SUV of the Year: Caddy Escalade

The big Escalade so far seems to be the place in which to be. Mike’s got his hard-rock playlist bluetoothing around the cabin and the massive centre cubbyhole acts as his porta-kitchen — there is a three-course meal in there; sandwiches, a coffee thermos, snacks and cutlery
By Dejan Jovanovic, Features Writer
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November 07, 2016
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(1/2)
Source: Malek Fayoumi
Source: Malek Fayoumi(2/2)

“This cubbyhole should be air-conditioned,” he complains. And that’s about the Caddy’s only flaw. That and the vibrations…

This is the very same car we pitted against a Mercedes GL 500 last August, and with a Dh70K difference in its favour the Escalade almost walked it. For the first time since this nameplate’s 1999 launch, it’s not a big Chevrolet with lots of chrome up front. It’s a Cadillac. And those aren’t just our words. Cadillac’s Stateside marketing boss himself admitted to me last year that the original Escalade was basically a practical joke gone right, a big Chevy with not much more than an extra-shiny grille.

Still, the Escalade likes to do things its own American way. Firstly, it’s a body-on-frame design, which means there are still some ride issues — no amount of General Motors’ frankly excellent adaptive suspension can iron out the vibrations reverberating through a ladder-frame chassis. So compared to its rivals, the Caddy needs to catch up when it comes to ride quality. But everywhere else it’s impossible to ignore, composed and hushed, with a smooth V8 that imperceptibly and constantly switches between four and eight cylinders. Up E611 past Sharjah the Escalade hums sipping merely 10 litres per 100km.

If it should come to that, there’s a 6.2-litre V8 producing 420bhp and 624Nm of torque and some surprisingly decent brakes, too, as Mike needlessly demonstrates to me after I shotgun a ride. I get a coffee stain on my best shirt to prove it.

Our SUV of the Year pips it with honesty, then, not hiding its commercial roots while better highlighting its Cadillac-ness. This means the interior is actually luxurious, nicely put together and loaded with kit. In a subdued pearl, shimmering colour like this, it’s exactly the kind of car that fits any occasion, feeling at home in front of some or other Burj just as much as it’s comfortable in this sleepy village of Al Zubair.

The Escalade turns out to be a bit of a surprise today, because it’s eventually in such high demand. Mike of course makes himself at home with his porta-kitchen, and ends up taking it home for the weekend.

I remember the day before, four of us rode in the Caddy to pick up a couple of the other cars and it wouldn’t have been the same in, say, an X5 or even a Range Rover. The Cadillac has its own presence, an occasion even: immediately after entering it you recline your seat way back. The rear ones do the trick too. Arm out the window, and float.

Everyone’s already moaning about karak and breakfast, in the middle of some
Sharjah oil field concealed behind the emirate’s landmark cement factory. We’ve got 70km on the odometers and I think I hear three are-we-there-yets. We take another pause by the loneliest cafeteria in the land that doubles (triples) as a launderer and carpenter, but Ed’s reluctant to leave his Macan Turbo out of sight for fear of someone else occupying it.

Another take

"I can’t help but think this Caddy is the wrong colour. I want it to be black, with blacked-out windows, scraping its belly on the floor and riding on a set of 22in wheels — with spinners. But this one looks pretty decent. A bit like a reformed gangster. It drives ever so smoothly, is luxurious and exceptionally practical too with seating for seven and all sorts of fancy technology. And I’m not saying all this because I’ve just found Mike’s lunch in the massive centre console. Hmm, his sandwiches may need more mayo, but this tasty Escalade doesn’t need a thing. It’s easily the best SUV I’ve driven in a long time."

- Imran on the Caddy Escalade

The Crossover of the Year has tough competition but Zuffenhausen doesn’t care. Porsche sold nearly 200,000 cars last year, which is basically insane because that’s more cars than Infiniti sells annually, and most of those are Cayennes and Macans.
In fact, 45,000 Macans have already been shifted. If you’ve got one on order, you won’t go wrong. And that’s one of our arguments actually. Ed thinks so too: “I just bought a Cayenne,” he says. “Why?” he asks. Ed is a premature buyer.

The new Macan Turbo (actually all of them are turbocharged but Porsche has a tradition to uphold so just bear with the naming criteria here) starts from about Dh350K, which gives you acceleration from zero to 100kph in 4.8 seconds. Need we remind you that a 996 Carrera is slower? Like, way slower? The Macan also keeps going to 266kph. It’s got 400bhp, a PDK transmission, and basically just about everything a Cayenne gives you including size, really. A Cayenne is merely 15cm or so longer, which is nothing. You’d have to be mad to buy a Cayenne (Ed), particularly since the Turbo S costs twice as much as a Macan Turbo.

Plus the latter looks better, and this is a fact since we just did a vox pop here in front of this cafeteria-slash-laundry-slash-carpentery-shop and it’s unanimous.

Look, our other nominee, the BMW X4, comes close, and that one costs Dh275K or so, but that’s a four-cylinder xDrive28i and it’s fairly brilliant — in case you didn’t notice it just won a wheels four-way comparison last week in our previous issue beating the new Lexus NX. But it’s no Macan… The Porsche rides better and then drives like a hot hatch when you really sling it. In fact it has quite a bit of a Golf R thing going for it…

Another take

"If you want a practical Porsche with sportscar-like performance, then the Macan is the model to opt for. It is superior to the Cayenne and the Panamera in that it offers a good amount of interior space for both front and back seat passengers and it boasts fabulous driving dynamics too."

- Kinan on the Porsche Macan