I HATE This Luxury SUV We Just Bought, But YOU Should Absolutely Get One!

Meet the pinnacle of early 2000s American luxury

We just bought this luxury SUV — Cadillac Escalade
(Images: TFL Studios)

We bought a 2003 Cadillac Escalade for an upcoming TFL Studio series featuring huge SUVs.

The Escalade is exactly that – and a whole lot more.

Despite the dreadful used-car/truck market we’re all dealing with, our team had to find large three large SUV land-yachts for an upcoming special series. The 2003 Cadillac Escalade more than qualifies, but it takes it up a notch. The Cadillac Escalade has been built in Arlington, Texas since 1998, and it was an immediate hit. Over half a million Cadillac Escalades have been sold in North America. 2021 was its best year with over 40,000 units sold in the United States alone.

The 2003 Cadillac Escalade we purchased is the second generation, and is far more refined than the first model. Sure, the Escalade is a Tahoe with lipstick, but there’s a little more to it. For one thing, GM grabbed every luxury item that was in Cadillac’s parts bin to fill the Escalade. That means the nicest seats, upholstery, carpets, plastics, woods (often plastic too) and electronic-filled Escalades. They also spent some serious time dialing in the ride quality, which is a serious match for anything Bentley built at the time. It just wafts you around on a cloud of indifference and opulence.

We just bought this luxury SUV — Cadillac Escalade

This luxury SUV has power, but it’s missing something…

Our ’03 ‘Sclade comes with the 6.0-liter V8, which is arguably one of the most robust of GM’s engines in the early 2000s. It made 345 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, which isn’t too shabby for a nearly 6,000-pound vehicle. At the time, as long as you had all-wheel drive (AWD), you got the 6.0-liter standard. Rear drive versions got a weaker 5.3-liter V8.

The GMT820 platform could handle a full off-road-ready 4×4 system, but Cadillac had other ideas. The only way you can get four-wheel grip is with an AWD system. Using an open center differential in the transfer case, 60% of the power goes to the rear wheels, and 40-percent of the power goes up front. This is not a system built for serious off-roading, and the AWD system is happiest on (dry) pavement.  

We all agree, the 2003 Cadillac Escalade is way over the top, but it’s also an endearing beast with one of the most pleasing rides you can find. The question is: will it be able to handle what TFL Studios has in mind?

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.