How the Second Generation Escalade Saved Cadillac

Twenty years after its introduction, we can safely say that the second-generation Cadillac Escalade is an American icon. It was featured in nearly every rap video and episode of MTV Cribs at the turn of the millennium, thanks to Escalade’s pimped-up appeal. The Escalade name is associated with class, and if it weren’t for the 2002-2006 second-generation model, the full-size luxury SUV might not exist today.

Not only that, Cadillac could have slept with the fish with the other General Motors brands that weren’t so lucky when the recession hit. But thanks to Tony Soprano and the other hundreds of celebrities who bought a second-generation Escalade, the beloved full-size SUV is still thriving. Today, the Escalade can be chosen to cost upwards of $100,000. The Escalade V comes with more than 680 hp and is equipped with endless modern technology.

However, you can’t talk about the Escalade today without looking back at the SUV that started it all. The second-generation Escalade can be found in good condition for less than $10,000 today; a fraction of what a new one would cost. With gas prices at an all-time high, affordable Escalades are starting to surface.

Now is the perfect time to get your hands on one, as the second-generation Escalade is on the cusp of a value breakthrough.

Second-generation Cadillac Escalade: The pinnacle of luxury

Via: Cadillac

The Escalade has been around since the late 1990s, and the first-generation model appeared as a rebranded Chevy Tahoe or GMC Yukon. But the Escalade that created the full-size luxury SUV class we all know today was the second-generation model. For the 2002 model year, Cadillac redesigned the Escalade, setting it apart from the other full-size SUVs in the GM lineup. In 2003, the Escalade’s interior received a facelift, exuding more luxury, with its Bulgari clock and burr wood interior.

You didn’t just drive the Escalade, you glided and floated along while sitting in the softest, most comfortable seats in the automotive industry. The standard ten-speaker Bose ‘Acoustimass’ system blows orchestral sound into an already quiet cabin. The Road Sensing Suspension, or RSS, provides a smooth ride thanks to a rear air compressor that helps the shocks make on-the-fly adjustments; improving ride quality. TFL YouTuber Tommy described the second-generation Escalade as “One of the best driving SUVs, probably in history.”

Ultrasonic rear parking assist was pioneering technology in the 2000s. Like parking sensors today, the Escalade has a monitor on the passenger’s rear pillar that glows orange to red when the vehicle approaches an object. Chrome wheels, running boards and roof rack added to its bold appearance. But what made the Escalade extra special was the aftermarket support that allowed for ownership customization.

Related: Here’s What the 1999 Cadillac Escalade Costs Today

The Escalade’s GMT 800 platform was a star attraction

Second-generation Cadillac Escalade slides in the rain
Via: Cadillac

The second-generation Escalade shares its platform with other GM SUVs and pickups such as the Chevy Silverado, Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The platform is one of GM’s most decorated, and it shows in the number of SUVs and pickups from that era you still see on the roads today. But none had the same broad appeal as the Escalade. Cadillac’s full-size luxury SUV was popular among celebrities, mobsters and soccer moms.

From 2002 through 2006, the second-generation Cadillac produced more than 300,000 units; more than any Escalade that came after it. Two more variants of the Escalade were available, the extended version known as the ESV and the pickup version called the EXT. The body-on-frame Escalade was equipped with four-wheel independent suspension and Stabilitrak to improve handling in poor conditions. With All-Wheel-Drive and a solid rear axle with a towing capacity of over 8,000 lbs, the Escalade was more than just a family SUV.

Cadillac’s LQ9 6.0 Vortec engine in the second-generation Escalade

View of the engine bay of the second generation Cadillac Escalade
Via: Victor Troia

YouTube enthusiast Tyler Hoover once called the 6.0 liter Vortec V8 “An unbreakable engine”. He even went so far as to say it was “one of the greatest bikes of all time”. With its class-leading 345 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, it was the most powerful engine you could choose in an SUV. The LQ9 6.0 was an upgrade from the Escalade’s stock 5.3 L V8, which you had to upgrade to the 6.0 if you wanted AWD.

The LQ9 is sought after for its rugged reliability and plug-and-play interchangeability. The cast iron block with aluminum flat pistons contributed to a higher compression ratio of 10:1. The LS-series based motor came with a floating wrist pin that connected significantly stiffer bars.

All of these factors have contributed to the LQ9’s popularity as it can handle more horsepower for those looking to customize their engine. After the LQ9, GM began focusing on more fuel-efficient powertrains with cylinder deactivation. These engines were more complicated and less reliable. As a result, the Escalades that followed the second generation never sold as well.

Related: Here’s What Happened to James Gandolfini’s Cadillac Escalade from The Sopranos

Second Generation Escalade: The Vehicle That Saved Cadillac

Second generation Cadillac Escalade accelerating side view
Via: Cadillac

In the early 2000s, Cadillac’s brand image began to lose its allure. The car company known for its elegance and extravagant styling lacked the appeal it once had. Top Gear star Richard Hammond explained that “In America, the Cadillac brand has been dying for years”. He was referring to Cadillac owners who are largely retirees or patients in geriatric care. The second-generation Escalade made Cadillac cool again.

The Escalade brought back charisma to the Cadillac brand. It regained the image it was once known for, with its showy tail fins, bright colors and large trunks, perfect for Italian gangsters. The second-generation Escalade was the perfect car for those who wanted to show off their wealth. Whether you sail along the boulevard with you Entourage or kidnap the wrong Doug The hangoverthe Escalade was the perfect car to do it in.


Leave a Comment