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Battle of Luxurious Dinosaurs
By Mike Schlee

Not so long ago, lumbering body-on-frame SUVs roamed the streets with an unquenchable thirst for gasoline and chrome.

Amongst these prehistoric beasts, the Cadillac Escalade was Tyrannosaurus Rex, perched atop a throne made of motoring luxury, space and excess. For 2015 there is an all-new ‘Slade looking to continue its reign as King of the big American luxury SUV.

But there’s always been one key rival trying to overthrow the Escalade since 1997, the Lincoln Navigator. It too has received substantial updates for the 2015 model, but are they enough to dethrone the Escalade?

Similarities Abound, Differences Poke Through

On the surface the Escalade and Navigator are fairly similar. Both can be had in two body styles, as either the smaller Navigator and Escalade, or the larger Navigator L and Escalade ESV. The two SUVs can seat up to eight passengers, come with DVD entertainment systems, two or four wheel drive and 460 lb-ft. or torque.

But the way that torque number is achieved by very different means. While the Cadillac continues to use a big 6.2-liter V8, Lincoln installed the widely popular 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 in the Navigator. Even though the torque ratings between the two engines are the same, the Navigator’s is available at lower RPM. On the road, this low-end torque advantage is noticeable as the Navigator pulls effortlessly at any speed, even with an extra 200 lbs. to carry around compared to the Escalade.

Once speeds climb, the 40 extra horsepower produced by the Escalade’s V8 begins to be felt. And when it comes to sound there’s no contest; the 6.2-liter is much more pleasant to the ears. If you plan to tow though, the Lincoln has a distinct advantage because rear-wheel drive models are rated to tow 9,000 lbs., or almost 1,000 lbs. more than the Cadillac.

Fuel economy is pretty close between the two as well. Official ratings are pegged at 14 MPG city and 21 MPG highway for an all-wheel drive regular length Escalade. By comparison, the all-wheel drive standard length Navigator drops one mile per gallon on the highway, but gains one in city driving. When we did a real-world fuel cycle loop, the cylinder deactivation on the Escalade helped secure it a slightly more attractive 15.6 MPG average compared to the Lincoln’s 15.2 MPG. And, that was with the larger Escalade ESV against a regular wheelbase Navigator. Had the two SUVs been the same length, we figure the observed fuel economy gap would have increased.
For more on this comparison of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade vs. 2015 Lincoln Navigator hit up AutoGuide.com.

 

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I never liked the Navigator's greenhouse styling, even when it was new all those years ago. Now it looks even more dated. I'll be interested to see if the Navigator's restyle gives it a material sales bump or not.

Hopefully the Navigator will spur Cadillac to be even better, as now there is a cheaper and ancient vehicle that in some ways is better.
 

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I mean, did anyone expect different?

Navigator is a Yukon Denali fighter as it sits right now. Next generation, you can bet it's going right after the Escalade.
I think the interesting story is how releveant the upates have made the Expy/Gator. While they're not best in class (or at least solidly so), they are IMO still worth a look for those shopping in the segment. Here, the hilarity for me is that the Escalade gets similar, or actually better economy, with its 6.2L than the "Eco"Boost. Maybe with further technologies like cylinder deactivation in the EB V-6 things will change, but I doubt by a whole lot here; I doubt they can run on much less than four cylinders even at speed. Anyway, for me it's a somewhat moot comparison since I would buy neither. The Infiniti or Lexus competition would be my choice all day long.
 

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I think the interesting story is how releveant the upates have made the Expy/Gator. While they're not best in class (or at least solidly so), they are IMO still worth a look for those shopping in the segment. Here, the hilarity for me is that the Escalade gets similar, or actually better economy, with its 6.2L than the "Eco"Boost. Maybe with further technologies like cylinder deactivation in the EB V-6 things will change, but I doubt by a whole lot here; I doubt they can run on much less than four cylinders even at speed. Anyway, for me it's a somewhat moot comparison since I would buy neither. The Infiniti or Lexus competition would be my choice all day long.
I'm with you. The updates have done the Expedition/Navigator wonders.

Regarding fuel economy, which SUV is lighter, Escalade or Navigator?
 

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Although these two vehicles are ostensibly in the same category, and the Nav seems close to the Escalade on paper, in reality the Nav just does not feel to be either in the same category or anywhere as accomplished as the Slade. I don't know if it's styling, exterior and interior experienced at car shows and seeing them on the roads of Houston (I have not driven either) or my bias, but the Nav just seems like a cheap knock-off of a luxury vehicle, totally inauthentic, a stop-gap, much like the first gen Escalades which were just Tahoes with different grills. I would never cross shop them.
 

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This thread goes downhill in 5, 4, 3.....

Nice vehicles, both of them. The Caddy looks better to me, but I prefer the Lincoln's IRS and the numerous benefits it has.
It should considering its all new and the Navi is just a refresh. Plus there's that gap in cost...... IRS - see below.

I mean, did anyone expect different?

Navigator is a Yukon Denali fighter as it sits right now. Next generation, you can bet it's going right after the Escalade.
Tru dat.

I never liked the Navigator's greenhouse styling, even when it was new all those years ago. Now it looks even more dated. I'll be interested to see if the Navigator's restyle gives it a material sales bump or not.

Hopefully the Navigator will spur Cadillac to be even better, as now there is a cheaper and ancient vehicle that in some ways is better.
The Navi greenhouse always looked too tall. I assume it will be shorter for better aerodynamics next time around. Escy should have IRS, GM has a habit of making large vehicles feel small on the inside. Obviously there are ride/handling benefits to it as well, but more importantly the third row and "raised" cargo area is embarrassing in the Escy at that price point.

Navi sales are up like 88%, so there's that.....

I think the interesting story is how releveant the upates have made the Expy/Gator. While they're not best in class (or at least solidly so), they are IMO still worth a look for those shopping in the segment. Here, the hilarity for me is that the Escalade gets similar, or actually better economy, with its 6.2L than the "Eco"Boost. Maybe with further technologies like cylinder deactivation in the EB V-6 things will change, but I doubt by a whole lot here; I doubt they can run on much less than four cylinders even at speed. Anyway, for me it's a somewhat moot comparison since I would buy neither. The Infiniti or Lexus competition would be my choice all day long.
If Navi gets modern styling + upgraded materials + drops a bunch of weight like the F150 it will be much more relevant. I expect all of those to happen for the all new '17 model.
 
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I'm with you. The updates have done the Expedition/Navigator wonders.

Regarding fuel economy, which SUV is lighter, Escalade or Navigator?
According to their respective sites, the Cadillac weighs about 200 lbs less. Even if that was enough to make a 1-2 mpg difference, that would be essentially the gap between it and a 6.2L V-8.

If Navi gets modern styling + upgraded materials + drops a bunch of weight like the F150 it will be much more relevant. I expect all of those to happen for the all new '17 model.
I agree. The 2015 Escalade is basically the first of the upcoming round of new three-row luxury trucks. For 2017 or so we'll get the new Navigator, then in 2018 or so the next Lexus LX/LX-type SUV. I'm not sure what the timetable is for a new Infiniti QX as the Patrol on which it's based went more than a decade before being redesigned.
 

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The front end on the Lincoln.... what were they thinking?
You know what, I think I prefer it to the Caddy, the more I see it. I don't hate the Escalade, and think that it has a nicer rear, and certainly a sportier profile, but from the front view, I really do like the look of the Navigator.
 

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The refresh Navigator can't touch the new Escalade. The cargo roominess and storage in the Navigator is more than the Escalade and ride quality may be smoother but prestige luxury SUV buyers in this class do not care much about the most storage space and roominess in this class. They care about high style, technology and fashion which the current Escalade presents.

Based on sales figures of the Escalade, it is obvious. However, the Escalade is still roomy enough for most people that can carry a lot of stuff. The next Navigator needs to have more than storage space and better ride quality to dethrone the Escalade which it may not be able to do in '17.
 

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Weight is also playing against the Navigator.
While the 4x4 ESV weighs in at 5840 lbs, the SWB 4x4 Navigator is a weighty 6069 lbs and
the 4x4 Navigator L blows that out to 6,297 lbs. The efficiency of Ecoboost keeps Navigator
close to the lighter Escalades..

Looking forward to an alloy bodied navigator and Navigator L, the excessive weight is currently masking the true efficiency of the Ecoboost V6 engine. Returning as part of F150's platform and similar weight drop, expect the future Alloy 4x4 Navigators to jump to 23 mpg. Not sure how Cadillac's 6.2 will respond to that.
 

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I know the Escalade is truck based, but i wish they could fins a way to put an IRS in that thing. It shouldn't be that big and have that small of a cargo area. Having said that, bring on the V Sport version!
'
 

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Navigator is within an upgrade of competitiveness with Escalade.. The big question is whether or not Cadillac is willing to take Escalade to the next level. They need true executive seating, and I think it should have a second row delete option for maximum passenger roominess
 

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It's too bad for Lincoln since they invented this category that they slapped this frowny face on the Navigator. The Escalade looks happy to take your money!
Navigator's sales were up to 1433 last month thanks to the recent changes.
Just shows what a little bit of love can do and how patient the market truly is,
give buyers something half decent to consider and they're back.

By comparison, the Escalades were 3200+ and SRX about that again
Half of Cadillac's sales coming from two Utilities, makes me wish there was a third.
 

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Well I'd be more confident towing 10k with the caddy than the whining ecoboost.
 
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