Today while driving home from work, I had the luck to drive near the two major competitors in the large luxury SUV class--a 2007 Lincoln Navigator (sporting an M-plate) and a privately owned 2007 Cadillac Escalade, just a few miles apart. Here are a few quick thoughts.
The Navigator (red) looked good from the rear, and had relatively clean lines from the side view. This was also my impression of the (pearl white) Escalade. Both trucks had a bit of decoration in back, the Navigator with chrome edging on its tail lamps, and the Escalade with the prominent chrome bar and Cadillac badge. I give the rear view to Navigator, for being more understated.
Where things fell apart for me was in front. The Navigator has a very busy front end, which reminds me somehow of an angry cheese grater or maybe a 1950's era robot. Too much flash, too many lines. There is also a prominent bulge in the hood, which has a flashy chromed leading edge, forming a metallic unibrow for the robot. The front view of the Navigator gave me a nervous, busy vibe.
The Escalade was more subdued, in person, and not as busy looking. It also had a big chrome grille up front, and a chrome unibrow. The Cadillac badge up front was large, but it was proportionate to the large vertical headlamps.
If I was in the market for a large luxury guzzler SUV, based on the exterior design I think I would choose the Escalade over the Navigator. Surprisingly, in person, the Cadillac looks more elegant to me than the Navigator.
When it comes to the interior design, however, I would pick the Navigator as having the more interesting design. The Cadillac interior (which I know only from press photos on the web) is an anonymous, but tasteful space which could be from any high end Japanese or European luxury vehicle. The Navigator interior, however, has a definite character, and is unmistakably Lincoln. It is a matter of taste, of course, but I would take the Lincoln furniture.
If I actually had the kind of money to spend on a vehicle that either of these beasts costs, I would pick neither. Instead, I would get myself a nice turbo wagon (think Volvo V50 or Saab SportCombi) for commuting, and for nice days, a Mazda MX-5 or Pontiac Solstice. I'd probably have gas money left over.