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- Highs Decent amount of room for people and cargo, powerful V-8 engine, loads of standard features.
- Lows Luxury standards have slipped, harsh ride, overly light steering.
- Verdict The 2018 Cadillac Escalade's roominess, powerful engine, and reputation for opulence make it a popular choice in its class, but its luxury crown has begun to slip.
Once the de facto king of bling, the Escalade still symbolizes high-class transportation to many consumers. However, its luxury reputation begs further consideration. Its hulking chrome shell and Cadillac badge keep up appearances, but its pickup-truck chassis and carryover interior parts reveal a choppy ride and superficial quality. These issues are tolerable on cheaper Escalades; too bad they all surpass $75K. That pill is even harder to swallow when the Caddy’s price gets closer to six digits. Still, the Slade’s mighty V-8 powertrain is surprisingly quick and, unsurprisingly, effective at burning fossil fuel at a prodigious rate. The Escalade and the lengthier ESV version both have three rows of seats and can accommodate up to eight passengers. While they’re among the classiest ways to tow more than 8000 pounds, the nameplate is no longer the face of SUV royalty.
What's New for 2018?
Since the fourth-generation Escalade debuted back in 2015, there have been only minor changes to the lineup. Perhaps the biggest update for 2018 is the adoption of an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous eight-speed unit. Cadillac designed the updated transmission to shift quicker and help the engine consume a bit less fuel. Inside, Platinum trims now have a tan, brown, and black interior color combination. The lineup also adds Satin Steel Metallic paint this year.
- Base: $75,990
- Luxury: $81,590
- Premium Luxury: $85,990
- Platinum: $95,090
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Behind the Escalade’s giant sparkling grille sits a mighty V-8 powertrain connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission that shifts with finesse. With 420 hp pumping out of its 6.2-liter V-8 at full steam, the heavy Escalade and heavier Escalade ESV accelerate with aplomb. Those who need all-weather assurance can add all-wheel drive; otherwise, rear-wheel drive is standard. We’ve only tested an all-wheel-drive Escalade ESV, but it thundered from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Although that time is the slowest among most rivals, it's still impressive. Besides, the Escalade was more competitive in our 50-to-70-mph test, which simulates a vehicle’s passing power. Despite a set of standard adaptive dampers, the Escalade never felt as convincingly comfortable as its branding and price would suggest. Sure, it rode just fine over smooth pavement, but as soon as things became bumpy, the luxury layer disappeared. To be clear, the Caddy never felt explicitly uncomfortable, and the Escalade remained composed around corners. Just don’t launch it onto an exit ramp above the posted speed limit. The steering effort felt light, and unfortunately that reduced directness allowed the Cadillac to wander in its lane on the highway.
EPA fuel economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest and most accurate fuel economy numbers on current and older vehicles, we use the U.S. Department of Energy's fueleconomy.gov website. Under the heading "Find & Compare Cars" click on the "Compare-Side-by-Side" tool to find the EPA ratings for the make, model, and year you're interested in.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Although the Escalade’s interior is swathed in leather and fitted with desirable features, these traits only camouflage the many carryover parts it shares with cheaper corporate siblings. Likewise, both Escalade body styles have mediocre passenger space—comparatively speaking—in their second and third rows, which also diminishes the luxury experience. We like the Escalade’s wealth of standard interior features, such as heated and cooled front seats and power-adjustable steering wheel and pedals. And the wide front seats will fit all manner of body types. Too bad the available massage functions are reserved for the high-priced Platinum trim, which also includes a suede headliner, leather-wrapped upper-door panels and center console, and unique wood accents. The Caddy’s touch-sensitive and oft-frustrating climate controls were also unconvincing compared with other models from GM. The Escalade has ample front-seat space—provided that passengers don’t scoot forward to increase the legroom for those behind them. A set of second-row captain’s chairs is standard issue, but they can be replaced with a 40/60 split-folding bench seat. The longer Escalade ESV’s third row offers an extra 9.7 inches of legroom, but those seeking maximum third-row space should see the extended Lincoln Navigator L. With three rows and two body styles, the Escalade can handle a variety of passenger and package combinations. While both versions of Escalades have a power-folding third row, the extended ESV is more useful on family road trips with its extra 24 cubic inches of space behind the last row.
Infotainment and Connectivity
A luxury vehicle should provide relaxation, as opposed to the frustration of the sort embodied by the Escalade’s CUE infotainment system. Its heavy reliance on touch-sensitive controls is always distracting and at times inaccurate. Otherwise, every model includes an array of charging outlets and standard features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Every Escalade in the lineup has an 8.0-inch touchscreen running the latest iteration of Cadillac’s CUE infotainment software. While the interface has organized menus and clear graphics, it’s less impressive than the systems found on lesser GM products, such as the GMC Yukon. Every Escalade includes a 4G LTE mobile hotspot. The myCadillac mobile app is also standard, which allows users to remotely control and monitor their vehicle from a smartphone. This means you can lock or unlock the doors, start or stop the engine, find the vehicle on a map, check fuel range, and more.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.