The Cadillac Escalade has long served as the brand’s flagship, its huge size and aggressive looks broadcasting its extroverted, red-blooded American take on luxury. Despite being based on the same underpinnings as the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon, the Escalade makes a solid case as a competitor to other large luxury SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and Mercedes-Benz GLS-class. That’s because the big Caddy features the brand’s most advanced technology and most luxurious features. Its cabin is lined with wood, leather, designer fabrics, and satin-finished metals. A large, curved display sweeps across the dashboard, serving as both a gauge cluster and an infotainment center. A host of driver-assistance features are available, including Cadillac’s excellent Super Cruise system, which combines adaptive cruise control with a hands-free driving mode. Buyers can choose from a strong 6.2-liter gasoline V-8 or a diesel-powered inline-six, and this year Cadillac adds a wild high-performance V-series model with mega horsepower to the Escalade lineup. Time will tell if the new hi-po Escalade is an elephant that can dance, but given the brilliant athleticism of Cadillac’s recent Blackwing-powered sedans, color us hopeful.
Cadillac’s biggest SUV is powered by a standard 6.2-liter V-8 engine that makes 420 horsepower and can deactivate half of its cylinders when cruising to save fuel; a 3.0-liter diesel inline-six is also available. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines, and buyers can choose from rear- or all-wheel-drive setups. As with its siblings, the current-generation Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and GMC Yukon, the Escalade rides on an independent rear suspension that provides additional third-row legroom, which was compromised in the previous solid rear-axle model. Higher-end trims also offer an air suspension with adaptive dampers. At our test track, the long-wheelbase Escalade ESV with the V-8 engine sprinted to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. The 277-hp diesel engine doesn’t deliver nearly the straight-line performance of the standard V-8, but for some buyers that compromise is worth the improved fuel economy and punchy 460 lb-ft of low-end torque. For those Escalade fans with a need for speed, only the V will do. It’s powered by a beastly supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 making 682 horsepower, which proved to be enough power to blast the big SUV to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds at our test track. During our initial test drive, we were impressed with the V-8’s power and its baritone burble. The modifications to the SUV’s suspension make it handle better than the standard SUV, but the Escalade still doesn’t feel as nimble as rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 or the BMW Alpina XB7.