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General Motors

Cadillac Escalade

The Escalade has always had presence. But where previous generations used to privilege audacity over refinement, the all-new model is at once extremely luxurious and extremely imposing, without being simply a blunt instrument.

The exterior clearly communicates this notable transition, with softer and less flashy chrome trim (and less of it), jewel-like LED head and tail lamps and a crisp profile that looks more lithe and taut – if such adjectives can be applied to a vehicle that, in extended wheelbase ESV trim, weighs 2760 kilograms and is nearly 5.7 metres long.

The most significant upgrade is in the interior. The materials feel as exclusive as those in the rest of the Cadillac line – exquisite leathers, intriguing veneers of real wood, satin-finish metals and delightful trim in unexpected places like the chrome caps on the end of the dash, visible only when the doors are open. The cabin is also equipped with the latest tech and safety features, like active cruise control that follows the car in front of you at a safe distance up to your preset speed, and a full suite of emergency collision avoidance features. Unlike the outgoing Escalade, there’s a truly adult-friendly third row of seats, which power down and fold flat – like the second row – at the touch of a button, and can feature their own 9-inch LCD entertainment monitor.

And while the Escalade sports the category’s most potent V-8 engine, the passenger compartment is remarkably quiet. Cruising at highway speeds, the big eight-pot chugs in almost electric silence, barely infringing on the cabin occupants’ conversation, while providing plenty of muscle when needed. (0-100 km/h in 6 seconds.) We only wish the premium Bose stereo had a power and depth of sound to match its clarity.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz GL

The category best seller, the GL is smooth, luxurious, quiet, and almost minivan-esque – unless you order it with the raucous 550 horsepower 5.5-litre twin-turbo V-8 in the GL63 AMG version.

Nissan

Infiniti QX80

With its high-shouldered stance, tall forehead and low eyes, the Nissan luxury brand’s SUV most resembles an actual elephant – on the outside. Inside, it’s more like a luxurious private jet.

Toyota

Lexus LX570

The Lexus of SUVs has the brand’s signature insulation, effortlessness and technical perfection. But it’s mounted on the aging Toyota Tundra truck platform, which may be nearing the end of its life cycle.

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