Questions abound about the new Escalade, which is built on GM's new GMT-900 platform (as are the new Tahoe, Yukon, Denali, Suburban, and Avalanche). Will this Escalade platform sell as well as its predecessor? Will it become the vehicle to be customized in the future as the past Escalade was? Only time and unit sales will tell. I can tell you that the week I lived in this brand-new vehicle, I had both good and very bad impressions.

First, the bad: While this vehicle, I am sure, will impress many (and it is very nice), I personally cannot see or justify the $66K purchase price. The material and construction weren't quite up to the level of the new Audi Q7, for example, which sells for a similar price.

Once the Escalade was delivered, I noticed right off the bat that the rear lift gate wasn't power-operated. Funny, I remembered the Cadillac marketing team demonstrating the powered gate on another Escalade. Upon further inspection, I discovered that there is an electric motor for the gate and that it was working but not properly engaging. Chalk that up to being a somewhat abused press vehicle, I said. The vehicle came equipped with a second row of bucket seats, nicely apportioned and powered - the dual switches fit to the headliner, so these can be flipped out and back at the touch of a button. Guess what...neither switch worked as designed. Chalk it up to being an abused press fleet vehicle...again? Do these two things make me not want to ever purchase the '07 Escalade? Well, not personally, but I will say, abused or not, this vehicle came to us with roughly 7,000 miles on it and probably shouldn't have had these kinds of mechanical problems.

Another area where Cadillac entirely missed the boat is the folding rear third row of seats. Unlike the Ford Expedition or more luxurious Lincoln Navigator, whose third row of seats folds flat into the floor, the new '07 Escalade seats still have to be physically removed from the vehicle if you do not plan on utilizing them. Poor design move.

Now the good: I love the front-end treatment Cadillac has designed into the grille. By painting the recesses of the chrome grille, it makes the egg crate look more three-dimensional and the crown jewel it was intended to be. Also, I simply love the fact the design engineers finally got it right after all these years of attempting to compete with European auto manufacturers, who use black as their primary base colors both on the exterior and interior. Yes, finally a GM vehicle with a black interior - black leather for that matter. However, the one drawback, and again something GM still hasn't properly addressed, is that the black leather is only on the seating surfaces. So the sides of the seats, armrests (if there are any), and headrests are still vinyl, with the vinyl grain being as closely matched to the leather seating surfaces as possible. But, again, a major faux pas if GM or Cadillac are making an attempt to compete with the equally and comparably priced and equipped high-end SUVs. Our Escalade came loaded to the gills with nearly $9K in options, including 22-inch wheels and tires that some automotive journalists will complain ride harshly. But from my perspective, the 22-inch wheels actually help the overall appearance and handling.

Cadillac's new 6.2L V-8 makes 403 hp and will leave many a Lincoln Navigator owner quaking and wondering what in the hell just passed them and looked so good doing it. Simply put, this engine and six-speed automatic transmission are perfectly mated to this platform. Too bad that engine isn't an option in lesser Tahoe and Yukon models, because that would be the vehicle and engine base of my choice. Standard equipment on the new Escalade includes HID lighting, something I think all vehicles should come with despite the increased price; it's worth it for nighttime driving. All-wheel drive and StabiliTrak stability control make driving with the 22s that much more enjoyable. Drowning out the exterior noise is a standard 5.1 Bose surround sound system.

All in all, my week in the Escalade was enjoyable, with minor quibbles that could have easily been remedied with more time, much of which would have been spent at the dealership having the non-functioning items fixed. The Escalade is supposed to achieve 13 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. Those numbers fall in line with my combination of city and highway miles, since I averaged roughly 15 mpg over nearly 1,000 miles of driving. So if $66K were in your budget for a new fullsize SUV, I would highly recommend the Escalade. It is light-years ahead of its predecessor and really a very nice, comfortable, and fun-to-drive vehicle. Good luck, Cadillac.

Price (as tested)
$65,235 without destination

Engine
6.2L V-8

Horsepower
403@5,700 rpm SAE

Torque (lb-ft)
417@4,300 rpm SAE

Transmission
Six-speed automatic, AWD

Axle Ratio
3.42

Suspension
Independent coilover with stabilizer bar, Road Sensing Suspension real-time adjustable shocks (f); five-link with coil springs and stabilizer bar (r)

Brakes
13-inch rotors (f), 13.5-inch rotors (r), four-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control, rollover mitigation

Wheelbase
116 in

Turning (curb-to-curb)
39.04 ft

Height
74.3 in

Width
79 in

Curb Weight
5,665 lbs

Max Trailer Weight
7,700 lbs

Payload
1,435 lbs

Interior Cargo
108.9 cu ft (behind 1st row, 2nd row folded, no 3rd row); 60.3 cu ft (behind 2nd row, no 3rd row); 16.9 cu ft (behind 3rd row)

Seating
2/2/3

MPG
13/19 EPA