The current generation Cadillac Escalade, which was introduced in 2014, impressed us so much that it went on to win the best SUV title at our 2015 Car of the Year awards. A few months before that it trumped the Mercedes-Benz GL 500 when we pitted the American behemoth against the ‘S-Class of SUVs.’ Although we reached that verdict mostly on the great value the Escalade offered with a Dh70,000 difference in price, there’s no denying that the Cadillac arguably has more presence and a sense of occasion than most other large SUVs on the market. Unlike the previous generations, the current model is way more than just a rebadged, plusher Chevrolet. Despite it sharing the ladder frame underpinnings with lesser badges like the GMC Yukon and the Chevy Tahoe, Cadillac has made genuine efforts to distinguish it from its cousins with loads of added luxury and technology kit.

For 2018, Cadillac has brought in a big change, which is a new 10-speed automatic transmission, which is the same that does duty in the recently launched Lincoln Navigator, as it’s a ‘box jointly developed by Ford and General Motors. The result is apparent when you press the throttle and the 420bhp, 623Nm 6.2-litre races through the cogs. Shifts are perceptibly smoother compared to the previous eight-speed gearbox. Acceleration is quick for such a massive vehicle and the V8 retains its delightful rumble. The V8’s Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation technology shuts down four of the cylinders when you’re coasting, and Cadillac claims this combined with the new transmission contributes to better fuel efficiency. However, in practice, it is still a relatively thirsty powerplant with average combined fuel economy figures of nearly 16 litres per 100 kilometres.

 

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

That will be the least of a typical Escalade buyer’s worries. But what could indeed be a matter of concern for a potential customer in this highly competitive segment is the Escalade’s ride quality. Despite boasting GM’s acclaimed Magnetic Ride Control System, the Escalade does not afford a ride quality that is as refined, smooth or composed as most its rivals, especially the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Range Rover or the Lexus LX. The brakes are also not very confidence inspiring for a vehicle of this size, and performance.

Apart from these two grouses, there is nothing else to complain about, as everything else about the Escalade is right up there with the best.  The exterior is still bathed in chrome, with the highly angular design adding to its imposing presence.

The cabin is extraordinarily spacious and is decked out in acres of premium hide and wood trim, and features two rows of exceptionally comfortable seats, and a third row of acceptably supportive chairs. Front seats get multiple levels of electric adjustability and paraphernalia like massagers, heaters and coolers. Leg-, head- and shoulder room are generous too.

 

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The 2018 Escalade also comes fitted with the latest of safety and driver assist features including Automatic Parking Assist, Surround Vision system, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, IntelliBeam headlamps, Safety Alert Seat, Adaptive Cruise Control, Front and Rear Automatic Braking and Automatic Safety Belt Tightening among others. Apart from the usual number of airbags all around, the 2018 Escalade also offers a front centre airbag that deploys from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and inflates between the driver and front passenger, providing extra protection for both front occupants in side-impact crashes.

And for a premium large SUV offering loads of practicality, comfort and safety features, the Escalade is competitively priced, starting from a reasonable Dh324,500.  If you’re looking for a big, luxurious SUV with a commanding road presence and the capability to tow trailers, look no further. The 2018 Cadillac Escalade is still one of the best value deals.