Premium large SUV; Built in USA, Mexico
  • 4-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • crew cab
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $9,000 – $20,000*

2002 Cadillac Escalade

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT

2003 Cadillac Escalade

2004 Cadillac Escalade interior

2004 Cadillac Escalade

  • Acceleration
  • Cargo room
  • Passenger room
  • Quietness
  • Trailer-towing capability
  • Entry/exit
  • Fuel economy
  • Steering feel

Interior detail execution and steering feel aren’t up to the Escalade’s price level, but both the regular model and the EXT have plenty of power and, if so equipped, no-fuss all-wheel drive. Styling exudes serious “attitude,” which can be either a bonus or an obstacle, depending on your personal tastes. The EXT’s midgate design can be versatile, but its advantages are available for less money in the Avalanche. An ESV provides more for the money, and feels more refined than Lincoln’s comparably-sized Navigator.


Cadillac’s Escalade came as a luxury full-size sport-utility vehicle and as a crossover SUV/pickup called the EXT. Escalade SUVs shared a platform with GM’s other full-size SUVs–the GMC Yukon/Denali and Chevrolet Tahoe–but had more power and unique appointments. The EXT was essentially a similarly embellished version of the Chevrolet Avalanche pickup.

Each version had standard front side airbags, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, Cadillac’s automatic-adjusting road-sensing suspension. All models rode on 17-inch alloy wheels, and featured rear-obstacle-warning and OnStar assistance systems.

The basic Escalade SUV seated up to eight and could have rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (without low-range gearing). AWD Escalades used a 6.0-liter V8 and could tow up to 8500 pounds. Rear-drive models held a 5.3-liter V8 and could haul 7700 pounds.

The EXT was a four-door crew cab with a “midgate” separating the cab from the cargo bed. The rear window removed and the midgate folded along with the rear seat, to extend the bed from 5.3 feet to 8.1 feet. The EXT seated five with its midgate upright, but just two with the midgate folded. The EXT came only with AWD and the 6.0 V8: towing capacity was 8000 pounds.

AWD versions of all Escalades had antiskid control. Competitors included the Lexus LX 470, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Lincoln Navigator.

Yearly Updates

2003 Cadillac Escalade
Cadillac’s luxury SUV wagon gained an extended-length companion for 2003. Essentially the size of a Chevrolet Suburban, the Escalade ESV joined the regular, Chevrolet Tahoe-length Escalade in early 2003. Both were stablemates of the Escalade EXT crossover SUV/pickup truck. New for all three this year were standard power-adjustable gas and brake pedals, and (for wagons) optional second-row bucket seats.
The new ESV added 22 inches to the overall length of the regular Escalade, primarily as cargo space behind the third-row seat.
Both SUVs seated eight, or seven with the newly available second-row buckets in place of the standard three-person bench.
Regular-length Escalades came with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (without low-range gearing). The ESV came only with all-wheel drive.
New power-adjustable pedals were tied to the standard seat-memory system. A new option for all models was XM satellite radio, which offered local programming plus 100 exclusive channels for a monthly fee.
2004 Cadillac Escalade
Satellite radio, a tire-pressure monitor and a trailering package became standard on 2004 models. A new Platinum Edition of the ESV features a navigation system, 20-inch chrome alloy wheels and special appearance touches. Other models rode on 17-inch alloy wheels.
2005 Cadillac Escalade
Changes for ’05 include a restyled gauge cluster, new interior trim, upgraded cooling system, and standard chrome exhaust tips. Also, the available navigation system replaces a joystick control with a touch screen.
2006 Cadillac Escalade
No significant changes for the 2006 Escalade.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Two-wheel-drive Escalades used a 5.3-liter V8 engine that produces 285 horsepower, while AWD version and the EXT SUV/pickup held a 345-horsepower, 6.0-liter V8. All models used a four-speed automatic transmission.

ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.3/327
Engine HP 285
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 325
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


ohv V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 6.0/366
Engine HP 345
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 380
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

Escalades deliver ample punch when accelerating, despite occasional transmission indecision in full-throttle downshifts. Cadillac said the 6.0-liter Escalade SUVs could accelerate to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds. The rear-drive 5.3-liter version takes 9.5 seconds. An EXT weighs only slightly less, and shares the 6.0-liter’s acceleration feel.

Fuel economy is less appealing. Test regular-length AWD SUVs have averaged 13.7 to 15.6 mpg, in city/highway driving, but a meager 12.6 mpg in all-city use. Similarly, a test EXT averaged 15.7 mpg in primarily highway work, 11.2 in the city. An ESV managed 14.9 mpg overall. Cadillac recommends regular-grade fuel for the 5.3-liter engine and premium for the 6.0.

Although the ride is mostly absorbent, an Escalade becomes wallowy at times and is always obviously trucklike. Ride quality improves as weight is added, and is better with the longer ESV. Standard rear-leveling suspension is a benefit.

Steering/handling is ponderous in all but gentle cornering, and an Escalade responds slowly to steering inputs. Steering itself is light and vague, demanding fatiguing attention on the highway. Brakes feel spongy but have adequate power, though don’t expect quick, short stops.

Quietness is a virtue, with fine isolation from wind, road and engine noise. Removing the EXT’s rear window or dropping the midgate increases noise levels, but not enough to be troublesome.

Instruments/controls are well arranged on a dashboard that shares its layout with Chevrolet/GMC versions, but Cadillacs get classier-looking instrumentation. Interior decor is the plushest of any GM SUV, but plastic trim, generic controls, and fit and finish keep it well below import-brand levels.

Front occupants get plenty of front head and leg room, plus vast shoulder width. Plush seats have fold-down armrests.

Although the Escalade delivers a commanding road view, small nearby objects are hidden. The helpful audio/visual rear-obstacle system warns of unseen objects when backing up.

There’s ample room for three adults in the second row on comfortable, heated seats. In regular-length SUVs, the third row is for pre-teens, and shockingly narrow doorway bottoms hamper egress. The ESV back seat is roomy, but no easier to access. All models suffer a lofty step-in to the rear areas.

Unlike the ESV, the standard Escalade has little space behind the third row. However, the seat folds for extra room and removes fairly easily to open up a vast cargo area–especially with the second-row seat folded. An EXT hauls what most big pickups can, though the rear bench seat is sacrificed to bulky or long loads. Folding the midgate is no major chore, though quicker with two people.


Model Tested: 2002 Cadillac Escalade (AWD)

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 2
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 9
Room/Comfort Rear - 8
Cargo Room - 9


Value - 3

Total: 58


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
116.0 198.9 78.9 74.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
138.4 26.0 8
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.7 39.0 41.3 39.1
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
130.0 219.3 78.9 75.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
131.6 31.0 8
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.7 39.0 41.3 39.1
crew cab
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
131.0 221.4 79.5 75.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
30.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.7 38.6 41.3 38.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: An air conditioning line may interfere with and damage the wiring for the right front shock absorber triggering the check ride control light. (2002-03)
Blower motor
Description: Blower may not operate or may run on with key off requiring revised blower motor control module. (2003-05)
Ignition switch
Description: The transmission may get stuck in third gear and the instrument panel may stop working due to failure of the ignition switch. (2002)
Oil consumption
Description: Excessive oil consumption is controlled by replacing the original PCV valve with a redesigned valve that has a restriction. (2002)
Description: Squeaks and rattles may develop from the front end because the shock absorber plastic bushings wear out.

Recall History

2000-04 EXT
Description: The tailgate support cables may corrode, resulting in the sudden loss of the tailgate. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Certain rear-folding head restraints may have been constructed to allow fingers to get pinched if inserted. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Due to out-of-spec welding, side doors may not hold up as well as they should in a side impact crash. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: AWD vehicles may have a faulty power steering bracket, resulting in a possible short to the power steering. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Certain vehicles may have been produced with an out-of-specification brake relief valve, making steering difficult when braking. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Due to a production error, brake valves may have a fractured O-ring seal, requiring the driver to have to apply more pressure to brake. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Seatbelt routing for second-row center occupant may make it difficult to position the lap portion of the belt low around the occupant’s hips.
Description: Under certain vehicle-starting conditions, automatic-transmission shift lever indicator in instrument panel may not illuminate.
2006 Escalade
Description: During extreme steering maneuvers, the power steering hose on some cars may fracture and leak fluid, causing loss of power assistance and increased steering effort.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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