Astonishing performance. In isolation, the Cadillac Escalade’s performance figures are impressive. But when you consider they’re achieved in a three-ton SUV, they’re borderline astonishing. Nobody’s going to buy a vehicle this big and worry about gas mileage, so you can bypass the overpriced three-liter turbodiesel, whose chief advantage is a combined economy of 22 mpg. Instead, focus on the two gas engines, of which even the smaller 420 hp V8 can hit 60 in around six seconds. Performance is silky smooth, thanks in large measure to a ten-speed automatic transmission found in every model.

For eye-swiveling acceleration, we’d urge you to test drive the 6.2-liter supercharged V8. Its paper figures of 682 hp and 653 lb-ft of torque are impressive enough, but it’s the sheer force of its acceleration that lingers in the memory. Barks and rumbles provide a fitting soundtrack to a searing performance, both off the line (0-60 in 4.4 seconds would worry most Porsches), but also in-gear.

Bigger isn’t always better. Thunderous performance is lovely, but we would invite you to consider how it looks to the vehicles in front when an Escalade suddenly fills their rearview mirrors. Some drivers will relish its intimidating size and appearance (especially in black), but piloting this much metal won’t always make you friends among other road users or pedestrians. The standard model is hardly compact, but it’s less overwhelming than the 227-inch ESV and considerably cheaper.

In full-fat ESV mode, the LWB Escalade stands 19 feet long, which means car parks are something of an ordeal. You may not fit it in your garage, either. Arguably worse than the length is the width, which tests your spatial awareness on narrow residential streets and in confined spaces like drive-thrus. It’s also worth remembering that the Escalade has no crash-test data available, so don’t assume you’ll be better off than anyone else in a collision. That said, Cadillac provides automatic emergency braking and active lane control on every model, while most Escalades receive adaptive cruise and blind-spot monitoring. If the budget allows, we’d also add optional night vision technology.

2023 Cadillac Escalade Interior

Welcome to the world of tomorrow. Swing open one of those bank-vault doors, and you find yourself in a cabin equipped with 38 inches of OLED screens, split between a 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster and two dash screens measuring 16.9 and 7.2 inches respectively. The combined effect makes a Tesla’s dash look like an old iPod, yet the Star Trek aesthetic doesn’t seem incongruous paired with wooden trim and soft leather seating. We also like the fact the screens are trapezoidal rather than simply rectangular – it adds to the swoopy dynamic in an interior with very few straight lines or right angles.

Another glimpse into the future comes courtesy of Cadillac’s acclaimed Super Cruise driver assistance setup. Incorporating over 130,000 miles of mapped highways, this enables you to enjoy periods of truly hands-free driving. That’s ideal for interstate journeys, especially when combined with the optional massaging and ventilated front seats. If anything untoward should happen, the surround-view camera system can record it onto an SD card, to be viewed at a later date.

Big numbers. As befits such a huge vehicle, the Escalade’s numbers are consistently big. Let’s start with pricing – yet to be confirmed at the time of writing, but expected to start at around $80,000 for the base model. Standard specification ranges from 22-inch wheels to 12-way power-adjustable front seats and a 19-speaker AKG audio system. By the time you reach Platinum Luxury trim, the stereo has 30 speakers, and those gigantic wheels ride on air suspension, but you’ll be paying north of $150,000 for the supercharged Escalade-V in LWB format. Even the inclusion of a limited-slip diff and Brembo brakes doesn’t soften the blow, especially when you factor in a combined fuel economy of 13 mpg. There’ll be big bills at the filling station.

Final thoughts. The Escalade is a polarizing and often divisive vehicle. Its sheer size will deter some prospective buyers, while the sticker price and fuel economy figures of larger models are daunting. Even replacing the standard sports tires with all-weather rubber will cost you a pretty penny – and you’ll need to unless you’ve chosen an AWD model with its traction-boosting two-speed transfer case and limited-slip rear diff.

If you can ignore the hostility of other road users, and you don’t get flustered in underground car parks, there is a lot to admire about Caddy’s flagship. It might share much of its DNA with the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban, but it feels more luxurious thanks to a spectacular digital cabin and the sheer space afforded to those optional middle-row bucket seats. Impressive suspension damping makes it as comfortable as the glorious Mercedes-Benz GLS, while adaptive magnetic dampers combine with air suspension to deliver a ride worthy of the iconic Range Rover. Praise doesn’t come much higher than that.

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