Decked out in lustrous black paint and plenty of chrome, this stunner probably caused more cases of whiplash than I'll ever know. Everywhere I went, people came over to check it out.

Taking over the reigns as the head honcho of the luxury Escalade family, there's nothing small about the ESV: it's 21-in. longer than the Escalade, carries a 6.2-liter engine, offers the maximum in passenger and cargo space, and has a 32-gallon gas tank.

The truck is based on GM's all-new full-size platform and comes with a new powertrain, chassis, and safety and interior systems. The all-aluminum V8 engine with variable-valve timing technology cranks out 403 hp at 5,700 rpm and 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. A new Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed AWD automatic transmission completes the power package (a RWD version is still available).

While not exactly nimble due to its size, the ESV handles very nicely with a stable and controlled ride, thanks to precise rack-and-pinion steering. Despite its weight, the V8 accelerates quite well.

New for 2007 are head-curtain side air bags with rollover protection for all passengers, Generation 7 OnStar with Turn-by-Turn Navigation, an extra DVD system with an 8-in. flip-down screen for third-row passengers, and articulating running boards.

Another new and handy feature is the IntelliBeam Automatic Headlamps. A digital sensor located behind the inside rearview mirror automatically switches the high beams on when there are no oncoming vehicles, and off when a vehicle approaches. I found this very convenient on unlit country roads.

For those in colder climates, you can now get heated steering wheel and washer fluid. To clear ice, tree sap, and bugs from the windshield, simply press a button to start four heated wash/wipe/pause cycles. It takes about 40 sec for the fluid to heat on the first cycle; 20 sec for the other cycles. Pressing the button again turns it off.

The ESV's all-new interior offers three rows of comfortable seating for eight people. A power flip-and-fold function facilitates access to the third row. The spacious cabin features gages with white needles and blue-light inlays with continuously lit white LED backlighting; leather-covered seats, door trim, and center console; fabric-covered pillars; available heated and cooled front seats; and a power-assisted rear lift gate that opens and closes with a touch of a button.

Equipped with numerous safety systems and crash-avoidance technologies, the ESV comes with an industry-first 360° front safety-belt pretensioner-activation system.

Standard vehicle price is $59,175. Options on our tester included 22-in. chrome wheels ($2,995), $2,695 information package, $1,895 rear-seat entertainment system, power-retractable assist steps for $1,095, a $625 climate package, and a $900 destination charge for a grand total of $69,380, not including fuel costs.