six-speed automatic gearbox with clutch-to-clutch shifting and a wide overall ratio.
Only a handful of sporty performance cars pull so much power out of a V8 -- but how about an ultra luxurious full-size sport-utility?
Escalade ESV Platinum also scores brilliant LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlamps, which look brighter than incandescent bulbs, emit a more precise light pattern and consume less energy than conventional headlamps.
Escalade ESV Platinum is also outfitted with Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) variable suspension device which controls wheel and body motion via a synthetic fluid in the shocks with minute iron particles in suspension. By governing the electric current of an electromagnetic coil positioned inside each shock damper, the shock fluid's consistency can be changed instantly -- magnetically -- to effect continuously variable shock damping.
Escalade ESV configures with rear-wheel two-wheel-drive (2WD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction.
The 4WD mechanism uses GM's automatic Autotrac system with a smart electronic transfer case delivering on-demand all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.
With a thick bumper lip, squarish glimmering lenses stacking high in corner headlamp clusters and an egg-crate grille reflecting bright chrome around the laurel wreath badge of Cadillac, that daunting prow on Escalade ESV looks like it's raring to trounce a stretch of rough pavement.
Escalade has a sheer rake to the windshield and a bulging power dome on the hood, squared wheelwells on flanks with subtle fender flares but smooth sides on the doors, save for a chrome-streaked strip of protective molding.
And note the chrome power vents, those fender slats that dissipate hot air below the hood.
At the tail, the slab-faced liftgate is defined by taillamps -- vertical strips on each side and a horizontal version mounted on the trailing edge of a rooftop spoiler.
Escalade's leather-wrapped passenger compartment contains three tiers of seats for as many as seven riders.
There's a pair of broad buckets on the front row, a second row in power fold-and-tumble buckets or split bench plus a pair of seats on the third row which fold and may be pulled out individually like a rollaboard suitcase to maximize cargo space.
At the back of the cargo bay, a power-assisted liftgate opens and closes with the tap of a finger button.
Up front, Escalade's driver faces an instrument panel set low on the dash to improve the view of the road. The panel contains round analog gauges, washed in backlit white LED backlighting, with white lettering and blue light inlays which turn the gauge needles blue.
Safety equipment aboard ranges from frontal air bags for front seats to three-point safety belts for all seats and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), with curtain-style air bags for all three rows.
For the base Escalade ESV, a remote-control starter and rear parking assist are included, with a Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound system available to play DVD audio/video, CD audio/video, MP3 files as well as the subscription-based XM satellite radio service.
For the Platinum edition, more premium leatherwork goes into the cabin. The instrument panel, center storage console and door panels are clad in leather and stitched by hand with decorative French seams. Special Tehama aniline leather for Platinum trims seats on the first and second tiers.
Escalade ESV Platinum also stocks the Bose audio system and the eight-inch video screen for DVD-based navigation.
A video screen tucks in the back side of each front seat headrest. The LCD screens are tied to a DVD entertainment system, which is standard for Escalade ESV Platinum, and each screen has its own driver and input controls for independent or tandem operation.
Cadillac sets MSRP figures for Escalade ESV models beginning at $65,700 with 2WD or $68,320 for AWD.