When it comes to extravagance and simply flaunting it, the Cadillac Escalade is hard to beat. But, this big SUV is a lot more than just a rolling piece of automotive excess. It’s a lot of truck, with a lot of capability; and yes, a lot of bling.
There’s Premium, there’s Luxury, and then there’s Premium Luxury; which happens to be how Cadillac describes this 2021 Escalade, or more precisely the level of trim that helps push its price into 6-figures. Yep, that’s where we’re at these days when it comes to big luxury utilities.
Of course in the 2020s, luxury means a lot more than just soft leather and wood trim. Exclusive technology is increasingly more important. To that end, the Escalade is the first production vehicle to feature OLED curved interior display technology.
The 38-inch display flows from the driver’s side dash all the way to above the center stack, and is comprised of three individual OLED screens; a 14.2-inch one for the configurable gauge display, a 7.2-inch touch panel mounted just to the left, and a 16.9-inch infotainment screen in the center.
Surround Vision means cameras all around the vehicle, with the rear display in the rear view mirror if you choose.
Rear seat passengers get in on the action too, with the available Rear Seat Entertainment system. More than just for movies and games, these 12.6-inch touchscreens can mirror smartphones, and even access the vehicle’s navigation to suggest stops along the way.
There’s a treat for the ears as well; we were quite literally blown away by this AKG 19-speaker Studio audio system; cranking it to the max without any distortion. And only later realized this is not even the top-end unit. There’s also a Studio Reference system with 36 speakers and 3 amplifiers. Rock on, Cadillac!
And thanks to Super Cruise hands-free driving, you can even safely momentarily practice your air-guitar and dash-drumming techniques on the highway.
Space is also luxury. Plenty of it here for both people and provisions. Escalade has grown by more than 7-inches, plus its new independent rear suspension design provides a lot more space packed inside.
Both 2nd and 3rd rows see big increases in legroom. Rear storage space grows from 15 to 25.5 cubic-ft.; 63 behind the 2nd row, and 109.1 behind the 1st. Plus, there’s still the Suburban-sized Escalade ESV if you need even more.
Plenty of storage areas for small items up front too.
It all makes for a tremendous road trip vehicle, whether you’re going cross-county or across the country. That independent rear has indeed removed any remnants of a truck-like ride.
This being a Cadillac, both Magnetic Ride Control and an Air Ride adaptive suspension are also available.
Providing the steam to put this 5,800-lbs. luxury liner in motion is a standard 6.2-liter V8. Output is same as last year at 420-horsepower and 460 lb-ft. of torque. GM’s Duramax 3.0-liter diesel, is an option. Max towing is 8,200-lbs; and that’s with the gas V8.
It was also our choice for track work. So equipped, it doesn’t exactly leap off the line, but once it gets rolling, power really pours on. Don’t be surprised if 0-60 takes only 6.2-seconds, and the ¼-mile at 14.7 and 96 miles-per-hour.
It was, however, hard to get a sense of what it’s truly capable of in the handling department.
It actually feels quite nimble and smaller than it is. But, once the speeds got much over 30 miles-per-hour; the very aggressive stability control dramatically dampens things down.
But it must have been using our slalom to hone those slowing-down skills, as when we got to our braking runs, the Escalade stopped from 60 in just 98-feet. Phenomenal for a vehicle this size and weight; stops were consistently drama free, and straight as an arrow.
With the possible exception of its very first generation; the Escalade has never been a vehicle that blends into its surroundings. Not much changes here; as it looks even bigger and more imposing.
Lots of small details distinguish it from Chevrolet and GMC platform mates; grille, bright trim-work, signature lighting, and of course wheels; 22-inchers are standard.
For climbing aboard, power retractable steps with accent lighting are available.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 14-City, 19-Highway, and 16-Combined; which seem reasonable based on our 16.6 miles-per-gallon average of Premium.
But that does make for a much worse than average Energy Impact Score; responsible for 20.6-barrels of yearly oil consumption, with 9.2 tons of CO2 emissions.
Pricing starts with Luxury trim at $77,490; for the “money is no object-ers” there’s Premium Luxury Platinum, which starts at $101,290; and that’s without 4-wheel-drive, which is a $3,000 option for any Escalade.
Now you may be tempted to dismiss the 2021 Cadillac Escalade as just a flashy Tahoe for people that feel a need to flaunt their wealth. But, it’s much more than that. Beyond the exclusive technology and Cadillac style; you get a big, capable utility vehicle. It’s a first-class cargo hauler ready to take you and your family on one luxurious vacation, or just make your daily routine something truly extra special.
Engine: 6.2L V8
Torque: 460 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.2 seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.7 seconds @ 96 mph
EPA: 14 City / 19 Highway / 16 Combined