Much like Tiffany & Co. is the mainstream high-end jeweler to the masses, Cadillac is the high-end automaker to the select crowd who is looking for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Known for its specialized powerplants, ride quality, and elegant interiors, Cadillac is a moniker that embraces its heritage each year with new and exciting platforms. None was more eagerly anticipated than the new '07 Escalade. With it's new 6.2L V-8 creating 403 hp, a smooth shifting six-speed auto, and redesigned body, the Escalade is the new hot luxury SUV that Cadillac promised it would be. Our questions of materials used, drivetrain performance, and overall build quality was quickly answered when we took delivery of a long-term EXT and were told to drive the wheels off. Here goes everything!

Initially, our first impression was the body fit and finish was superb and much improved over the previous Escalade. Months later, we still agree with our assessment. With the exterior panel's tolerances less than 4mm and the interior fit and finished within 1mm, each piece of the overall puzzle fits better than expected. The redesigned one-piece front bumper and grille add not only to the good looks, but also to the .36 coefficient of drag the new Escalade earned. Nice looks will only get you so far in life; however, entertainment and its performance-oriented driving experience is where the new EXT shines.

Sharing a similar platform with the already-improved '07 Chevy Avalanche, Cadillac went one step further and recalibrated the suspension by using tuned shocks, a new rack-and-pinion steering, and a five-link rear setup using air shocks. The end result of those improvements-along with adding technologies such as StabiliTrak and an AWD drivetrain-the EXT rides and performs better than any half-ton truck we've driven. There is no typical rearend bouncing on the freeway and the Cadillac has cornering ability not usually found on a stock truck. And the EXT is a truck, unlike its Lincoln Mark LT competition. In addition, the Cadillac can also be converted from a truck with a small 5'3" bed to a longbed-like 8'1" bed, all while being covered by the EXT's three-piece rigid tonneau system. This versatility surprisingly doesn't hamper the ride experience. As we found hauling a bed frame with the midgate opened, the new '07 Cadillac uses considerably more sound-deadening material throughout the cabin to ensure a quiet ride, with or without added cargo.

The cabin is where you spend your time, and while driving the Escalade EXT, we spent it wrapped in luxury. Heated and air-conditioned upgraded leather seats, heated woodgrain and a leather steering wheel, a huge 8-inch in-dash DVD and navigation touchscreen head unit, and a backup camera are just a few of the newly updated improvements to the interior. Other accoutrements inside include an 8-inch flip-down monitor with noise-canceling headphones for the rear-seat passengers, a sunroof, power-folding mirrors-and new for '07: a Bose 5.1 surround-sound system for the ultimate in movies on-the-go.

Add to that list of features a pair of HID headlights, power-retractable running boards, a power-locking tailgate, and the aforementioned 6.2L with its 417 lb-ft of torque, and you have a home run, right? Yes, without question. Getting to the big leagues comes with a cost; the fully-loaded EXT costs $64,025. That large chunk of change doesn't include the added cost of filling up the tank with premium fuel and during our first road test we received 13.8 miles to the gallon. Not bad, considering the added performance; but not the best, given the new six-speed tranny. The only other areas of concern are the absense of an MP3 jack and the lack of a light under the hood, although we don't expect most owners to be working on the 6.2L

Overall, if each editor chipped in and paid monthly payments, we could rotate riding around in the world's most luxurious truck. Until then, we'll start saving as the Escalade EXT is worth the price you pay for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Check out next month's '07 Cadillac Escalade EXT update as we add new wheels and tires from Cadillac Genuine Accessories and GM Performance Parts.This is part one of a five-part series where we'll show you how using only Genuine Cadillac Accessories and GM Performance Parts, we turn our '07 Cadillac Escalade EXT from a run-of-the-mill Caddy into a bon-a-fide Truckin' ride.

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