Prior to the BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class (originally GL-Class), Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90, if you wanted a seven-seat luxury vehicle, you sort of had to buy the Cadillac Escalade. Of course, the original Escalade was nothing more than a Tahoe in drag but it’s become quite a bit more than that over the generations. Now, this latest generation actually looks surprisingly good and it seems as if the American luxury giant has put in some real effort. So should the BMW X7 be worried?
Last year, I would have laughed at that question. Having been in both the current X7 and the last-gen Escalade, I know first-hand that the two cars don’t even belong in the same sentence. While expensive, the last-gen Escalade had rental-car-grade leather and enough cheap plastics to double as a Chevy Malibu. It was the sort of luxury car your ginzo uncle (I’m a NJ Italian, I can say that) might buy third-hand to impress Joey Goombah across the street while they compare chest hair. Now, though, the new Cadillac Escalade seems like a genuinely luxurious machine.
Of course, it’s still big, brash and obnoxious on the outside, so it’s not going to be purchased by sophisticated individuals. However, the BMW X7 doesn’t exactly sneak under the radar, now does it? In fact, the Escalade might be the only car on the planet with a larger grille than the X7. Having said that, I actually think the Escalade grille is a bit less offensive than the X7’s, most likely because it seems classy for a ‘Slade while the X7 seems brash for a BMW.
It’s inside the new Cadillac Escalade that looks so much better than before. Its predecessor’s cabin was bland, boring and cheap feeling. This new one looks rich, luxurious and features some really interesting design touches and technology. For instance, the tiered design for the OLED infotainment screen and digital gauges looks really good and the screen bezels themselves are wrapped in stitched leather. It makes the tech look luxurious, which is really cool. Also, the gauge cluster becomes the back-up camera screen, which is a nice feature. It also gets an augmented reality navigation system, with a front-facing camera, similar to Mercedes’ new system. Overall, it just looks like a premium vehicle this time around, rather than a pseudo-luxury truck for chest hair enthusiasts.
There are a few more interesting bits about the new ‘Slade, such as its all-new air suspension setup in combination with Cadillac’s famous magnetic dampers. Hopefully this eliminates some of the squish of most Escalades, which are usually too soft aloof to provide any sort of driver confidence. It also has the latest version of Cadillac’s Super Cruise system, which is one of the best semi-autonomous driving systems on the market, possibly even the best (don’t tell Tesla fans that).
To be honest, BMW has little to worry about. Few, if any, BMW X7 customers will cross shop the Cadillac Escalade at all, never mind make the jump to one, regardless of each vehicle’s own merit. However, the Escalade might steal some fringe customers away, those that are just in the market for a big, heavy luxury vehicle and are keeping their options open, customer with no brand allegiance. While the Cadillac Escalade is easy to poke fun at, this new one seems to be genuinely luxurious and surprisingly well made.