Despite its aging bones and truck-inspired construction, the 2018 Cadillac Escalade does an admirable job of keeping up with modern rivals. The powertrain is smooth and versatile, and the feature set will please passengers young and old. Best of all, the Escalade still has the brash and blinged-out style that made it such a hit.

Best Value

Many buyers will be happy with even a base Escalade, which is equipped with heated leather seats, a heated leather steering wheel, automatic parking assist, a WiFi hotspot, navigation, and a 16-speaker Bose sound system. The long-wheelbase ESV model adds extra cargo capacity, but all except the largest families won’t need it.

We’d spring for the Luxury trim for its upgraded safety technology. The Escalade’s body doesn’t get amazing scores in NHTSA crash testing, but Cadillac has done well keeping up with modern safety suites. The Luxury trim adds a bevy of sensors and assist features, along with automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams. As a bonus, you get extra-big 22-inch rims with chrome inserts. With all-wheel drive, it’s the multi-capable Escalade we’d have.

  • Model: 2018 Cadillac Escalade Luxury
  • Engine: 6.2-liter V8
  • Output: 420 hp / 460 lb-ft
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 14 City / 21 Hwy
  • Options: Metallic Exterior Color ($625), All-wheel drive ($3,000)
  • Base Price: $81,590 (including the $1,295 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $85,215

Performance

Cadillac Escalade

Paired with a new 10-speed automatic, the Escalade’s 6.2-liter V8 is more than capable of managing the considerable bulk. The transmission itself is smooth and refined, and the engine’s cylinder deactivation technology works seamlessly. The Magnetic Ride Control means that even with the larger rims, the Escalade is planted and stable over potholes.

Still, don’t expect the Escalade to be much fun in the corners. The power-assisted steering is well calibrated, but at around 6,000 pounds, the Escalade has to reckon with vast inertia. This means muted handling and mediocre efficiency, although you probably weren’t buying the Escalade for its fuel economy. The car uses body-on-frame construction, which often introduces secondary motion and makes vehicles harder to handle. The chassis does a good job masking most of the ill effects, but the Escalade is still a truck in car’s clothing.

Style

Angular and extroverted, the Escalade remains one of the most recognized vehicles on the road. The grille is chrome-slatted and imposing, complementing sharp lines and Cadillac’s signature vertical taillights. The interior is swathed in leather, and upper trims offer some truly opulent configurations. Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system is clunkier than many, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help ease the difficulties.

If understatement is more your style, you’d best look elsewhere. The Escalade’s styling spectrum runs from loud to overwhelming, and it’s going to attract its share of attention. The Escalade’s enduring image means that driving one is a statement – conspicuous, expensive, and showy. It certainly makes an arrival, but it may not be for everyone.

The Best and Worst Things

The Escalade’s willing powertrain is complemented by a big personality, but also by an equally big curb weight.

Right For? Wrong For?

Cadillac Escalade

The Escalade is perfect for the parents who like everyone to know where they are in the after-school pickup queue. It can appeal to younger buyers, too. As a lifestyle statement, the Escalade still enjoys a special position in the world of SUVs.

It’s still more car than many buyers need. As crossovers and compact SUVs become ever more capable, the reasons to buy the biggest car on the lot dwindle. Buyers who value practicality (or humility) can save piles of cash by looking at less luxurious options.

The Bottom Line

Among premium SUVs, the 2018 Cadillac Escalade is still the one to beat. The interior is lavish, the engine has plenty of grunt, and the exterior ensures that everyone knows how much you spent. The Escalade will eventually need more substantial updates to keep up, but it’s a winning recipe for now.