2012 Cadillac Escalade road test: Still bold, but feeling old after all these years

2012 Cadillac Escalade

2012 Cadillac Escalade

No question about it, I enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the 2012 Cadillac Escalade.

I loved the satisfying burble and growl of its powerful 6.2-liter V-8 engine. I enjoyed the smoothness of its six-speed automatic transmission, I marveled at the ease with which its 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque could authoritatively muscle its 5,545 pounds over most any terrain without breaking a sweat.

I loved sitting high in the cushy catbird seat, immersing myself in the Caddy’s sumptuous interior, enjoying the sport-utility vehicle’s bigness, its boldness, its brassiness. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought to myself, to be cruising the Las Vegas Strip in this outsized attention-getter.

2012 Cadillac Escalade cargo space

Unless the rear seats are removed, the 2012 Cadillac Escalade has limited useful storage space.

I loved the comfortable suspension with its instantaneous magnetic ride control and the wealth of comfort and convenience features which allowed the SUV to cover highway miles as gracefully as a limousine.

No wonder that this rolling definition of bling has become a favorite conveyance for many professional athletes.

But when I came down from my perch, literally, and set foot back on Mother Earth, I had to conclude, sadly, that the 2012 Cadillac Escalade is nothing more than an expensive indulgence —  an obsolete, expensive indulgence.

It may be fun, but it really doesn’t make much sense. It started life, along with its Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon stablemates, as a makeover from a full-size, body-over-frame pickup truck and the transition has not been a very happy one.

To give the devil it’s due, I’ll admit the Escalade is capable of towing up to 8,300 pounds and that may be enough to seal the deal for a well-to-do owner who wants to tow a boat, horse trailer, or even a recreational vehicle.

2012 Cadillac Escalade instrument panel

2012 Cadillac Escalade instrument panel

In addition, in all-wheel-drive form with more than 9 inches of ground clearance, it’s ready to tackle the Outback. Chances are good, however, that very few every have.

But, as an every-day usable sport-utility vehicle, it falls way short of the mark. Consider this:

Realistically, the rear-wheel-drive Premium edition I drove had room for only four adults, two on the comfortable front buckets and two more on second-row captain’s
chairs. For the record, you can stretch the passenger total to five by opting for a second-row bench seat.

Yes, there is a third row, installed almost as an afterthought to meet the demands put on it by competitors. But it is more of a cruel joke than a proper accommodation for two or three passengers.