$12,414 - $26,946

2009 Cadillac Escalade Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Cadillac Escalade was new.


Performance: 8.7

Test drivers find the 2009 Cadillac Escalade to be an able performer that offers a smooth ride, V8 power and handling in line with its size.

The Escalade comes standard with a V8 engine, rear wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission that is popular with reviewers. A wide stance and auto-sensing suspension keep the ride smooth, but during test drives reviewers noticed the Escalade's size means the SUV demands the driver's attention. Despite the Escalade's size and the extra attention it requires, Cadillac engineers have done their best to make driving it as easy as possible.

  • "Aimed for the horizon on an interstate, there aren't many better cruisers." -- Edmunds
  • "While it looks as big as a tank, the Escalade is actually pretty easy to drive, and you quickly become comfortable behind the wheel." -- The Sacramento Bee
  • "The ride was velvet-smooth, even sitting high in almost three tons of car." -- Boston Globe

Acceleration and Power

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade comes with a 6.2-liter Vortec V8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Most reviewers agree and note that though this is the same engine in the GMC Denali, it has been tuned to make more horsepower in the Escalade. All of that power gets put to good use. The only major complaint about the Escalade's power plant is the gas mileage. The Cadillac Escalade gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 12 miles per gallon in the city and 19 miles per gallon on the highway for the 2WD model, and 12/18 city/highway for the 4WD model.

  • "The 2009 Cadillac Escalade is eerily quick for such a heavy vehicle -- that's what 403 hp will do for you." -- Edmunds
  • "A Pontiac Solstice, which tips the scales with under half as many pounds, isn't even as quick." -- Motor Trend
  • The transmission "shifts imperceptibly except during full-throttle acceleration." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "If a person can afford a loaded Escalade with a $65,000 sticker, the price of fuel is probably not going to be an issue, not even at $3 a gallon. That's why I'm not afraid to recommend this." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

For such a large and heavy SUV, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade handles well. The ride is enhanced by a road sensing suspension that uses a computer to give real-time dampening of bumps and ruts. Though the base Escalade is rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive models are available. Reviewers agreed that all wheel drive increased the Escalade's handling abilities, and that the extra-long wheel base of the ESV made for an even smoother ride. Handling is further impacted by optional 22-inch tires and wheels. Though reviewers think the large chrome wheels make a great fashion statement, despite Cadillac's best efforts, the sheer size of the wheels negatively impacts handling. The Escalade offers plenty of braking power for secure and controlled stops, a major concern in an SUV this large.

  • "The Escalade irons out unruly patches of pavement without resorting to the mushy suspension tuning that still afflicts so many big SUVs, and the steering actually lets the driver know what's going on." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 'Slade isn't the sportiest SUV around, but its handling is surprisingly well sorted given its humble beginnings as a GM truck. Thanks to a relatively tight 39-foot turning circle, parking is easier than you might expect; however, the Escalade's massive measurements mean that maneuvering in tight spots is still nerve-wracking, even with the optional rearview camera." -- Edmunds
  • "The Escalade is by no means a spirited handler, but body roll is minimal, and even with the dubs, rough pavement is taken in stride." -- CNET
  • "Strong brakes have reassuringly firm pedal feel, but fast stops trigger lots of nosedive." -- Consumer Guide


While few reviewers had a chance to hook a trailer up to their Escalades, many noted that the Escalade can handle pulling heavy loads. A manual shift mode on the transmission allows drivers to better control their loads.

  • The manual shift mode "will be a useful feature for those who do heavy towing and want to do their own shifting." -- Boston Globe
  • "It takes nearly a second-and-a-half from the time you tell it to shift before it finally obeys the command. I suppose this manual mode is not for sporting purposes, rather one might need it more for towing." -- The Auto Channel
  • "The Escalade gets such poor fuel economy with a trailer behind it for the same reasons it performs so well at the same task. . . In tow-and-haul mode, the six-speed automatic delays upshifts to make the most of the power band and downshifts early to maximize engine braking. Although it guzzles fuel, the 6.2-liter V-8's 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque feel as if they could tug a welterweight Caterham or two on top of the Slade's 7700-pound tow rating." -- Car and Driver

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