The Cadillac Escalade first appeared in car showrooms in late 1998 and instantly affirmed its dominance of the luxury SUV class. More than 800,000 models have been built and sold over the past two decades, and the Escalade is one of the few survivors of the big luxury SUV market that crossed over well into the 21st century. With its production poised to top a million SUVs within the next year or so, many great used Cadillac Escalade examples are available at relatively bargain prices.
The original Escalade is Cadillac’s response to the success of the Lincoln Navigator, which was an up-modeled Ford Expedition and bested Cadillac in luxury vehicle sales. The Navigator was the first competitor ever to top Cadillac in the luxury vehicle market and brought about the Escalade in response. Cadillac’s luxury SUV quickly became a popular and dominant player in the luxury SUV market.
Luxury, Power, and Lots of Passenger Space
The first Cadillac Escalade was mostly an upgraded Chevy Tahoe, with which it shared the same chassis, suspension, dash, and instruments. A plush interior, six-spoke alloy wheels, and improved 5.7-liter Cadillac Northstar V8 gave the Escalade plenty of power. The motor is good for 255 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque with a four-speed automatic transmission sending power to all four drive wheels.
The original Escalade weighs in at 5,573 lbs, which is carried across a 117.5-inch wheelbase. The 1999 Escalade measures more than 201 inches in length and stands 74.3 inches tall, which made it one of the largest private passenger vehicles available. While the Northstar V8 is a potent engine, the big and boxy Escalade ensured it would not turn fast quarter-mile times. Instead, it gives a good, comfortable ride for up to seven passengers with three rows of seats.
Significant Improvements over Five Generations
The Escalade came into its own with a full makeover for the 2002 model year. The front end got the same classic Cadillac grill as other models instead of looking like a Chevy Tahoe with a Cadillac badge. The body cabin and rear-end are a bit more standardized among other GM SUV offerings, but the interior provides full luxury comforts.
The 2002 model year introduced a much more potent engine, the 6.0-liter Vortec V8 that gives up to 345 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic sends power to all four drive wheels while adaptive suspension makes it handle less like a barge and more like a sporty pickup. A towing package enables towing up to 8,000 lbs, which is ideal for a boat, a small camper, or moving junior into an apartment.
Cadillac even produced a luxury pickup version named as the Escalade EXT from 2002 through 2013. It is mostly an upgraded Chevy Avalanche and was intended to compete with the short-lived series of luxury pickups from Lincoln. Those who want a used Cadillac Escalade that can do just a little bit more might opt for the pickup version.
Third-Generation Escalade Elevates the Platform
The third-generation Escalade enjoyed a relatively long production run from 2007 through 2014 and greatly amped up the power under the hood. A lighter and more potent all-aluminum 6.2-liter Vortec V8 reduced engine weight while delivering 403 hp and up to 417 lb-ft of torque under the hood.
The lighter engine means the third-generation Escalade has a lighter front end, which greatly improves its handling. It still is a big SUV, but the handling enhancements make it drive more like a luxury car and less like a boxy and bulky SUV. All that new power needs a new transmission to smooth out the power delivery to all four drive wheels, so Cadillac installed a new six-speed automatic to get the job done. Fuel economy remains low at 14 MPG in the city and 18 MPG on the highway.
Those who want a bit more range and the status of driving an eco-friendly Escalade could opt for a hybrid-powered version made from 2009 through 2013. The hybrid mated a 6.0-liter V8 with two 60-kW electric drive motors powered by a NiMH battery. An all-new transmission handles the changes from conventional to electric drives while the engine churns out an impressive 332 hp. The hybrid Escalade was good for an estimated 20 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway.
With the potent V8 and hybrid engine options as well as an upgraded interior, the third-generation Escalade truly evolved into the Cadillac of SUVs. Interior comforts include wood and leather upholstery that affirm you are riding in a luxury vehicle. A premium sound system and multiple entertainment screens help to make long travels more fun.
Fourth Generation Affirms Luxury Status
The Escalade’s current model is part of the fourth generation that debuted in 2015 and really gave the SUV a truly unique look and feel from behind the wheel. It still has the all-aluminum 6.2-liter Vortec V8, but the engine now puts out 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Initial models had a six-speed automatic transmission sending the power to four drive wheels.
Subsequent models were upgraded to an eight-speed and then a ten-speed automatic for even better hauling and slightly improved fuel economy. That helps to make the ride more comfortable while enabling best-in-class towing capability at 8,300 lbs. The interior enjoys the usual Cadillac comforts, including the Cadillac CUE system that streams entertainment and provides navigational aids. Premium sound tops it all off.
Fifth Generation Coming in 2021
The Cadillac Escalade gets a new makeover with its fifth generation’s debut in 2021. Cadillac says it intends to improve upon recently slumping sales with a thoroughly modern Escalade SUV with improved ride and build quality and better fuel economy. A new generation coming to Cadillac dealer showrooms means lots of great used Cadillac Escalade models are available at bargain prices.
Save Big Bucks Compared to New Trucks
Buying a used Escalade that is in good running condition and has relatively low mileage for its production year adds up to a potentially great deal. A new Escalade sells for more than $75,000, and on average, a new vehicle loses about a fourth of its value after just a year of ownership. With a $75,000 purchase price on a new one, buying a good used model instead will save potentially tens of thousands of dollars.
Those who are wealthy or otherwise flush with cash can do without that extra money, but most car buyers will want the best possible transportation value. That means buying a used Cadillac Escalade that has low miles on it and has been maintained properly. Fortunately, the high purchase price of a new one means the owner likely took advantage of factory service agreements to keep it in great shape.
If you can find a used Cadillac Escalade in like-new condition and with warranty protection in place, you can enjoy the same luxury SUV ride that original owners likely paid double or more to obtain. After they broke it in and eventually traded it in on a new model, that like-new Escalade typically undergoes a multi-point inspection and factory service. It emerges from the service a wholly renewed SUV with many more great travels in store.
The cost to insure a used Escalade should be much lower than a brand new one. The maintenance costs are negligible when paired with an optional service contract. The combined savings on the purchase price and insurance costs help to make a used model a highly satisfying purchase for many.