- I tested out Super Cruise, a hands-free driving system in the Cadillac Escalade.
- It performed incredibly well, taking the monotony out of hours of highway driving. But it isn’t self-driving and needs human supervision.
- The 2022 Escalade Sport that Cadillac loaned me for the trip came out to roughly $107,000.
There isn’t much that the Cadillac Escalade lacks when it comes to comfort.
The hulking luxury SUV is about the size of a New York studio apartment, affording plenty of room for you and up to seven friends to stretch out. It’s so ridiculously big that it needs an intercom for the driver to communicate with the third row. Yes, really.
Its interior is overflowing with supple leather and dazzling screens. It glides ever so smoothly over the pavement so as not to jostle its well-heeled occupants.
The only thing that could possibly make the Caddy more pleasant would be if one didn’t have to drive it at all. And the Escalation can do that, too. Sort of.
Although no car you can buy today is self-driving, some carmakers offer partially automated systems that can take over certain tasks, like parallel parking or keeping a car in its lane on the highway, all under full human supervision. Tesla’s Autopilot is one such feature. General Motors’ Super Cruise, which I tested recently in a 2022 Escalade that the company loaned me, is another.
And boy, is it good. So good that it may have spoiled me for boring, regular driving forever.
Super Cruise invites drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel on approved highways and let the car do most of the work. It functions like a super-smart version of cruise control, using an array of cameras and sensors to slow down and speed up with traffic, smoothly navigate curves, and even automatically change lanes to pass slowpoke drivers.
The vehicle ensures drivers pay attention with cameras that monitor their gaze and head positioning. Fall asleep or get distracted for too long, and the system will issue a series of warnings and then shut off.
When I first got behind wheel of the Escalade, I figured Super Cruise would work fine, but that I’d have to regularly step in to stop it from doing something dumb. It blew away my expectations.
During an eight-hour, 500-mile journey to a friend’s house and back, I had my hands on the wheel for about an hour and a half. This was mainly on surface streets near my start and end points, where Super Cruise won’t turn on. For hours at a time, the Escalade cruised down the interstate while I supervised, leaving me much less fatigued than I’d normally be after such a long, monotonous drive.
What’s great about Super Cruise is that it’s simple to switch on and easy to tell when it’s active. After turning on cruise control, all you do is press the Super Cruise button on the steering wheel. If the car is on a highway GM has mapped out (determined by its GPS position), an LED strip on the steering wheel lights up in green to indicate Super Cruise is working.
Once activated, Super Cruise performed flawlessly for the most part. It kept the Escalade confidently centered in its lane without wavering. Whenever it encountered a slower car, it paused to look for an opening before swiftly passing. If an erratic driver suddenly cut the Escalade off, Super Cruise slowed down to accommodate them.
It accomplished all of this not like some robot, but with much of the smoothness and composition of a human driver. More than once, I got the urge to change lanes and the Escalade preempted me before I had the chance to move a muscle.
It did hit a few snags. Once, it unexpectedly aborted a lane change halfway through the maneuver and swerved back into its original lane. Another time, it slammed the brakes because a car in the next lane veered ever so slightly over the dotted line. Once, it seemed to lose sight of the road when driving directly into the sun and urgently instructed me to take control.
In those moments, I was glad I’d been keeping my fingers near the steering wheel and my foot by the brake.
Overall, Super Cruise did nothing but inspire confidence.
Given our rapidly warming climate, I’m not sure we need to do more to encourage people to drive long distances in gas-guzzling SUVs. But the next time I set off for a long drive in a less-comfy car without Super Cruise, I’ll surely be kicking myself for not stealing that Escalade when I had the chance.