Auto review: Cadillac Escalade Diesel is a ship fit for a king | cars

CHARLEVOIX, Michigan — Like a Great Lakes passenger ship, the bow of my Cadillac Escalade cut through the mist from an April snowstorm. Determined, diesel-powered, on autopilot to our port of call.

On a long trip up north to see my son’s summer wedding venue at Castle Farms, the Escalade showed why it’s the king of the mega-utes. Parked in front of Castle Farm’s magnificent Queen’s Court turrets, the jet-black chariot carries the stuff of royalty: Cadillac family crest on the imposing chainmail lattice, large silver wheels like a knight’s shield, glowing horizontal running lights front and rear like medieval torches.

My Sport model features black trim – as opposed to the Caddy’s signature chrome – which gives the awesome figure an added sense of menace. Behold, the dark knight.

Unlike knights of yore, however, little clatter comes from the chassis. Once upon a time there was a diesel you knew from his CLACKETY-CLACK-CLACK idling engine. Not Escalade. The Caddy’s 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged inline-6 ​​is the same as the new-generation Duramax diesels that power GM’s Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks. It purrs like a resting lion.

My family descends from their seats, air suspension lowers the cab, and footboards extend in front of them like a royal welcome.

Castle Farms was built in 1918 by Sears President Albert Loeb as a grand estate on a 1,600-acre farm. The house is reminiscent of a European castle with turrets, large hall and arches. It fell into disrepair over the course of the 20th century – a curious ruin like so many European castles. Successful Domino’s Pizza franchisee Richard Mueller and his wife Susan revived it in 2000 as a passion project. Today it is a bustling tourist attraction, complete with train rides, wine tastings, art collections and weddings.

Escalade has also revived the Cadillac brand.

In decline after an uninspired turn of the 20th century, Caddy engineers did Yeomen’s job to rebuild the brand as an athletic competitor to European performance brands with the CTS, ATS and V-series sedan helions. But it’s the magnificent Escalade that has restored Cadillac’s luxurious shine and paved the way for its transition to a royal, all-electric brand in the form of 1950s Cadillac ocean liners.

That luxury is best demonstrated by Super Cruise, the semi-autonomous driver assistance system that leaves most of the driving to the car.

Down minor roads, I drove hands-on-adaptive cruise control that maintained control speed because, ahem, my lead foot is getting heavy in this nimble giant. But as I entered I-75, I turned on the extra lane icon on my steering wheel and—like a robot driver—the Escalade took over the driving duties for me.

A green light meant I could take my mitts off the handlebars. No hands, no feet. I sipped Snapple, resting my hands on my knees, and relaxing on my leather throne. However, as a driving instructor with a novice driver, I still needed to get involved.

The steering column mounted infrared camera found me looking away from the road for too long while chatting with the seductive Mrs. Payne. That triggered a red light reminding me to pay attention.

North of Bay City, Super Cruise suddenly hit a blind spot. The green light disappeared, the Caddy wobbled – and I quickly took over and bridged the dead zone until the system acclimated again.

No I-75 trip is complete without orange barrels, and Super Cruise asked me to take it over in construction zones. Other than that, the system worked confidently (Zilwaukee Bridge? No problem. Lots of Flint traffic? A breeze.) just like it did in 2017 when I drove from Memphis to Dallas. Only better.

Super Cruise’s latest trick is that automatic lane changes are performed with impressive accuracy. I have some experience with auto-lane changes from the Autopilot system on my Tesla Model 3. It’s sci-fi stuff, but the Tesla – which is going at, say, 80 mph – will startle if it slows down. encounters a car before passing on the left.

Super Cruise’s robot driver passes like a human. When I saw a slower car in front of me, my SUV didn’t wait to be slowed down. It turned on the left turn signal, pulled left at 80 mph without breaking a step, passed traffic, then immediately pulled back into the right lane. What if there was a vehicle to our left, you wonder? Cadillac held out until he passed, then executed the overtaking manoeuvre. My 32-year-old son – no stranger to the hi-tech capabilities of cars I test – gave it a try.

“Wow! No way!” he exclaimed as the Escalade made a clear pass.

Super Cruise is so good that you have to remind yourself to pay attention. There are the previously mentioned dead zones and construction areas. Or, heaven forbid, a ladder fell from a truck (yes, it did) that the system can’t see.

Exit the highway for a toilet break and the system will give up when it jumps over the invisible geo-fence. Super Cruise has only mapped divided highways.

There are other super features on board.

Tesla launched the first salvo in the screen wars way back in 2012, and Escalade’s offering consists of three screens in one, spanning a 38-inch-wide, dash-mounted jumbotron. It is a solution that is as practical as it is elegant. While deeper console screens — think Tesla Model S or Ram 1500 — require the pilot to look down from the road, the Caddy system is always in your field of view.

Handy is the touchscreen on the left, which allowed me to adjust the head-up display in various ways, check the mileage or configure the instrument display. I chose to put the navigation route in the display in front of me while using the right console screen to show Sirius XM stations.

The Dark Knight earned high marks for usability. The diesel engine delivered a solid 28 mpg highway (compared to 20 available V-8s). My wife, son and his bride-to-be traveled in comfort – especially my son, who became ill with food poisoning on the return journey.

Long trips and illness don’t mix well, but my son had three restful options: 1) lay the front seat flat, 2) lay the second and third row of right-hand seats flat to make a (hard) bed, or 3) crawl in the spacious, dark third row bench seat (helped in part by a new compact independent rear suspension) with the panoramic roof closed.

He chose option three and needed sleep on the way home on I-75. Spacious, luxurious, imposing. Escalade is a castle on wheels.

2022 Cadillac Escalade Diesel

Vehicle Type: Seven-passenger rear or four-wheel drive SUV

Price: $77,490, including $1,295 destination fee ($110,585 4WD Sport as tested)

Powerplant: 3.0-litre turbo inline-6 ​​diesel

Power: 277 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 7.8 seconds (car and driver); towing capacity, 7,800 pounds as tested

Weight: 6,200 pounds (estimated)

Fuel Economy: EPA 20 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined (AWD as tested)

Report

Highlights: High-tech, spacious interior; super super cruise

Lows: hard to park; gets pricey

Overall: 4 stars

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