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- Highs Hollywood style, ample towing capability, stuffed with standard features.
- Lows Undignified ride, questionable interior quality, the opposite of fuel efficient.
- Verdict Hidden behind its Cadillac badge and glossy façade is a superficial luxury experience.
Once the de facto king of bling, the 2019 Cadillac Escalade still symbolizes high-class transportation to consumers; however, its luxury reputation is under further consideration. Its hulking chrome shell and Cadillac badge keep up appearances, but its pickup-truck roots and carryover interior parts reveal a choppy ride and superficial quality. These issues are tolerable on cheaper Escalades; unfortunately, they all surpass $75K. That pill is even harder to swallow when the Caddy's price approaches 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 2019 Cadillac Escalade and the longer Escalade 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 Escalade is no longer the face of SUV royalty.
What's New for 2019?
The 2019 Cadillac Escalade lineup receives minor updates that include a hands-free liftgate with an illuminated Cadillac logo. A pair of new metallic exterior colors (Shadow and Manhattan Noir) will be available later.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Every 2019 Escalade represents a significant investment. The long-wheelbase ESV costs $3000 extra. It adds considerable cargo space behind the third row, but to keep costs down we'd stick with the shorter-wheelbase version. Thankfully, even the base Escalade comes heavily equipped with appointments such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, adaptive dampers and selectable drive modes, front and rear parking sensors and self-parking capability, and leather interior with heated and cooled front seats. All-wheel drive adds $3000 and paint colors other than black and silver cost at least $625 on the base model.
Engine, Transmission, Performance, and Towing
Likes: Quick acceleration for its size, hefty towing capability.
Dislikes: Shoehorned column shifter, harsh ride quality, this much mass doesn't move gracefully.
Behind the Escalade's giant sparkling grille sits a mighty 420-hp V-8 engine connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Together, they push this plus-size SUV with authority and can tow up to 8300 pounds. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. In our testing, the Escalade was always responsive, and the transmission handled gearchanges without fuss. We also appreciated the hearty growl that exited the exhaust pipes after heavy throttle inputs. At cruising speeds, the Slade was quiet and refined.
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. However, the way it shivered over uneven surfaces and how harsh bumps infiltrated the cabin are unacceptable. At least the Escalade is composed around corners—just don't launch it onto an exit ramp above the posted speed limit. The steering effort felt lighter than we found on the Chevy Tahoe and the GMC Yukon; thus, it was easier to operate at low speeds. Unfortunately, that lack of directness allowed the Cadillac to wander in its lane on the highway. The brake pedal had smooth and strong responses that we appreciated on daily commutes.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Despite a hefty curb weight and a hearty V-8, the EPA estimates align with the competition. Both body styles with all-wheel drive have the same 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway estimates, but the rear-drive versions earn 2 mpg more on the highway. The Escalade ESV we tested matched its EPA-estimated 21 mpg on our highway fuel-economy test route. The only rival to do better was the Mercedes-Benz GLS450, which earned an impressive 25 mpg.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Spacious front seat, abundant standard features, quiet cabin, loaded with standard features and power points.
Dislikes: Tight third row in short-wheelbase model, partially disguised plebian parts, frustrating touch-sensitive controls, only one audio system.
We like the Escalade's wealth of standard interior features, such as heated and cooled front seats and its power-adjustable steering wheel and pedals; the wide front seats will fit all manner of body types. Unfortunately, the available massage functions are reserved for the outrageously priced Platinum trim, which also includes a faux-suede headliner, leather-wrapped upper-door panels and center console, and unique wood accents. A set of second-row captain's chairs are standard issue, but they can be replaced with a 40/60 split-folding bench seat. Families larger than four may want to choose the second-row bench seat, since the shorter Escalade's third row is only suitable for children. 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.
Every Escalade in the lineup has an 8.0-inch touchscreen running the latest iteration of Cadillac's CUE infotainment software. A luxury vehicle should provide relaxation as opposed to frustration of the sort embodied by CUE. 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, Android Auto, and a 4G LTE mobile hotspot.
While both versions of Escalades have a power-folding third row, the extended ESV is more useful on family road trips. With an extra 24 cubic feet behind the last row, it held eight more bags back there than the shorter model (12 total). Both Cadillacs have a sizable center console that includes an optional refrigerated bin. There's also a hidden compartment behind the climate controls that opens, which is perfect for storing smartphones that are paired with the infotainment system. The cargo area features a big underfloor bin that's useful for separated storage but also decreases carry-on capacity.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
The Escalade hasn't been completely evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Every model does feature front and rear parking sensors to help keep the bumpers scratch-free. Likewise, the Caddy includes active parking assist as standard. The system finds open parking spots when prompted and will steer the vehicle while the driver accelerates and brakes. Unfortunately, other safety and driver assists cost extra and aren't available on base models. Key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Escalade has an excellent warranty with lengthy powertrain protection. However, Cadillac's coverage isn't the best in every category.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 6 years or 70,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for the first visit