REVIEW DATE: 07 Aug 2006
Andy Enright probably wouldn't pass muster with Jennifer Lopez but at least he can now drive the car that would turn her head - Cadillac's Escalade.
"When you rolled up in the Escalade, saw that dub you gave to the valet, knew that it was game when you looked at me, pulling up your sleeve so I could see the Rolley bling." So goes the song. Jennifer Lopez knows 'Rolley bling' when she sees it and although my Casio 'waterproof to 50m' bling probably wouldn't impress her that much, at least myself and other UK motorists can now buy the car in question; Cadillac's behemoth Escalade. It's become something of an urban legend.
Yep, the Escalade is one vehicle that is steeped in hip hop and R&B culture. Owners include Queen Latifah, Shaquille O'Neal, Ludacris, Fat Joes and Mad Child from Swollen Members. Other celebrity owners who just want to look the part include Ben Affleck, Calista Flockhart, Adam Sandler, Justin Timberlake and Pink. It featured in JLo's "Love Don't Cost A Thing" video and has become the exemplar of conspicuous consumption.
It even forced the vehicle line manager for all of General Motor's full-sized 4x4s to ask; "is this a tasteful amount of bling?" and the sales brochure refers to the optional 22-inch alloy wheels as rims in a nod to the car's target audience, many of whom would view 22 inches as way too weedy, replacing them with 24-inch Dub spinners or something equally jaw-droppingly awful.
The standard Escalade will be more than enough for most UK buyers not to need Tim Westwood yelling through their letterbox offering to pimp their ride in that bizarre accent that's half Lower East Side and half Lowestoft. Aside from the big alloys, there's a huge 6.2-litre V8 engine that's good for 409bhp. Only available in left hand drive at around £50,000 in both Elegance or Sport Luxury variants, the Escalade will doubtless be a handful to pilot about city streets but it will look suitably imposing in the process.
The Escalade has been on sale for some time in the US but the version we get is the latest model, new from the ground up but sharing similar dimensions to its predecessors. In case you were wondering, the Cadillac is 5.14m long, 2.01m wide and 1.92m tall. That is one sizeable chunk of real estate. By contrast, a Range Rover measures 4.95m in length, 1.86m in width and is 1.86m high. Everything really is supersized in the US. Believe it or not, this is viewed as a manageable size for a big SUV in the States, with vehicles like the Infiniti QX56 and the Lincoln Navigator being another couple of belt sizes bigger again. Mind boggling.
"The Cadillac Escalade has more street cred than a whole dial full of pirate radio presenters"
Neither of these cars has quite the firepower of the Caddy, one reason why the gangsta rap types love it so. Featuring an additional 200cc of cubic capacity over its predecessor, the engine also features an aluminium block for the first time. Although to European eyes it's a little weird seeing relatively advanced features like variable valve timing in conjunction with old-school pushrods, it's a recipe that seems to work reasonably well, the latest Escalade being not only quicker but also less thirsty than the old car.
Still, all things are relative and the 19mpg highway fuel consumption and 15mpg city figure will doubtless be enough to have your sanctimonious next door neighbour with his Lexus RX400h hybrid shaking his head in weary resignation. It would be your turn to roll your eyes when you get seven or eight people inside the Escalade. Okay, you'll probably be going to the drive-thru rather than a drive-by but if you need plenty of space and don't mind paying for the privilege, the Escalade certainly scores on that count.
Given its showy reputation, it's surprising to find that the interior of the Escalade is comparatively restrained. It's almost traditional to point and laugh at American car interiors as most of them are made of the same plastics used to divide the top and bottom layers in a box of Milk Tray but the Escalade is a welcome diversion. I guess you could have one trimmed with chandeliers, 42-inch plasma screens and refrigerators that dispense Cristal champagne and Courvoisier but for those of us that don't employ an entourage, it's really rather agreeable inside the Escalade. The press information makes great play of the European-style grained patterns on the dashboard as if Cadillac have only just twigged that quality as well as quantity is a legitimate design criterion.
The two-tone dash is simply but tastefully done while the soft touch plastics and a set of white and blue electroluminescent dials look the part rather more than the rather inevitable walnut inlays. The column-mounted gear lever does smack a little of the sort of hire cars you used to pick up at LAX and return a week later filthy and reeking of discarded Jack In The Box takeaways. The Bose 5.1 Surround Sound audio system is, however, almost beyond reproach.
Big vehicles of this ilk have never performed all that responsibly on crash tests, often coming out rather well from frontal impacts but leaving the unfortunate they crashed into rather the worse for wear. Cadillac has looked to improve this factor of the latest Escalade and has fitted collapsible brackets to its front frame rails that will deform more effectively in front and offset collisions, giving other cars and their occupants more of a sporting chance. Weighing in at 2,639kg there's a lot of physics at work here. By contrast, a Range Rover V8 is a mere slip of a thing at 2,440kg.
As well as StabiliTrak stability control, there's also rollover avoidance, three row side curtain airbags and a sensor that identifies rear end impacts and primes the seatbelt pretensioners. Rear park assist is fitted as standard and the navigation system links to a rear facing camera. Other features include a remote start function that will even heat or cool the interior of the Escalade to a chosen preset so that when you get to the car, it should be pleasantly amenable for an evening with friends spent 'capping fools'.
There, I've gone all ghetto again. There's something about the Escalade that will make you feel as if you're playing a role in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Buying any car in this price bracket is largely about playing a role. I just don't think I have what it takes to carry off a Cadillac Escalade. I'm blaming the Casio.
|For ESCALADE RANGE|
|OVERALL||6.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|