That’s how driving Caddy’s luxury SUV made me feel. Cadillac says this model boasts a sleek new design and improved fuel economy. Sleek? Maybe. But if 12/18 mpg (city/highway) is an improvement, last year’s model must have had a hole in the tank. (Gassing up, I hoped my “My other car is a Prius” tee shirt would save me from tar and feathers at the hands of the Greens.) In fairness to GM, the Toyota Land Cruiser is rated at 13/18 mpg and the Porsche Cayenne S at 13/19. So Escalade’s mileage seems about on a par with its competition. A gas/electric hybrid version should hit the showrooms later this year.

After it’s elegant massiveness, Escalade’s most striking visual cue is the intimidating chrome grill. At 6 ft, 1 in., I’m still shorter than the 74.3-in. tall Escalade. Some climbing is necessary to get on board. And the Escalade isn’t intended for drive-up ATMs, but the power-fold mirrors and my long reach rose to the challenge.

Of course the interior is spacious, well appointed, and comfortable. A large bilevel console bin offers good cabin storage. The navigation system has a large, easy-to-read touchscreen. The second-row seats fold at the touch of a button, but must be returned manually to the upright position. And for them to fold all the way, the front seats must be slightly forward, thus reducing legroom. The third-row seat is split into 50/50 sections that don’t fold flush with the floor and are heavy and cumbersome to remove and install. There’s room for five or six bags of groceries behind the third-row seats, without collapsing them (the seats or the groceries).

Forgetting for a minute all that “green” business, there’s much to like in the Escalade. The ride and handling are great. And visibility — especially with the rear-view camera — is good. Unfortunately, I think drivers could be so busy looking at the monitor (as I was) to see what’s directly behind the vehicle, they will ignore vehicles approaching from either side.

The 403-hp Vortec 6.2-liter V8 with VVT mated to a six-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission cranks out 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. The Escalade is basically an upscale version of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. It’s available as a wagon in standard trim or a long-wheelbase ESV. The Escalade EXT is a crewcab pickup truck that’s similar in design to the Chevrolet Avalanche. EXTs have a folding midgate separating the cab from the cargo bed. Standard-length and ESV wagons seat seven in a 2-2-3 layout, or seat eight with an optional three-person second-row bench. Standard Escalades come in rearwheel or all-wheel-drive versions. Maximum towing capacities for the base wagon is 7,400 lb.

Base price for the AWD version is $58,500. Tack on the V8 luxury collection (DVD/Navigation with six-disc CD/DVD/MP3, rear-view camera, Intellibeam headlights, heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel, second-row-seat power release, 22-in. chromed aluminum wheels, and sunroof) and you’re up to $66,225.

— Patrick G. Mahoney

Cadillac