GM's luxury division has finally fielded a competitive response in the full-size SUV category. The 2002 Escalade has enough moxie to stand up to imports.
After admiring the Escalade's chiseled exterior, you'll note that it's powered by a rather potent engine. With an admittedly lightweight boat (a 19' Checkmate) and single-axle trailer attached, this hot rod clicked off 0 to 60 sprints in just over 10 seconds. Unloaded, the Escalade performed the same task in 7.7 seconds, which ranks it as one of the planet's fastest trucks.
A 6.0-liter, 345-hp descendant of the original small-block Chevy V-8 powers the Escalade. Next in line is a full-time transfer case with a viscous-type limited-slip center differential but no low range. Truth be told, none is needed. At the launch ramp, this truck had more than enough muscle to hustle a load up the grade while its crafty StabiliTrak system automatically applied the brakes to any wheel that was on the verge of spinning.
Optimizing traction is one of the easier tasks handled by the system. To see how StabiliTrak manages slippery roads, we trekked the Escalade to upper Michigan in the dead of winter. In anticipation of those knuckle-whitening tail wiggles, the Escalade's electronic stability system kicks in to keep you headed where you want to go at a healthy clip. StabiliTrak is definitely the best winter comfort blanket since snow tires.
On dry pavement the Escalade politely serves up a quiet, comfortable ride for up to seven occupants. The third row of seats is readily removable to stretch cargo space, and the second row folds out of the way when you have seriously bulky loads to tote. Up front, the leather upholstery and the real-wood trim hark back to Cadillac's glory days. The driver is blessed with a binnacle full of eight easy-to-read instruments, and a tow/haul mode button mounted on the shift lever is proof that this Cadillac takes its towing assignments seriously.
LAST WORD. Our sister publication Car and Driver rated the Escalade a best buy in its class. Ditto.