When we visited Thompson Buick GMC in Raleigh, North Carolina, our day started off on a high note. The dealership was pristine, and the staff was welcoming and down-to-earth. As positive as our first impression was, it was only a sign of the highlight to come: our test drive in a 2016 Cadillac Escalade.

The Trial: Behind the Wheel of the 2016 Cadillac Escalade

Once we were greeted by the owner, we were given a rundown of Thompson’s feature vehicles. I was excited already, but the enthusiasm with which these vehicles were explained only contributed to my eagerness to get behind the wheel. That’s why I was thrilled when we were led out front to await the arrival of our respective vehicles.


As our sales consultant pulled the black 2016 Escalade ESV around, I was struck by its bold yet sophisticated look. The full-size SUV spoke for itself, but the consultant had plenty to say about it, too. Among other perks, the 4WD Platinum model in front of us included a power sunroof, two rows of captain’s chair-seating, and 22” X 9” premium painted wheels with chrome inserts.

I approached the Escalade ESV for a closer look. The sheer size was a sight to behold, but every turn and curve of this SUV screamed luxury — from the unmistakably sharp Cadillac grille to the pop-out chrome running boards. Once the doors were opened, my already lofty expectations of a refined and spacious cabin were surpassed by three rows of seating. The fact that they could be folded at the push of a button was a nifty trick, too.

At this point, I’d seen enough. I was ready to get behind the wheel.


I wanted to see if the Escalade ESV felt as comfortable as it looked — and I was not disappointed. The front bucket seats were leather-appointed, which was agreeable enough. But the push of a button on the center console activated a cooling mechanism tailor-made for the muggy day outside.

Once settled in, I noticed two cameras. The first one, displayed on the center console’s 8” touchscreen, was something I expected. But the second one was unlike anything I’d seen before: a rearview monitor situated within the rearview mirror itself. Since the camera is outside of the car, the view was clear, wide, and unobstructed by headrests or passengers.

While I was busy testing out the features up front, my passengers were enjoying the lavish seating and tech amenities in the back, like five DVD players with sharp resolution. Though the Escalade ESV seats up to seven comfortably, I had four passengers. And each of them was as ready to pull off of the lot as I was.

No key was necessary. With the push of a button, we were on our way.

Backing up was a breeze with the Escalade ESV’s rearview camera. With a blinking red safety icon, the Rear Cross Traffic Alert system warned me of a passing vehicle. Once I put the Escalade ESV in Drive, its high seating position allowed for optimal visibility as I drove around the lot and turned onto Wake Forest Road.


The first thing I noticed about the 2016 Escalade ESV’s road manners was the handling – a stark contrast from the sluggishness associated with some full-sized SUVs. Steering through mid-morning traffic was smooth and fluid, and with Brake Assist, stopping felt even and seamless.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t itching to test the Escalade ESV’s power.

It wasn’t until we hopped on the interstate that I was able to get my wish — and it was more than I could have hoped for. The Escalade ESV’s 420-horsepower Vortec® V8 engine packed an even bigger punch than I anticipated. With fairly effortless and lag-free acceleration, I was surprised at how quickly the SUV goes from zero to 60. And with Active Noise Cancellation technology, the ride stayed quiet and composed even at top speed.


Thanks to the Side Blind Zone Alert located on the side-view mirror, I was able to exit the interstate worry free. On the way back to the dealership, we got the opportunity to check out some of the Escalade ESV features that we’d read about. My second and third-row passengers enjoyed plenty of legroom while my front-side companion experienced the luxury of two-mode massaged seating.

But that’s not all we enjoyed. Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ allowed for integrated projection on the center console’s touchscreen. The Escalade ESV’s touchscreen interface was replaced with the apps from our phones – making jamming out to “Star Boy” (and hearing it through 16 speakers) all the more fun.

As we returned to Thompson, I realized that I had forgotten to try out a significant feature: the much-talked-about Head-Up Display. By pressing the HUD button on the dash to the left of the steering wheel, I was able to project information onto the windshield. By pushing the INFO button, I was able to alternate between radio, speedometer, and tachometer.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to hand over the keys to the sales consultant when my test drive was over.

The Verdict

The 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV’s combination of elegance, power, and surprising finesse was enough to get a thumbs up from this driver. And with a one-of-a-kind presence, I would give the Escalade an enthusiastic endorsement for any shopper in the luxury SUV market.

While my test drive is over, the folks at Thompson Buick GMC have made a lasting impression on me with their top-notch customer service and full inventory of great new and used vehicles. I appreciate the courtesy and professionalism they extended in inviting me back, and I’m excited to take them up on that.

But there’s no invitation necessary for you to schedule a test drive. Contact them online or give them a call at (919) 926-7680 to set yours up today.