Completely overhauled. Forget what you know about large SUVs, because the 2021 Cadillac Escalade practically rewrites the book on them. While still a Cadillac with a blocky design, copious amounts of chrome, and an enormous grille, the all-new Escalade enters its fifth generation as an impressive status symbol.
The updated Escalade certainly doesn’t stray too far away from the current model on the outside, but that’s not a bad thing. The large SUV still has a commanding presence and it’s roughly 8 inches longer and sports a much more impressive front end. At the front sits Cadillac’s latest version of its shield grille, slim headlights, and vertically-oriented LED daytime running lights. The rear end isn’t much different, though it’s been cleaned up a bit.
Where Cadillac made the most changes to the Escalade is on the inside. Massive screens dominate the sprawling dashboard, while the lines have been cleaned up thanks to a modern center console-mounted electronic gear selector instead of the ancient column-mounted shifter. Last year’s Escalade had a hard time justifying its higher price tag compared to other GM products, but the new model exudes luxury.
Comfortable in all rows. Despite the old Escalade’s sprawling size, last year’s model still didn’t feel comfortable for passengers in the third row. The move to an independent rear suspension instead of a live axle allowed Cadillac’s engineers to lower the two rows of rear seats, making the cabin feel roomier.
Space in the back has grown considerably over last year’s model. It now has more second-row and third-row head and leg room.Third-row leg room has gone up by 10.1 inches, making it much more accommodating for adults. Beyond offering more space, Cadillac made the door openings larger to make egress and ingress easier.
Additionally, the Escalade can hold more cargo than before. Cargo capacity measures in at 25.5 cubic feet behind the third row, 72.9 behind the second row, and 121 behind the first row. The long-wheelbase ESV model can hold up to 126.6 cubic feet of cargo.
Loaded with tech. The amount of technology Cadillac offers in the new Escalade is staggering. Even the base Luxury trim has a massive 16.9-inch infotainment screen that spans the majority of the dashboard and leads into a 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster. On the far left side of the dash sits a 7.2-inch control panel, bringing the Escalade’s total real estate of OLED screens to 38 inches. Other standard tech features include wireless smartphone compatibility, a 19-speaker audio system, and a wireless smartphone charger.
Cadillac packed the Escalade with a variety of safety features. While it comes with all of the normal features one would expect, noteworthy options include night vision and Cadillac’s semi-autonomous Super Cruise system. Unfortunately, Super Cruise isn’t available on the base Luxury trim and it's an extra $8,850 for the Premium Luxury trim. So, it’s not exactly cheap.
Still has a V8. It wouldn’t be an Escalade if it didn’t have a V8 engine, and luckily, Cadillac still offers one. The standard motor for the Escalade is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 420 horsepower. It’s a carryover from last year.
New for 2021 is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six that generates 277 hp and matches the V8’s torque figure of 460 pound-feet. When equipped with the V8, the Escalade can tow up to 8,200 pounds, while the diesel is rated at 8,000 pounds.
While the V8 remains the same from last year, the new Escalade’s independent suspension design results in a much more comfortable ride. Now, one side of it is isolated from the other, meaning road imperfections aren't translated throughout the cabin. GM’s excellent adaptive suspension system is available starting on the Premium Luxury trim for an extra $2,700. Adaptive air ride suspension is also available, but it’s priced at $6,350 for the trim.
Final thoughts. Luxury SUVs have never been more popular, so the introduction of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade couldn’t have come at a better time. Offering some of the most tech features available on the market in an upscale, yet iconic design, the Escalade is a true luxury vehicle.
With more tech, upscale features, and room, the Escalade is more expensive than before. Adding a few packages raises its price by an alarming amount, and the range-topping Sport Platinum trim now starts in the six figures before any available options. Of course, with a vehicle that’s as big as the Escalade, it’s not exactly easy to drive or efficient.
The Lincoln Navigator is the Escalade’s main rival. It comes with a more powerful V6 engine and is slightly more affordable than the Cadillac, but doesn’t have the same tech features or spacious cabin. The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class has a similar amount of technology as the Escalade, has more upscale styling, and is more affordable, but it’s not as spacious as the Cadillac.
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