Something about piloting a 2007 Cadillac Escalade on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis felt so right. I was on my way to Graceland, to check out Presley's beloved Caddies--a 1955 pink Fleetwood and a purple 1956 Eldorado convertible. As a general policy I don't like to speak for dead celebrities, but I can't help but believe that the King would have dug tooling around the streets of Memphis in my ride, the "Big E."
Now almost 17 feet long and 5,700 pounds, the latest version of the Escalade SUV is an even bigger hunk of rubber burnin' love. Of course, the Escalade didn't become the chariot of hip-hop royalty through subtlety and restraint. With leather seats that fit seven people, the 108.9-cubic-foot interior is roomy enough for an entourage. The SUV also has a powerful V-8 engine and optional you-wish-you-were-me 22-inch chrome wheels.
The retooled Escalade, with a new stronger boxed frame, still guzzles fuel, but the gas mileage is a slight improvement over previous editions. The latest model also has rack-and-pinion steering, so it drags less and feels smoother on the road.
The Escalade, with all-wheel drive, handled well on the streets of Memphis as I steered it to as many hole-in-the-wall smokehouses as I could find. And it held its own on country back roads. After dark, I took a wrong turn and ended up in some poor farmer's bumpy field. The Escalade's coil-over-shock front suspension kept me from getting all shook up.
$57,675 base price, $62,615 as tested
6.2-liter 403-hp V-8 engine; 417 pound-feet of torque at 4,300 rpm; 13/19 mpg
Seats that fold forward with a press of a button, an automatic liftgate, heated and air-conditioned seats, and an easy-to-use LCD navigation screen that displays sports scores when the tuner is on XM sports stations
The passing gear seemed a tad slow for the horsepower. The sheer amount of buttons can be baffling. I managed to shut off the automatic liftgate while ferreting around for a switch to turn off the dome light.
"John Cafaro designed GM's (NYSE:GM) 2007 Escalade," says Gary S. Vasilash, editor in chief of Automotive Design and Production. "He also designed the Corvette C5, which explains why the Escalade is more stylish than its predecessor."