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July 2001
A New SUV Order

The Cadillac vs. Lincoln rivalry has been going on for decades. Just  like Ford vs. Chevrolet, itıs an intense competitive spirit thatıs a healthy thing because the two sides keep one another on their toes, forcing  constant improvement of their product. For the most part, the score is usually even because any given  companyıs vehicle always has something to recommend it compared to the  alternative.


Thereıs also the idea of who fires the first shot when it comes to getting something new to market. In terms of Cadillac and Lincoln, both names have had their respective fair share when coming out with  something new the other guys donıt have. While Cadillac has jumped Lincoln with  plenty of firsts, the Escalade clearly wasnıt one of them. Plain and simple, Lincoln beat Cadillac to the market with the Navigator. Big time.

The Navigator is a fancy version of the Ford Expedition. Using the  Chevy Tahoe as the starting point, Cadillac did the same thing by putting  Cadillac emblems on the Tahoe and calling it an Escalade. Trouble is that the Navigator is a better version of the Expedition than the Escalade was a version of the Tahoe. Much better, in fact. We flat railed the previous version of the Escalade in a comparison test and made it clear that a  return to the drawing board was needed.

The General knew its effort wasnıt up to snuff. Enter the 2002  Escalade ‹ a vehicle so many worlds better than the one it replaces that itıs  shocking. And this changes the luxury SUV pecking order, because after driving  the Escalade and its competitors, we can say that itıs now one of the best full-size utility vehicles youıll be able to buy. We were in a  Navigator, a Mercedes ML430, and a Lexus LX 470 on the same day and the Caddy is at  least as good as any of them, if not better, save for maybe the Lexus. But we canıt give driving impressions now, so the features and pictures of the Escalade we have here will have to be enough to whet your whistle for  the time being.

Introduced in the fall of 1998 as a ı99 model, the Escalade was the  first Cadillac to establish a presence for the marque in the SUV market. For  2002 (there wonıt be a 2001 Escalade) the offerings encompass three distinct versions, including a two-wheel-drive, an all-wheel-drive, and a Middle  East export version that has a modified exhaust system to run on leaded gas.  The Middle East Escalades will also not be equipped with GMıs OnStar  system. The eight-passenger Escalade, based on GMıs 1500 Series SUV (Chevy Tahoe or  GMC Yukon), will debut in early-to-mid 2001 and will be the first Cadillac  to wear the updated wreath and crest emblem.

Previously, the Escalade shared most of its mechanicals with lesser  Chevy and GMC utility vehicles. No more. The new Caddy ute gets its own  version of GMıs 6.0-liter (364 cubic-inch) Gen III V8 thatıs not available in any  other Chevy/GMC truck or SUV. Several new GMC offerings will get another  version of the 6.0-liter thatıs rated with less horsepower than the Escaladeıs engine. We think this new motor is one of coolest features of the new Escalade, because, if nothing else, it covers the Navigatorıs DOHC,  32-valve 5.4-liter V8 by a significant 45-horsepower margin. It also narrowly  gets by the Mercedes-Benz ML55ıs 342-horsepower 5.4-liter V8.

Even further exclusive to all-wheel-drive Escalades (two-wheel  drivers get a 5.3-liter engine), the high-compression Vortec 6000 V8 makes 345 horsepower at 5200 rpm and an impressive 380 foot-pounds of torque at  4000 rpm.

The same basic architecture as the LS1 V8 found in the Corvette,  this engine is an update to the current 6.0-liter used in three-quarter- and one-ton full-size Chevy and GMC trucks. But those engines make only 300 horsepower. The Cadillac mill has special cylinder heads that produce a  10:1 compression ratio, a larger 75 mm throttle body, and a cam with more  lift and duration to allow the engine to take full advantage of the  increased air flow the cylinder heads provide. The result of all this techy stuff is  an Escalade thatıll easily keep pace with a Navigator if not out  accelerate it. Cadillac claims the Escalade will scurry to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds and  cover the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds.

The engine isnıt the only thing thatıs new with this machine. A  beefed-up version of GMıs top-notch 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission,  dubbed the 4L60-E HD, finds its way to the Escalade and is extensively  modified for duty behind the big 6.0-liter motor.
Also part of the all-wheel-drive Escalade is a viscous coupling  transfer case that continuously adjusts the torque to the wheels smoothly and imperceptibly, so the driver never feels wheel slip as traction is  being maintained. The caseıs viscous coupling is a torque-biasing device that comes into play when the system senses wheel slip. Torque is  transferred automatically from the wheels that are slipping to the wheels with  firmer grip and restores the normal 38/62 percent (front/rear) ratio when full traction is regained.

Another nice feature of the Escalade is its self-leveling rear suspension. Hydraulically operated, it returns the vehicle to normal  ride heights when carrying heavy loads.

Installed on many Cadillacs, the StabiliTrak stability system is now onboard Escalades, too. Its precise all-weather control is very  beneficial when driving on slick road surfaces or during emergency maneuvers, such  as swerving to avoid objects in the road. StabiliTrak maximizes handling  and braking dynamics by using a combination of systems, including stability enhancement, ABS and traction control. A variety of sensors monitor the intended path of the vehicle by measuring steering angle, brake  pressure, lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration and yaw rate. This information is fed into a computer processor that compares intended  path to where the vehicle is actually going.

Intervening when it senses one or more of the wheels slipping, it  detects slippage during braking or acceleration and adjusts brake pressure or  engine power as required to achieve optimum control. In adverse conditions  such as during under or oversteer, the system will quickly and precisely adjust brake pressure at each wheel and help the driver steer in the desired direction. It also adjusts engine power with electronic throttle  control, as required, to help maintain stability. The real benefit of StabiliTrak  is that it can respond to under or oversteer in tenths of a second, which  is much faster than most drivers can react.

High-tech underpinnings donıt stop there, however. The Escalade gets  GMıs advanced computer-controlled Road Sensing Suspension (RSS) system. Fully automatic, it improves body stability, ride comfort, handling, and  towing performance.

The main components of RSS are electronically controlled shocks,  four electronic wheel-position sensors, a steering angle sensor, and a  computer control module. Using a complex software algorithm, RSS computes the individual optimal shock demand for each wheel. The demand force is the theoretical ideal force at each wheel required to optimize vehicle  handling and ride performance at that instant in time. The total system loop   ”time, including the shock actuation, is less than 30 milliseconds, which  results in the system working at a ³real time² level in terms of speed.

You might think that with all this computer-geeky electronic  wizardry, the Escalade might not have any brawn to go with its brains. Not so.  This go-big sized luxo-ute has a standard trailer-towing package and with  3.73 gears in the rear axle, the all-wheel-drive Cad can drag up to 8,500  pounds behind its sheetmetal. The two-wheel-drive version with its smaller  engine is no slouch either as it can tow 7,700 pounds with ease.

Moving inside the Escalade, youıll find the extensive redesign  didnıt stop with whatıs outside and underneath. Brimming with luxury all  around, the Escaladeıs cabin has exclusive bits like a revised instrument panel  with an integrated floor console, heated seats, an 11-speaker Bose stereo  with a single feed, in-dash six-disc CD changer, a new driver information  center and a lightweight third-row seat.

The third-row 50/50 split-bench seat standard in all Escalades is  quite flexible. The seatbacks can be folded or the seats can be flipped  forward and stowed. Finally, they can also be removed totally to maximize cargo volume. The best part is their light weight. Split into two separate  seats (as opposed to one big one in a Navigator for example) they weigh less  than 40 pounds each. Available interior colors include Shale or Pewter.

As for cargo capacity, the numbers look like this: With the  third-row seats removed and the second-row seats raised, there is 63.6  cubic-feet. A big jump is given when the second-row seats are folded down, to the  tune of 108.2 cubic-feet. The Yukon/Tahoe-sized Escalade is certainly roomy  inside (not as big as a Suburban, though) and it ought to be with the all-wheel-drive version checking in with a curb weight of 5809 pounds.  The two-wheel-drive versions are a bit lighter at 5553 pounds.

The luxury SUV market seems to get more competitive all the time.  With the Mercedes-Benz ML430, BMW X5, Lexus LX 470, and Infiniti QX4 showing  the way in the Japanese and German import segment, the American contingent  was singularly represented by the Lincoln Navigator. The first-gen Escalade  was hopelessly outclassed by the Navigator, let alone the imports. Now, everything has changed. Our global neighbors around the Black Forest  and in the Land of the Rising Sun have a new player to contend with, not to  mention those Lincoln boys in Deeetroit City. The Escalade is a home run of grand-slam proportions and itıs likely that designers will eventually  be sent back to the drawing boards in Japan, Germany and Dearborn.

Edmunds.com, Inc. was founded in 1966 to publish new and used vehicle guides. In 1995, Edmunds became the first company to establish a site on the Web on which consumers could obtain vehicle information at no cost, and  in 2000, Edmunds became the first source for vehicle pricing information for users of wireless Web-enabled devices. Edmunds.com continues to provide free, unbiased information on all aspects of buying, owning and selling a vehicle.

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