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Detroit News: 2007 Cadillac Escalade Preview

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New Cadillac Escalade shines

By Anita Lienert

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One of the most critical moments in the redesign of the Cadillac Escalade happened three years ago when the General Motors premium brand rented a Hollywood film studio for an evening, set up a full bar and invited A-list celebrities, athletes and rappers to preview an early version of the 2007 model.

Oscar winner Adrien Brody -- who will soon take delivery of a 2007 Escalade EXT -- and the rest of the glittering crowd said they loved the new Escalade's added chrome and the exterior details borrowed from the legendary Cadillac Sixteen show car.

But they also had a warning: The 20-inch wheels, the biggest size you could get on the old Escalade, didn't cut it. The tastemakers demanded showy 22-inchers that filled up the wheel wells. Some likened the dramatic wheels and tires to designer shoes.

And Cadillac listened.

Company insiders say they built the '07 Escalade around those optional $2,995 22-inch wheels and tires, which meant engineers had to add bigger brakes and a revised suspension. Those optional wheels also set the Escalade apart from such mighty competitors as the 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which skips the larger wheels and tires and only offers optional 19- and 20-inch packages.

It may seem like a small detail, but such attentiveness to the desires of celebrity and hip-hop customers is what gives the '07 Escalade a powerful dose of street credibility.

The redesigned Escalade, sibling of the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, stands out as the sexiest full-size SUV on the market, an awesome Detroit offering that hits a bull's-eye in such important areas as horsepower and cabin design.

Fuel economy is another matter.

The six- to eight-passenger Escalade gets a larger, 6.2-liter V-8 engine. Oddly, it does not offer the variable-displacement system available on the lesser Tahoe that shuts down four of the cylinders under part throttle to save on gas.

The new Escalade returns 13 mpg in city driving and 19 mpg on the highway, which may seem only marginally better than the outgoing model, which had the same city number, but got only 17 mpg on the highway. Considering the '07 Escalade gets a whopping boost in horsepower, however, those fuel economy numbers are fairly remarkable.

The all-wheel-drive Escalade is on sale now starting at $57,280, including an $875 destination charge. The redesigned 2007 Escalade EXT and ESV models will hit the market in May and a two-wheel-drive Escalade will debut in August.

It was a memorable moment to see a line of fully loaded '07 Escalades -- all with 22-inch wheels -- parked in front of the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel at the media launch of the big Cadillac sport-utility. Most of the standard-wheelbase Escalades on this drive topped out at $66,000, with extras such as navigation radio, a rearview camera system and a heated steering wheel.

Cadillac designers used the Sixteen as inspiration for such Escalade exterior features as the grille, side "ventiports" and lighting. And they turned to high-end kitchen design for a new color, antique bronze, which is similar to the color of trendy and expensive oiled bronze appliances.

The new Escalade is immediately identifiable on the street with such details as triple-stack HID headlamps and mammoth Cadillac wreath-and-crest logos fore and aft. The wreath-and-crest are even etched into those headlamps, another example of the exacting attention to the smallest detail. And this Escalade is notable because it is decked out in what designers refer to as "seven layers of chrome," from the luggage rack to the running boards. It's the most amount of chrome ever on Escalade.

While the new Escalade is anything but dainty, it reminded me of the trendsetting work of fashion designer Oleg Cassini, who created Jackie Kennedy's signature A-line dresses. Like those dresses, the Escalade succeeds because its chiseled features are easily read from a distance with lots of clarity of line.

My test Escalade was outfitted with cocoa-colored leather, with cocoa gauges adorned with striking blue needles. The cabin is beautifully put together with a mix of matte metal, leather and faux wood, with no noticeable gaps and virtually no exposed hardware. The second-row seats, which have an optional $425 power feature that folds them forward with a touch of a button, are completely covered on the underside, leaving nothing on which to snag your clothes or get your hands dirty.

It would have been awesome to have a third row with a power folding feature, too. But the third row in the Escalade is folded manually, and with some difficulty, which is bound to be annoying to wealthy customers with big expectations. The 2006 Lincoln Navigator has a standard power-folding third-row seat, although the second row seats are flipped manually.

One other minor disappointment on Escalade: No power tilt/telescoping steering column.

But I don't expect anyone to argue with the Escalade's new powertrain.

The 2006 model was equipped with a 6.0-liter V-8. The new Escalade gets an impressive 58-horsepower boost for 2007, thanks to a new aluminum-block 6.2-liter V-8 that churns out 403 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque. It is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.

On the highways in nearby Virginia, the Escalade's big V-8 performed beautifully, with plenty of power for passing and merging. As mentioned, the brakes are bigger, thanks to those larger wheels and tires, and it's something you notice almost immediately -- with gratitude.

The Escalade's wider track -- three inches in the front and one inch in the rear --give it a greater feeling of stability on the road. The ride is stiff without being hard and, thankfully, doesn't feel like a truck. The Escalade is equipped with GM's standard AutoRide, which almost constantly adjusts the suspension to help absorb bumps. The only moment of anxiety came when I pulled into a strip mall in Fairfax and had to make two tries at angle parking the Escalade into a tight space. It's still bulky, with a 5,818-pound curb weight, and requires a little extra care in some situations.

Safety features are top-drawer on Escalade and include standard electronic stability control, standard side curtain air bags that protect outboard passengers in all three rows and front safety-belt pretensioners that activate in rear impacts -- an unusual feature that helps to position the front occupants in the event of a crash. The Escalade also does a good job of making the driver feel secure with such features as standard OnStar, an onboard communications system -- which I used for directions -- as well as remote start and perimeter lighting.

Because the average Escalade owner has a $160,000-a-year household income, there are plenty of upscale goodies you can add. You can get a $1,295 rear-seat DVD entertainment system, with a screen that flips down out of the headliner, or a fancier dealer-installed entertainment system for $2,165 that has two screens built in the backs of front headrests, decorated with the wreath-and-crest logo. You can watch two different movies on this top-of-the-line entertainment system or play a video game on one while you're watching a movie on the other.

This, of course, is nearly as important as those big wheels. The celebrities may have demanded those, but Cadillac dealers say the average customer comes into the showroom and says, "I'll take an Escalade -- with a TV."

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Link: http://info.detnews.com/autosconsumer/auto...ex.cfm?id=22446

Edited by Variance

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Who would have the thought the Escalade would be the lightest of those three?

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