Following the old adage, "numbers don't lie," many an automotive journalist has succumbed to ink on paper determining an overall victor in a car comparison. However, data and statistics are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to driving impressions, features, value, warranty, and quality. Don't get us wrong, we're data junkies, and we can comb over the most minute difference, but we know there is more to a car than simply which is the fastest, gets the most MPG, and has the most shoulder room.
With this in mind, we set out to compare two unlikely direct competitors, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Premium and the Infiniti QX56 with the Technology Package. With an as-tested price difference of only $120, these two luxury fullsize SUVs are targeting the exact same wealthy demographic, but the comparisons don't stop at the price and audience. Both big SUVs feature powerful V-8s, AWD, seating for up to eight, 22-inch alloy wheels, and styling that can easily be described as elegant if not avant-garde. A quick glance at the statistics will show the Infiniti edges the Cadillac in 0-60 times, MPG, tow rating, warranty coverage, and included technologies. However, as we mentioned, the driving experience, possibly even more so the "when you arrive" experience is just as important to the success of these $75,000 SUVs. The answer to who did it best may just change your mind on luxury class dominance.
Infinti QX56 With Technology Package
If the Escalade is the "Look at me, I've arrived" SUV, the Infiniti is the "Look at me, I've done my research" SUV. Value may not be the best word choice when the as-tested price is $75K, but for your hard-earned dollar, the QX56 packs a punch that easily knocks out the Escalade. For instance, the list of safety features found on the Infiniti that is not found on the Cadillac includes Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, Around View monitor with front and rear sonar, and Adaptive Front lighting system (ideal when towing). In short, for Cadillac money, you get technologies typically found on six-figure Mercedes-Benz SUVs.
One minute sitting inside the QX56 will make you appreciate the modern materials, quality textures, and a design that is both logical and attractive. A lack of hard, cheap plastics make the Infiniti the clear luxury winner when compared to the Escalade. Add to that the QX's powered third-row seats, superior sounding 15-speaker Bose audio system, and elegant gauges, and what you have is a premium SUV that simply outclasses the equally-priced Caddy.
With the smooth DOHC V-8 powering all four wheels, the QX56 feels lighter on its feet and is considerably more entertaining when the road isn't completely straight. Steering is surprisingly accurate, shifts are precise, and with the Hydraulic Body Motion Control system, the big Infiniti doesn't feel like a 5,850-pound barge—it feels like a luxury sedan that, by the way, can tow an incredible 8,500 pounds.
Exterior styling received mix reviews, with some editors using descriptions like "beluga whale," but we do absolutely appreciate the fresh sheetmetal, arched fenders, and the forged 22-inch wheels.
It may not make the huge initial impression the Escalade does, but without question the Infiniti rides better, is better appointed, and is packed with more safety features than the Escalade. And for that, we say move over bling king, there's a new gold standard in the fullsize SUV market.
Base Price: $61,800
Price as Tested: $75,340
Type: 5.6L DOHC V-8
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Horsepower: 400 at 5,800 rpm
Torque: 416 at 4,000 rpm
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded
Layout: Front engine, AWD
Transmission: Seven-speed auto
Brakes: 13.8-inch front/ 13.8 rear disc
Wheels: 22x8-inch forged aluminum
Tires: 275/50R22 Bridgestone Dueler H/T
Tow Capacity: 8,500 lbs
0-60: 6.1 seconds
¼-mile: 14.7 @ 94 mph
60-0: 132 feet
Observed Gas Mileage: 15.7
2013 Cadillac Escalade Premium
Long heralded as the preferred arrival statement of athletes, entertainers, and businessmen alike, the Escalade has led the fullsize luxury SUV market with its unique frontend design, perceived elegant interior, and infamous Cadillac ride. Entering 2013, the Escalade is mostly unchanged, with the exception of a few more options available such as Magnetic Ride Control and LED headlamps on Platinum models. GM's flagship 6.2L V-8 continues to power the 5,718-pound SUV. With an aftermarket-like rumble, the 376ci V-8 produces 403 hp and helps propel the Caddy to 0-60 mph times of 6.9 seconds.
To truly be called a luxury vehicle, the interior must stand out against its competition, and it's in this key category where the Escalade is outclassed. Despite features like a heated woodgrain steering wheel, cooled and heated seats, backup camera, and Bose 5.1 surround sound, once you're inside the Escalade, the interior immediately looks dated. Unchanged for seven years, the Cadillac's overall design and quality of materials don't equal the Infiniti's interior, and quite frankly, look like a dressed up Tahoe rather than a $75K premium people hauler.
Bringing more bling into 2013, LED headlamps, chrome wheels, and chrome exhaust tips are all part of the Escalade Premium's design. However, the sheetmetal is just as old as the interior and you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish this model apart from a 2007-2012 Cadillac. More chrome doesn't equal more luxury in the case of this SUV.
Behind the wheel, the Escalade cruises with grace expected from a Cadillac, but try and push the nearly three-ton beast and the steering wheel loses feel, with constant corrections being the norm on freeways and canyon roads. Designed for comfort, the Escalade is definitely not the driver's SUV, as it's happiest just cruising.
If making a statement is more important than enjoying the latest safety features, premium interior materials, and actual driving pleasure, then the Escalade is your vehicle of choice. For our money, however, we'll look elsewhere.
Base Price: $74,225
Price as Tested: $75,220
Type: 6.2L OHV V-8
Displacement: 376 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Horsepower: 403 at 5,700 rpm
Torque: 417 at 4,300 rpm
Recommended Fuel: Regular Unleaded
Layout: Front engine, AWD
Transmission: Six-speed auto 6L80E
Brakes: 13-inch front/ 13.5 rear disc
Tires: 285/45R22 Bridgestone Dueler H/T
Tow Capacity: 8,100 lbs
0-60: 6.9 seconds
¼-mile: 15.2 at 93 mph
60-0: 129 feet
Observed Gas Mileage: 14.4