2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum

Cadillac’s Escalade is by now a known quantity—that quantity being big, slathered in chrome, and with a swagger all its own. General Motors has cashed in on its pop-culture icon over the years, gradually raising the price from less than $50,000 in 2002 to a hair under $74,000 today. At a time when full-size pickups and SUVs from Chevrolet and GMC—trucks that share their basic underpinnings with the Escalade—can be optioned to dizzying prices, the Cadillac’s base price is appropriate. So what happens when that cost is jacked to nearly $100,000?

The Escalade’s range-topping Platinum trim level does just that. A two-wheel-drive example starts at $90,345, and the four-wheel-drive model tested here starts at $92,945. With only two options—power-deploying running boards and wheel locks—the final tally for our test rig came to $94,770. Such pricing drags the Escalade into a tougher line of fire than its lower-cost siblings, a hail that includes deluxe SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS-class and the Land Rover Range Rover. Those vehicles, in their least expensive forms, start at $67,975 and $85,945. Plug in the Escalade’s details to Ancestry.com, and you’ll find shared parentage with the Chevrolet Tahoe, which costs half as much as this Platinum; dig deeper, and a genetic link can be made to the Silverado pickup, which can be had for as little as $28,390.

It’s in the Plati-Numbers

If it sounds as though we’re comparing sticker prices in a vacuum, we’re not. Breeding matters, particularly at the Platinum’s price level. One needn’t root around in the Escalade’s pricing and hereditary chain to notice the built-down-to-a-price switchgear and high-volume assembly methods shared by its more mainstream relatives. This same interior, at its most basic, isn’t perfect but is convincingly luxurious in the low $70,000s; it is less so in the stratosphere. It brings to mind another iconic General Motors product, the Corvette, which despite its improved interior continues to be outclassed by the cabin environment of the Porsche 911 for one reason: Chevy is constrained by the Vette’s $56,395 base price for 2016, while Porsche’s lowliest 911 runs $85,350.

 So, sure, the Platinum boasts Escalade-exclusive features such as a cooled center-console cubby, a drop-down 8.5-inch infotainment display, dual rear-seat DVD screens, illuminated “Platinum” doorsill plates, a special chrome grille and 22-inch wheels, nappa leather seats, a leather-wrapped dashboard and door panels, and a sueded microfiber headliner. But it’s all additive, a matter of installing more and more stuff to justify pushing up the price. Just as you can’t toss a few cuts of open-pore wood, scraps of nappa leather, and a roll of sueded upholstery into a regular living room and declare that room a royal castle, the Platinum’s finer cabin materials feel like a veneer for humbler scaffolding. Read more...

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11 Feb 2017