There seems to be some confusion about what the ESV means in the name Cadillac Escalade ESV. Some people on the Cadillac forums have said “Escalade Stretch Vehicle” or “Extended Service Vehicle.” I actually think that it means “Entertainment System Vehicle” or at least that is what I would call the 2011 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum Edition. My family and I spent a week up at Lake Tahoe using the Escalade and I must say that we have never had a quieter drive up and back. That is quite a blessing for any parents who have gone out on road trips.
But, once we were in the Lake Tahoe area, our car turned from being very quiet to quite loud, again, due to the entertainment system, with our children insisting that we play the XM radio set on the “Hits” station at a volume much louder than typical. But before I go into the entertainment-side of the Escalade, let’s take a quick look at some of the features that stood out in my mind.
First of all, our loaner was the 2011 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum Edition. This is the most expensive car that I have had the pleasure to drive to date, with the sticker topping out at $88,295 fully loaded. And, it turns out that there aren’t really any other trim lines that are higher than the Platinum Edition…and I could definitely see why. Here are some of the standout features that we enjoyed:
- HUGE engine – the Escalade boasts a 6-speed automatic, 6.2 liter, 403 horsepower engine with Flex-Fuel capability. That means that you can use regular fuel or Ethanol. We actually stuck to the original fossil fuel. The Escalade does have a good towing capacity (8000 lbs) and you can feel the power under the hood. It doesn’t jump off the line but the rear-wheel drive does deliver a huge amount of power when you need it.
- Large cabin – we were able to pack in 5 passengers and a ton of luggage with plenty of room to spare. All seats were “self-contained” captain-style chairs. Even the third row had isolation (with the ability to seat 2 comfortably and an optional 3rd person in the middle). Leg room was ample allowing for smaller pieces of luggage to be stashed under the kids feet as feet rests.
- “Active Fuel Management” – the V8 loves slurping down gas. This is probably one of the biggest complaints about these huge SUVs. We averaged about 15-18 MPG, which isn’t bad but I definitely felt odd driving around in Berkeley, CA where every other car there is a Prius. As my neighbor put it, “If Al Gore were hitchhiking, he would put his thumb down if the Escalade passed him by.” However, what is encouraging is that Cadillac has done some mechanical engineering to boost up the gas mileage a bit. The V8 automatically “transforms” to a V4 (using only 4 cylinders) when the extra power is not needed, like when coasting or not stomping on the gas pedal. I had my eyes glued (to the road but also) to the gauge that showed my active gas mileage so I actually played a game while driving to see if I could keep the MPG above 20. In a hilly area, that is hard, but doable.
- Automatic Running Boards – we only discovered this nifty feature at the end of our trip. Until we did, every time our family had to get into the Escalade, we embarked on a mini mountain climbing trip. Once I found the button (it was off for some reason), I enabled the automatic running boards to magically appear when the doors were opened. After the doors were shut and a few seconds later, the boards parked themselves back into the bottom of the vehicle. See the video below for the boards in action.
- Remote Vehicle Starter – I’ve seen other autos with this feature and it’s a small but convenient feature that allows you to heat up or cool down your auto remotely by simply starting your car via the keyfob.
- Voice Activated Assistance – I really didn’t use this feature that much as I didn’t want to be distracted while driving as I set it up. However, I couldn’t figure out how to pair my bluetooth phone with the Escalade until I read the manual (ha!). The pairing is done via voice commands and what is unique (compared to other manufacturers’ implementation) was that you use your voice to “name” your phone. That actually made the deleting of the pairing pretty darn easy because I simply had to say “Bluetooth” then “Delete” then the name of the phone that I had given it. The voice commands allow you to do a variety of other things as well, which is something that I now am starting to expect in higher-end automobiles.
- Intellibeam Headlights – I really liked this feature when driving the Escalade around the dark roads up in Lake Tahoe. For starters, you can set your LED headlights to come on automatically based on the level of brightness outside. Also, the Escalade has daytime running lights which is a good safety feature. But the other thing is that built into the rear-view mirror is a sensor that will automatically turn on the high beams when there are no other autos around you and assuming you are going over 20 MPH. This was great not having to think about lowering the high beams when cars are approaching as the Escalade did this automatically.
- Side Blind Zone Alerts – when you have a car this large, there a larger blindspots. So the Escalade monitors when cars are in your blindspots and the side-view mirrors will alert you if a car is present. If you have your blinker on and there is a car in the blindspot, the indicators will flash to really get your attention.
- Rear-view Backup Camera – another important thing to have with an automobile this large. When you shift into reverse, the rear camera displays what is behind you on the 8″ display on the dashboard. If there are hazards that are too close, an exclamation mark displays over the object automatically and there is an alarm. This is a definite must-have with this type of car.
- Analog Clock – I wasn’t able to get a great picture of this clock, but personally, I liked the elegant touch and styling of it, especially in juxtaposition with the other technology in the car.
Before I jump into the entertainment system, here’s a quick video showcasing a few of the features that we enjoyed (view directly on YouTube):
[iframe_loader width="560" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/BPwp5JsHDI8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen]
The “Entertainment System Vehicle”
Ok, now on to the entertainment system. This was a lifesaver for our trip actually. For the longer ride, we took full advantage of the 3, yes THREE, built-in DVD players that were part of the Platinum Edition. There is one main DVD player in the center console and then two others in the back of the driver and passenger head-rests. The great thing is, there are 4 infrared headsets that come with this entertainment package which meant one important thing…SILENCE! Perhaps in this case, ESV stands for “Enjoyably Silent Vehicle”.
It was a premium 10-speaker Bose system with 5.1 surround sound. The surround sound was only available when playing movies and not when just listening to music. There were 3 screens (2 were flip down displays on the ceiling and one in the center console – the console one is only active when you are in park though). There were also 2 screens in the back of the headrests of the driver and passenger seats, bringing the total number of screen capable of playing movies to 5. Each of the headrests could accept composite connections which means that you could easily connect other devices to the display like a Wii or other game console. Similarly, in the center armrest between the driver and passenger, there is a USB connector to allow you to dock your MP3 player.
Once the driving up to Lake Tahoe was complete, and in total silence from my kids, I might add…no whining, complaining, asking “are we there yet” or anything like that, the silence was broken and a road trip in the Cadillac Escalade became a “cruising” ride. This is where the XM Radio came into play and the kids wanted to only have it tuned to the “Hits” station. I think I counted the same song being played twice in the same hour and we must have heard some songs like my kids’ favorite by LMFAO about 50 times turning the trip. The nice thing about having XM or Satellite radio in general is that you get reception just about anywhere that you are (with the exception of underpasses or tunnel or sometimes between steep mountains). And, the quality of the music that of a digital source which means that the music highs are crisp and the lows are thunderous. In fact, the lows are booming when you have the bass in action, and trust me, the bass really moves some air. We had to actually lower the bass level from the normal setting because of how strong it was. But it was definitely fun to be able to enjoy some of the music, most of the time (I just got a bit tired of hearing the same songs!) Now THAT’S entertainment!
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum Edition is a luxury vehicle that is cable of moving a large family in style and comfort, whether it be to the mountains or to the store. While it isn’t the most gas efficient car on the road, there are definite improvements to make the gas mileage highly competitive with other larger SUVs on the market. But the Escalade truly competes on taking care of its occupants, especially from an entertainment perspective.
Disclosure Text: Apart from the 7-day loan of the Cadillac Escalade, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: If you ever get a chance to check out the Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum Edition, be sure that you take it for a long test drive, one where you can fire up the entertainment system and settle back and truly enjoy the ride!