From 22s to 17s with Hybrid-Terrain Tires: Nitto Ridge Grapplers Transform the Cadillac Escalade EXT Into a Rare Adventure Rig
Is it a pickup truck? Is it an SUV? A little of both more likely.
Whatever category you put it in, the Cadillac Escalade EXT is certainly not the most popular platform out there when it comes all-terrain adventuring, overlanding or other types of off-road driving.
More at home rolling through suburbia or sitting in the background of a 2000s hip hop video, the Escalade is nonetheless built from some pretty stout General Motors GMT900 bones.
And to tell the truth, a big part of the appeal when acquiring this 2007 Escalade EXT was that it was an outside-the-box platform and that it would be fun to modify it in an unconventional way.
In my first story I covered some of the interesting things about this truck and how I've grown to love in its comfortable and spacious interior, powerful (and healthy-sounding) 6.2L LS family V8 and its versatile cargo layout. It might just be a Chevrolet Avalanche in a suit, but it's a nice suit.
So with all of that way, it was time to start with the modifications. And the first one was a no-brainer. Wheels and tires.
Wheels & Tires Are Everything
The Escalade EXT shares the same wheel bolt pattern as the Lexus GX470 that it replaced, and after a bit of research, I found that wheels and tires from my old GX should go on to the Escalade without much work.
And that setup consisted of Nitto Ridge Grappler Hybrid Terrain tires in 285/70R17s mounted on 17"x8.5" KMC Roswell wheels.
I'd already grown to love both the capability and aggressive look of the Ridge Grapplers on the GX, as well as the cool, no-nonsense look of the steelie-inspired KMCs on the Lexus, and was really curious to see how they'd look on the Cadillac.
From the factory, the EXT was equipped with massive 22-inch wheels and low profile 285/45/22 tires, where the 32.76" Ridge Grapplers with their beefy sidewalls and much smaller wheels were only about half an inch larger in overall diameter.
So one afternoon just a few days after taking ownership of the Escalade, the 22s came off and on went the new set of wheels a massive five inches smaller in diameter than before.
It was the first aftermarket modification ever done to this truck in its 15 years of service.
No More Chrome
As I mentioned a moment ago, the Ridge Grappler tires are only about half an inch taller than stock with a nearly identical width, but the 0 offset KMC wheels did sit outward a fair bit more than the stock wheels.
They filled up the fenders and wheel wells nicely, but as soon as we tried to drive the truck down the street we heard and felt some minor rubbing up front. The fix was easy, and a common one, which required trimming or removing the front plastic fender liner, which cleared up that issue in minutes.
The only other fitment issue was that at full lock the tires rubbed the power retractable running boards when they were in the raised position.
They could have been trimmed and retained, but we ended up simply removing and disconnecting them and saving about 100 pounds of weight in the progress.
In the future, if I lift the truck, I'll likely go with an aftermarket solution to help the kids climb in and out, but right now its no problem at all.
With the wheels and tires on. The first thing that struck me was just how much the personality of the truck changed. It looked a lot more rugged, almost military-esque in its presence. It was like a whole new vehicle.
Then I hopped in to go for a drive. Even in normal driving, the improved ride quality from the (much) larger sidewalls was immediately noticeable. Road noise was noticeable, but fairly quiet for such an aggressive looking tread pattern.
And there's also the added peace of mind created by the ability to cruise over potholes and other road imperfections and curbs without stressing about damaging a wheel.
Of course the main reason you buy a Ridge Grappler tire is for its mix of road manners and off-road capability. And in the limited amount of off-road driving I've done so far, I've been enjoying the same go-anywhere confidence that the Ridge Grapplers gave me on my GX470.
To be honest, on this particular truck with the other upgrades I have planned and the type of driving I'll be doing, the Ridge Grappler might be a little overkill.
But it's nice knowing the tires will be more than up to the task of whatever I throw at them—and I'm looking forward to putting both the tires and the truck to the test on some local trails soon.
I have some other plans for the truck, first of which is doing something about the chrome trim, which I was never a fan of, and looks even more out of place with the new wheels and tires.
From there, I'm thinking some other basic upgrades up capability and usability while keeping the same attributes that drew me to the EXT in the first place. But the Ridge Grapplers and KMCs were a very effective first step.
So far, I've taken what was already a pretty unique truck and performed the unusual task of making it stand out more from "dressing it down" from the tuxedo it was wearing.
Needless to say I'm excited to see what comes next in terms of both modifications and getting out there in the wild have having some fun.
More From Driving Line
- Want to see how much Escalade has changed since 2007? Here's our review of the 2021 model.