2013 Cadillac Escalade vs. Infiniti QX56
Now both of these ultra-luxurious and extra, extra large full size SUVs may seem like the pinnacle of politically incorrect conspicuous consumption but in fact is there more to these two V8 powered behemoths than just opulent interiors and a propensity for single digit fuel economy averages? As we came to find out after spending a week in a 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition (truly, the Cadillac of Escalades) and a fully loaded 2013 Infiniti QX56 which is that luxury brands largest SUV making even the new JX seem tinier than Richard Simmons looks on the first day teaching at fat camp.
But at least in the wild urban jungle of Southern California, we found when driving these two very imposingly blinged out and expensive looking SUVs that it was very easy to merge onto the freeway and generally intimidate other drivers. The Escalade, in particular, shocked us not only because we found ourselves really picturing ourselves buying one but also because so many passer-by stopped to tell us how wonderful they thought our admittedly bad-ass looking black on black tester was simply terrific.
Yes, this all happened in Southern California where half the people drive Escalades and the other half drive a Toyota Prius. What’s with all the Escalade love, we wondered? And why didn’t the Infiniti get noticed like the Cadillac? We know our QX56 was white but that shouldn’t have made people notice it about as readily as producers in Hollywood are to give Lindsay Lohan another chance to play Elizabeth Taylor in a movie. Still Ms. Lohan was terrific in “Mean Girls” so like any great Hollywood style comeback, do not count out the 2013 Infiniti QX56 in this comparison test.Exterior Styling
This one is a pretty easy win for our black on black Platinum Edition Escalade. Although Escalades are a common sight on roads in and around Orange County, California where this road test took place, we were continuously stopped by passers-by complementing us on our large and in-charge blinged out SUV. It also just so happened to be the vehicle that had more of our friends wanting rides in than any other vehicle we road tested all year. That all comes down to its awesome road presence.
The 2013 Infiniti QX56 is an attractive, if a little hefty and chunky looking full size SUV. It looks a bit like it has been eating a non-stop diet of Double Stuff Oreos as the sides are more bulbous and flabby than the slab sided Escalade. We also found the front end design and grille to be awkward looking whereas the front of the Escalade just looked bad-ass. The Infiniti’s white exterior color didn’t help matters. (Winner: 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition)Interior Luxury, Design and Layout
We took both of these ultra-full size SUVs on extended road trips so we became well acquainted with the special nature of both of their interiors. The Escalade had a black interior replete with incredibly classy and high quality chrome trim balanced out with some of the richest looking Olive Ash and Burled Walnut trim that we have ever seen in any luxury car. It truly helped, in addition to the ultra-soft analine leather seats that come standard with the top of the line Platinum Edition.
As one would expect with vehicles of this size, both the Infinti and Cadillac had no problem handling 7 full size adults in stretch out and relax comfort. Even third row passengers are treated to plenty of rear legroom which is not something you can say of many three row SUVs. So if you do have a very, very large family that likes lots of luxuries in their rides then both of these SUVs could easily fit the bill. One word of advice about the interior of our QX56 which was a light cream color is that we think it could very easily be difficult to maintain its clean look especially if you have messy children. And no matter how much money you have, all kids make messes.
As far as cargo hauling is concerned, the only drawback to the Escalade is the fact that the third row of seats do not fold flat into the floor as they do in the Infiniti. They actually have to be removed and put somewhere in order to get a fully flat cargo floor in the back of the Cadillac. But then again, our Infiniti came with second row captain’s chairs that also didn’t fold completely flat. With the second and third row seats folded the Infiniti can hold 95.1 cubic feet of cargo space whereas the regular Escalade about matches that. But keep in mind you can get a longer ESV version of the Escalade that maxes out with 143 cubic feet of cargo holding ability.
Our favorite features in the 2013 Infiniti QX56 were the second row captain’s chairs that were not only very comfortable but were also foldable via a front dashboard mounted button so entry into the third row could be granted from the driver’s seat. So no need to get out in the rain. The quality of the leather matched that of the Cadillac but the wood trim had a fake and glossy sheen that cheapened it in our eyes compared to the Escalade Platinum. In short, the Infiniti had a lovely luxury feel to the interior but it lacked the overall sense of occasion offered by the Cadillac. (Winner: 2013 Cadillac Platinum Edition)Luxury Features, Pricing and Value
Okay, when you are talking about big SUVs that sticker for around $75,000 (our loaded QX56) to a little over $80,000 (for our ultra-premium Platinum Edition), for most of us the term “value” flies right outside the window. These are not vehicles bought to help the family economize as they are both symbols of the most deliciously decadent style of conspicuous consumption. Sure, they are both very useful but they just have more tricks and looker just that much cooler than they need to. Kind of like a Hollywood celebrity.
The base price for the QX56 is $61,800 (ironically comparable to a non-Platinum Edition Escalade) but our came with four essential option packs starting with 22-inch chrome wheels (small = bad!) for $2,300, a $2,900 rear seat DVD entertainment system with two screens to help entertain the kids, a $4,100 Deluxe Touring Package (and it made touring much more “deluxe” indeed) then added upgraded semi-aniline leather, heated and cooled front seats, headlamp washers, an advanced Climate Control System that tries to keep out pollution and allergens as well as a hydraulic body motion control system which worked so well we never knew it was there. And we never felt like we were riding on a whale’s back so we assume it works!
The final package is full of safety and tech features with such long names we had to start a whole new paragraph just to squeeze it all in. The $3,000 Technology Package comes with a number of handy safety gadgets that we explain in greater detail in the “safety” sub-section but as with any SUV this size be glad it has Blind Spot Warning Assist and Prevention that steers you away from an impact with another vehicle, intelligent cruise control, a lane departure and rear ending prevention system as well as a crash preparation safety system that helps ensure you are hurt as little as possible if you somehow get around all of the electronic safety aids and hit something. If that happens a lot, you might want to consider a smaller SUV.
You may not be aware of this but Cadillac does pay for all of your maintenance on a 2013 Cadillac Escalade for the first 4 years/50,000 miles you own it. Infiniti does not yet offer such a program. As we mentioned earlier, the interior of the Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition has enough of a sense of occasion that we think it warrants the extra cost if only from a materials quality perspective and the number of over the top luxuries. First off, all Platinum Edition Escalades came with heated and cooled front cupholders that really work even on Big Gulps filled with ice and Diet Coke from 7-11. In addition the front grille and fascia are more imposing, soft leather seems to cover every inch of the interior not covered in wood or chrome and as the finale this Escalade comes with a three screen rear seat DVD entertainment system that can play 3 different movies at once. Yes, if your kids hate each other than this might be your perfect family SUV.Fuel Economy and Safety
Now, we could quote you the EPA fuel economy estimates for these ultra-powerful luxury SUVs but instead we will share the fuel economy we got as tested during our testing. Our 2013 Infiniti QX56 took a long road trip up to Santa Barbara for the launch of the latest Honda Accord and returned 13 miles per gallon on the highway during its best run. On city streets it averaged 8 miles per gallon which is some way off the 14 city/20 highway quoted by the EPA.
Our 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition was a hybrid model but in all honesty that system merely felt like it added a mid-range turbocharger to the gas engine. This model promised 20 city/23 highway but still fell a bit short at 16.8 miles per gallon overall during a week of testing. We must admit, though, that we did become addicted to using the battery pack as a turbocharger and didn’t exactly attempt to hypermile in it.
Oddly enough, considering how long it has been on sale, there was no record with either the NHTSA or the IIHS of ever having performed crash tests for the Infiniti QX56. We don’t know why that is but it doesn’t put our minds at ease exactly. Perhaps this year Infiniti will get one of their admittedly safety advanced full size SUV. For example, when driving the QX on the freeway you can just press the Distance Control Assist button and the car will slow itself down and accelerate based on the distance of traffic ahead.
Also, if you veer out of your lane, the Lane Departure Prevention system steers you back into your lane. On our return drive from Santa Barbara it frankly felt like the QX didn’t need us to do much of anything at all. Except pick out music from the sweet sounding optional Bose Cabin surround sound system with 15 speakers. While the Escalade did require you pay more attention, its stereo was clearly just as high end with crisp and clear tones you never heard from mom’s AC/Delco GM audio unit in that 1984 Buick Electra Estate Wagon whose gas gauge also went from full to empty depending on if you turned left or right.
Nowadays, that GM is long gone even if they still do build big old honking family haulers like the Escalade. Under their most recent more strict scoring guidelines, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition has been tested by the NHTSA and given an overall score of four stars out of five. Now, the reason is quite common among all SUVs and that is lack of roof strength which is important in a rollover crash. The Escalade got five stars in front and side impacts but in the roof test it managed three stars. (Winner: Too Close to Call!)Driving Experience
This section wasn’t quite a fair contest as the QX56 came equipped with a 5.6 liter 400 horsepower/413 lb. feet of torque V8 that made a ferociously addictive growl when called upon to unleash its prodigious power. Really, should a vehicle this large be able to travel at such a tremendous velocity from a stop light? Probably not but we found the engine and 7-speed automatic worked seamlessly all the time so it is possible to drive this gigantic Infiniti SUV in a calm and sedate manner. Both the Cadillac and Infiniti suppress interior noise so kids can sleep on road trips. That is, if they are not busy watching their 3 different movies at once!
We were quite pleasantly surprised, however, by the off the line grunt and mid-range freeway passing power that our test Cadillac Escalade Hybrid offered up without ever making one offensively hybrid-like noise. Actually, we came to enjoy the hybrid motor’s subtle whine to be a sign of turbo like sportiness. Keep in mind that the Escalade Hybrid pumps out about 332 horsepower but we are pretty sure that with the aid of the battery pack (which takes up no discernible space in the cargo area) you will never be left wanting for power.
There is also the option with the Escalade to just order it with the standard burly V8 that is so potent and makes such muscle car rumbles no doubt its kind will be extinct far too soon. Surprisingly, even the Escalade’s steering felt direct and connected to the road which made parking lot maneuvers a bit easier than in the QX56. The Infiniti’s pale tan steering wheel artificially tried to center itself far too fiercely after any slow turns and didn’t encourage fun when the engine got you up to speed. But these aren’t exactly sports cars with their size and height working so hard against them it’s a wonder they stand upright at all when parked.
But if you buy either one of these ultra-luxury SUVs there is nothing we could imagine your heart could still desire when it comes to capabilities, luxury, space, utility, safety features and that ever elusive “star power.” Sadly, even in Los Angeles people look to see if you are famous if you drive a Cadillac Escalade. (Winner: 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition)And the Winner is…
Let’s put it this way. Tony Soprano drove a Cadillac Escalade in the hit TV show “The Sopranos” and you can’t get much more intimidating or bad ass than that guy. Now you may think you have no interest in commanding respect and complements wherever you go but after a week in the Escalade, it was a tough crash to come down into a more common vehicle with far less chrome and nowhere near the attitude. (Winner: 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition)