Consider the new Cadillac Escalade lipstick on a cow.
The full-size SUV, redesigned for 2015 and on sale now, is an attempt by General Motors' luxury division to run with the heavyweights of the SUV world. Think Land Rover Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GL, Lexus LX and Infiniti QX80.
But after a week testing a loaded Escalade Premium AWD -- yours for a cool $87,985 -- it was clear that no amount of chrome or wood could hide the SUV's humble roots as a GM truck. The unrefined chassis doesn't measure up in this premium segment, in which competitors have a bank-vault solidity the Caddy can't match.
As with the three previous generations of the Escalade, this new version is based on the immensely profitable Chevy Tahoe we tested recently. That SUV, in turn, is based on GM's pickups. The modest underpinnings make the Tahoe a cash cow that analysts say rakes in at least $10,000 in profit per vehicle.
The pot only gets sweeter on the Escalade. The basics are largely the same as the cheaper Tahoe and the mid-level GMC Yukon -- stout V-8, seating for seven or eight, huge towing capacity.
Cadillac throws in a brash American exterior, a Texas acre's worth of interior leather, and a trove of high-tech features. The result is a vehicle that looks good, coddles passengers and prints money for GM.
But $90,000? Really?
On paper, the Escalade ticks all the right luxury boxes. A 6.2-liter V-8, donated by the GMC Yukon Denali, pumps out 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It's strapped to a six-speed automatic transmission with a tow mode.
With more than 5,800 pounds to move, the V-8 does a decent job of motivating the Escalade. Cadillac says our four-wheel-drive model will do zero-to-60 mph in less than 6 seconds, though it felt slower in real world driving.
It's also relatively efficient, thanks to direct injection and cylinder deactivation, which switches four of the eight engine cylinders off under light loads. The EPA rates our tester at 14 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, up from 13 and 18 mpg, respectively. Our week of testing on more freeways than city streets averaged 19 mpg.
The powertrain can also tow 8,100 pounds, enough to beat the Mercedes, Range Rover and Lexus, Cadillac says. But the transmission and throttle don't feel as crisp or eager as those country-club models.
All Escalades come standard with Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control, a suspension system that continuously adjusts stiffness based on road conditions. There's a Normal and Sport mode, with the actual difference being less obvious than your dealer would concede.
Although the overall ride of the Escalade is comfortable, there's a low-rent chatter to the vehicle over bumps. It's the kind that is expressly verboten in other luxury marques, and unworthy of the price tag.
The rest of the riding/driving experience is plenty luxurious. Real leather, suede and wood are mixed stylishly together, and our tester had an additional $2,000 worth of deliciously soft perforated leather seats.