“Is there gas in the car? Is there gas in the car?”
Donald Fagen posed this question in the Steely Dan classic song “Kid Charlemagne” — and it’s a prescient query for the start of this road trip. I’m with the Toronto-based Steely Dan tribute band, Pretzel Logic, and we’re heading to Ottawa to play an outdoor show at the Nostalgia Music Festival. And what better steed for this journey than the unofficial SUV of the music biz: the Cadillac Escalade ?
In this case, a 2023 extended wheelbase Escalade ESV in Sport Platinum trim with its semi-aniline leather, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with ventilation and massage, 36-speaker AKG audio, and enough tech and computing power to mine Bitcoin.
American luxury defined — all 19 feet and 6,270 pounds of it. (That’s 576 cm and 2,844 kg for us Canucks.) Ah, the gas part. This ‘Sclade runs a 420-hp, 460 lb-ft 6.2L V8 hooked to a 10-speed auto. It will be hauling six musicians and as much stuff as we can cram into the 1,175 litres of cargo space behind the third row. Estimated laden weight is encroaching on four tonnes. Yep, there’d better be gas in the car. In this case, 107 litres with an estimated range of 816 km.
My tester looks particularly “murdered out,” dipped in near-black Galactic Grey Metallic and, thanks to the $4,240 Onyx Package, wearing black 22-inch alloys and sporting nary a lick of chrome. Darth Vader, your SUV is ready.
The interior is default black too, which sadly masks much of its fab design and detailing. I’ve seen this cabin in lighter hues and it’s quite stunning. Not that anybody in this crew is complaining. That said, the farther back you get in the ‘Sclade, the fewer creature comforts you’ll find. The driver (moi) and shotgun rider (singer Mike Shotton) get ventilation and massage in our comfy front chairs. Those in the second-row captain’s chairs do without massage, and the two assigned to the third row do without. Period. Even then, I detected very little whining emanating from the poop deck, except for the few times Mike and I ask for suggestions pertaining to which of the massage settings (roll, knead, wave, relief, glide) we might start with. And whether we should be targeting the upper back, lower back, or butt. (Insert unprintable response here.)
On the highway the Escalade ESV tracks like a freight train — a very quiet one, its imposing blunt snout cleaving the air and parting the traffic like the Red Sea. The ride is remarkably smooth, yet this latest ‘Sclade (launched as a 2021 model) with its independent rear suspension and air springs shows nary a hint of slop or float. It’s a sophisticated beast that comes into its own when gobbling up kilometres at speed while cocooning its occupants in sybaritic luxury.
Our first stop is Primitive Designs in Port Hope. I’m really excited for my band mates to experience this phantasmagorical wonderland of sculpture, crafts, clothing and really bizarre stuff from far-away places. There’s something for all tastes and budgets — the big draw being the gargantuan metallic sculptures that suddenly render our Escalade… well, kinda puny. Owner Ron Dacey comes up with the designs, then sends the blueprints to a select few overseas artisans where these renderings come to life via thousands of car parts — everything from body panels to pistons, gears, bolts, clutches, headlights… you name it.
We could easily spend hours here but the road beckons. After singer Carmela Long buys a couple of flowing dresses and I snag a trip mascot in the form of a weird metal bird (christened Aja), we all pile back in the Caddy and hit the 401. Time to try out GM’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving tech — a $2,875 option on this Escalade.
While most hands-free systems are pretty useless (read: annoying and stress inducing) for highway driving, Super Cruise is designed for just that, and works a treat. It uses r eal-time GPS positioning, 360-degree cameras, multiple sensors and proprietary LiDAR map data. As long as the little driver-facing camera sees I’m paying attention to the road and not checking my emails or turning around and conversing with the brats… er, horn players in the cheap seats, Super Cruise has our Escalade gliding down the highway, keeping a safe distance and, with the new auto lane-change feature, passing slower traffic and tucking back in the right lane if the conditions so dictated. It’s a super slick system.
Also mighty impressive is the Escalade’s AKG Studio Reference Surround 3D with 36 speakers and multi-channel amplifiers . Musicians know AKG for its legendary studio microphones and headphones, and this is the Austrian company’s first automotive installation.
Base price for the 2023 Cadillac Escalade ESV Sport Platinum is $134,798, and this specimen fattens the bottom line with about $10,000 in options. It’s easy to criticize the Escalade ESV for being too huge and over the top (lord knows, I’ve done it), but when used to its full potential, the big brute delivers on a mix of utility, luxury and dynamic competence that is unparalleled. The perfect tool for this job.
After four and a half hours on the road we make our entrance, rolling into the Nostalgia Music Festival , fresh as daisies. We play our 90-minute set. It’s cool, it’s raining, yet stretching beyond the stage is a small sea of Steely Dan/Pretzel Logic fans, tucked in their raincoats and huddling under umbrellas. Bless them.
Now, you’d think that a band making a grand arrival in a $150k stretched Cadillac Escalade would, after the show, oh, make their way to a luxury hotel, order everything on the room service menu, party ‘til dawn and perhaps throw the odd TV out a window. Uh, no.
We had to point the ‘Sclade’s grille back towards the Big Smoke and retrace our steps. Or as Steely Dan would say: “Do It Again.”
Check out the latest Cadillac Escalade ESV model.2023-09-09T11:01:17Z dg43tfdfdgfd