Shoppers researching the largest, most luxurious SUVs available should add the Cadillac Escalade to their shortlist. The three-row full-size Escalade’s modern exterior turns heads wherever it goes. And beneath the surface, it’s a feast for the senses, with V8 power, rich leather upholstery, and cutting-edge technology. Optional four-wheel-drive and an 8,200-pound max towing capacity mean the Cadillac is just as capable as it is refined.
- Handsome exterior conceals a tech powerhouse
- Cavernous cabin with accessible controls
- Top-of-the-line audio and infotainment features
- Excellent cargo and towing capacity
- Luxury trim level lacks some key features
- Some rivals offer better fuel economy
The full-size luxury SUV segment is highly competitive, and with its 2021 redesign, the Cadillac Escalade has leapt ahead of some notable rivals. It features the latest in driver safety and infotainment technology, some of which will only be found in much more expensive vehicles. The interior is refined and opulent, yet it’s straightforward and easy to use. Likewise, Cadillac has engineered the Escalade with an excellent powertrain and chassis, making it a breeze to pilot the large SUV around town or on the highway. The available Super Cruise system is one of the most advanced cruise control systems available, capable of handling many of the driving duties on over 200,000 miles of mapped American roadways with almost no driver input. Those wanting technology and comfort that vie with an executive sedan while also getting the regal ride height and robust practicality of a full-size SUV will surely appreciate the Cadillac Escalade.
The Escalade comes in five trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury Platinum, and Sport Platinum. It’s available in short- and long-wheelbase versions, and four-wheel-drive is optional as well. The Luxury trim starts around $76,500. Highlights include leatherette seats, wood trim, heated front seats, a curved 38-inch widescreen OLED touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 19-speaker AKG Studio audio system, a heated leather steering wheel, ambient cabin lighting, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic emergency braking, a surround-view camera, and 22-inch alloy wheels. The Premium Luxury costs about $83,000. It adds features like full leather seating surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, automatic parking, and a head-up display.
For those wanting a sleeker Escalade, the Sport should fit the bill. Starting around $86,000, it includes gloss-black exterior elements, 22-inch dark gray polished wheels, an electronic limited-slip differential, an adaptive suspension, and a trailering package. Jumping up to the Premium Luxury Platinum and Sport Platinum models bring the price to roughly $100,000. Each has all of the features of the Premium Luxury and Sport trims, respectively, plus an extended leather interior, semi-aniline leather seats, 16-way power front seats with massage, a 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference audio system, a rear-seat entertainment system with dual independent 12.6-inch screens, an air suspension, soft-closing doors, and an available console refrigerator/freezer.
The big Cadillac’s standard engine is a powerful 6.2-liter V8, which produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It runs on premium fuel. Shifting the gears is a 10-speed automatic transmission. A 24-gallon fuel tank is standard; the extended ESV version has a 28.3-gallon reservoir. The EPA estimates an Escalade with two-wheel-drive should return 15/20/17 mpg city/highway/combined. The available 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine makes 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It is sure to provide similar power to the V8 while improving fuel economy numbers.
As striking as the Escalade’s body styling is, the cabin is what deserves shoppers’ attention. Premium leatherette or soft leather upholstery envelope the seven-seat interior. There is abundant wood trim, and the driving layout is one of the most stylish in its class. Its showpiece is indeed the curved high-definition screen that covers 38 inches of area in the dashboard. Half of it operates as a digital instrument cluster, while the other half is the infotainment touchscreen. The stitched dash material and wood trim nicely integrate around the technology, giving a refined and elegant effect.
Along with touch, the displays are also operable by a console-mounted dial controller. The Escalade has many premium technology features. It’s the first vehicle to offer an audio system from high-end manufacturer AKG. The top-end 36-speaker system is incredibly impressive. Massaging seats, a built-in refrigerator, and night-vision are also available. Interior space has always been excellent in the Escalade, and now it’s better than ever. The 2021 redesign brought an independent rear suspension, which allowed for a lower rear floor and much more room for passengers (and cargo) in the back.
There is ample space for occupants in all three rows. The third-row seats in many SUVs are so small that they seem like an afterthought, but not here. The third-row headroom is 38.2 inches, which is the kind of space one would find in the first row of some compact SUVs. The third-row legroom is 34.9 inches or 36.6 inches in the extended-wheelbase ESV. Available cargo capacity is exceptional. The standard cargo area is 25.5 cubic feet. That’s good enough for most jobs, and folding down both back rows opens up 121 cubes of space. The ESV offers up to 142.8 cubic feet.