Brash, bold, distinctive and a hair’s breadth away from stumbling into sheer ostentation, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade is positively unmistakable. It is also the undisputed king of American SUVs. Interestingly, Lincoln’s Navigator owned the title for a number of years after its introduction back in 1998. Ushering in the segment, the Lincoln ruled unchallenged for four years until the introduction of the “second generation” Escalade.​

The quotation marks allude to the fact the original version of the Escalade was little more than a GMC Denali with Cadillac badges, which was rushed into production to appease Cadillac dealers who were jealously eyeing the segment Lincoln had all to itself. While the original Escalade was a bit compromised, the model did well enough for GM to design a full-size sport utility vehicle specifically to be a Cadillac, which it introduced in 2002. The moment the “new” Escalade was shown to the public, the Navigator’s days were numbered and the model has struggled to maintain relevancy ever since.

The current version of Cadillac’s flagship SUV was introduced in 2015. A steady stream of subtle styling updates has helped the big Caddy maintain its buoyancy. The look is unique, instantly recognizable as a Cadillac and stops just short of being a bit too much. The Escalade’s design team found the line, and inched right up to it. As a result, people notice when you glide up in one of these.

As you might expect, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade comes loaded to the gunwales with kit. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, automatic windshield wipers, power-folding and auto-dimming outside mirrors, power-actuated running boards to ease boarding, a hands-free, power-operated liftgate, cargo rails for the roof, a trailer hitch with a wiring harness, cruise control, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, keyless entry and ignition, remote start, front and rear proximity sensors, and automated parking.

But wait, there’s even more; among which are triple-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a power-operated and heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with wood trim, heated and cooled 12-way power-adjustable front seats, heated second-row bucket seats, a power-actuated 60/40-split folding third-row seat, and a 110-volt power outlet.

And still, gear just keeps on coming; with features like active noise cancellation, OnStar emergency telematics, an eight-inch touchscreen interface, a surround-view camera system, navigation with real-time traffic and voice recognition, a WiFi hot spot, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, a wireless charging pad, and a 16-speaker Bose surround-sound system supporting a CD player, satellite and HD radio, an auxiliary audio input, and five USB ports.

Powering all of this is a 6.2-liter V8, at a time when the Caddy’s chief competitors are embracing turbocharged V6 power for better fuel economy (an area in which the Escalade trails the competition). Still, there’s no arguing with the Escalade’s 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. When you say “full steam ahead,” this Cadillac leaves a lot vessels floundering in its wake.

Fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway with rear drive. Highway mileage drops to 20 mpg with four-wheel drive, but the 17 mpg overall figure holds firm with either drivetrain. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and the four-wheel drive system features a two-speed transfer case.  Towing capacity is 8,300 lbs with rear drive and 8,100 with four-wheel drive.

One look at its mass tells you the privilege of piloting Cadillac’s full-size SUV is accompanied by the responsibility of careful maneuvering—particularly on city streets. Still though, handling is easy, as long as you don’t expect the Escalade to respond like a Corvette—even though both have magnetic suspension systems.

Body roll is nicely controlled, but rapid changes of direction are met with a bit of resistance. It’s best to plan your moves ahead and execute them with grace. On the other hand, the brakes do a wonderful job of arresting momentum; ride quality is right up there with the best in the class and the passenger cabin is blissfully quiet.

All in all, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade delivers a nice mix of style, luxury, power and comfort. Yes, fuel economy could be better and subtle it ain’t. But if you’re shopping in this category, you should at least give the queen of Cadillac’s fleet a chance to win your heart.
Pricing starts at $73,395.

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