Between the Lines: The Car Connection on the Cadillac Escalade

As country singer and professional Burt Reynolds pal Jerry Reed sang, when you're hot, you're hot; when you're not, you're not. Of course, back when The Guitar Man recorded his career-topping paean to the joys and sorrows of shooting craps, the second gen Chevrolet Camaro was minting money for The General and Burt's struggling film career was about to receive some divine deliverance. These days, Reed's just released a live album to prove he is, Burt's had so many face lifts he looks like a distant cousin and GM's rolled the dice on its newish SUVs: the GMT900 series. So, is GM's range topper, the GMT-based Cadillac Escalade, hot or not? 'Cause if it ain't, the company's going down. I know! Let's ask The Car Connection!

Climbing into the new 2007 Cadillac Escalade, I get the feeling that I am seriously underdressed. No gold chains, no diamond stud in my ear. And my raggy jeans definitely would not pass muster on MTV."

Ever since the first 'Slade hit the streets, back in 1999, this massive SUV has proven the product of choice among rappers and rock stars. And if the looks we got tooling around San Diego during Caddy's recent preview were any indication, the new '07 model is likely to maintain its image as the king of all bling.

What is it with middle-aged car writers and blue jeans? Chuck Norris aside, there are very few men past the age of 40 who can still look lean and mean in a pair of jeans (and we only see Chuck's sartorial splendor in soft focus these days). Of course, Eisenstein's crafted his lead to communicate the fact that he's not black (as if we didn't know) and that the Escalade is the truck of choice for American rappers. As if we didn't know.

If only Eisenstein had taken a virtual stroll over to www.urbandictionary.com before penning this review. The Car Connection's founder — the hardest working hack in cyberspace — could have stuffed his review with obscure, genre appropriate expressions: breakfast burrito, a deja fuck, a P base three and more. Now THAT would have been funny. Instead we get unintentional humor: a white guy getting props in San Diego for driving "the king of all bling" — instead of "The King of Bling."

To be honest, I never quite understood the appeal of the original Escalade. It was a quick fix, little more than bolting a Cadillac wreath-and-crest onto a GMC Yukon Denali, and didn't really come together. The second and third-generation models were progressively better. The new version is, without question, the best yet. Though it does suffer from a few notable flaws, the 2007 Escalade is arguably the best full-size domestic ute on the market.
To be honest, whenever someone feels compelled to say or write "to be honest" I know I'm about to hear a bunch of bullshit. Eisenstein's candor starts well enough, slating the 'Sclade for being a bodged badge-engineered barfmobile (to be honest), and then quickly sinks into his site's standard-issue Panglossian praise. The last sentence's qualifiers — "a few notable flaws" and "arguably the best" — tell us that Eisenstein never met a car he didn't like, at least professionally.
Recognizing mounting concerns about fuel economy, GM engineers put a lot of emphasis on aerodynamics. Such things as the steeply raked windshield help reduce wind drag about 11 percent, according to Cadillac, and though 13 mpg city/17 highway might not sound like much, those are good numbers for a vehicle of this size and heft.

I like that: "recognizing mounting concerns about fuel economy." It's a bit like General George A. Custer recognizing mounting concerns about encirclement. I'm also enamored with "such things as the steeply raked windshield." Could Eisenstein be any more vague? Saying that, 13 mpg is pretty damn specific, in a k-hole kinda way.

Let's accept Eisenstein's acceptance of the Escalade's EPA numbers (calculated on a rolling road with the climate control switched off) and imagine he ran the beast dry. As he was in San Diego, let's theorize that he stopped at the Pacific Beach Chevron on 1575 Garnet Ave and filled the 'Sclade's tank with regular. That's twenty-six gallons at $3.24 a gallon, for a total of $84.24, every 338 miles, or, if you wanna keep it real, several dozen soccer Mom miles less.

Eisenstein is seriously remiss for not highlighting these facts, right here, right now. While the Escalade is aimed at an upmarket audience (98% of whom do not make their living singing about cappin' rivals and hosing bitches), fuel mileage is THE SUV question of the moment. It's entirely misleading to suggest that the Escalade's EPA figures are "good numbers" just because they are no better or worse than anyone else's. And, by the way, the new Escalade AWD's urban mileage remains unchanged from the previous model's.

But Bluetooth is just one of several features you have reason to expect from a luxury vehicle, whether car or truck, but which are absent on the Escalade. Another is express, or power-up, windows. You'll find that feature in even a mid-level Hyundai, but not the Escalade, at least until next year. The 'Slade could also use a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel. Indeed, there's no telescoping feature at all. Instead, you have to settle for power-adjustable pedals.

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about! Gen-u-ine criticism from my man with the Connection! No one touch-window action? A static steering wheel in a $57k truck? Fuhgeddaboutit motha fucka! Never mind Eisenstein's funky, clunky sentence construction; who said The Car Connection can't even gum a bad car to death? (Hint: me.) Oh wait; here's the next line:

That said, our complaints were few indeed.
Dontcha just hate it when they do that? Obviously, there's nothing particularly "between the lines" about that sort of mealy mouthed apologia. But don't worry; Eisenstein is a thoroughly dependable source of mill grist.
And handling remains unexpectedly taut for a vehicle weighing in at nearly 5700 pounds. Flogging this beast around a corner, our seat-of-the-pants test told us the '07 is the most predictable and nimble of the American full-size utes. Give credit to the Cadillac Stabilitrak systems, an electronic suspension that is the fastest and most responsive on the market.

The ute also features some great brakes, a much-needed improvement. There are largely rotors and calipers, and the pedal feel is both firmer and far more linear than those in the last Escalade. That fits the mantra for the GMT900 development team, 'Lives bigger, drives smaller.'
Those of you familiar with the BTL modus operandi will forgive me for stating the obvious, but someone's got to do it. To wit: "unexpectedly taut" could mean just about anything, depending on Mr. Eisenstein's unstated expectations. A "seat-of-the-pants" test is equally undefined and unreliable. The phrase "of the American full-size utes" excludes Nissan, Infiniti, Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, VW and Porsche. And stating that the Escalade's brakes are better than the last model's is disingenuous.
But those who expected big problems need look at the sales numbers. So far, the automaker's new SUVs are scoring big with consumers, and based on our initial experience, we expect the Escalade to do at least as well, if not better. It clearly has the bling to get those dealer cash registers going ka-ching. While there are a few problems we'd like to see Cadillac address, the new Escalade is about as good as a full-size SUV gets.
Again, Eisenstein is playing fast and loose with the facts, which he fails to specify. Sales of the new GMT-based Tahoe and Yukon are running ahead of last year, but all may not be what it seems. Early figures included the outgoing models and dealers are stocking-up for Spring (GM counts dealer deliveries as sales). While Eisenstein's rapping ode to bling is the best thing about his review, the lukewarm "as good as it gets" endorsement is indicative of his site's longstanding inability to fully and frankly grasp the nettle on his reader's behalf.

[by Robert Farago]

2007 Cadillac Escalade [The Car Connection]

[Jalopnik's Between the Lines column parses the rhetoric of the automotive industry, and the media that covers it, from the point of view of that kid at the back of the class with ADD, a genius IQ and a thirst for mayhem.]