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- Highs High-tech cabin, suitably upscale, gutsy V-8 engine.
- Lows Eye-popping price tag, big thirst for gasoline, up-level version of GMC and Chevy siblings are almost as nice.
- Verdict Buyers who view the Escalade as a status symbol will be delighted by the latest generation of Cadillac's flagship SUV.
Once upon a time, back in the late 1990s, General Motors slapped a Cadillac grille on a GMC Yukon—and the rest is history. The 2021 Cadillac Escalade will mark the model's fifth generation and this new one is head and shoulders above the original in terms of luxury, style, and technology. Borrowing elements from the Escala concept car from 2016, the new Escalade offers visual panache worthy of its price tag. Two engines are offered—a familiar 6.2-liter V-8 and a new turbo-diesel inline-six—both hooked up to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Inside, a series of clever curved OLED displays takes the Escalade's dashboard to the digital realm, serving as the gauge cluster and infotainment display in one slick assembly.
What's New for 2021?
The 2021 Escalade has undergone a thorough redesign, complete with a new independent rear suspension, savvier interior technology, prettier styling, and a new optional diesel-powered engine.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
To truly deck out the Escalade in its best features, go for the Premium Luxury Platinum trim. It adds semi-aniline leather, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with massage, soft-close doors, and an AKG audio system with 36 speakers. It also comes standard with a self-parking feature, a head-up display, and adaptive cruise control.
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Cadillac's biggest SUV is powered by either a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that makes 420 horsepower and can deactivate half of its cylinders when cruising to save fuel or a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six. A 10-speed automatic transmission will be standard with both engines, and buyers will be able to choose from rear- or all-wheel-drive setups based on their individual needs. As with its siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon, the 2021 Escalade now rides on an all-new platform with an independent rear suspension to help provide a smoother ride. Higher-end models also offer an air suspension with adaptive dampers that use computer-controlled shock absorbers. At our test track, the long-wheelbase Escalade ESV with the V-8 engine sprinted to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. The diesel engine sounds less refined than the V-8, but for some buyers that compromise is worth the improved fuel economy and low-end torque.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2021 Escalade are lower than the 2020 model–at least for those powered by the 6.2-liter V-8. Rear-wheel drive examples are rated at 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined; adding all-wheel drive drops each of those numbers by 1 mpg. The 2020 model carried ratings as high as 23 mpg highway and the Escalade's key rival–the Lincoln Navigator–offers more efficient ratings too. Opting for the turbo-diesel engine makes a big difference, with EPA estimates as high as 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test route, an all-wheel drive Escalade with the optional diesel engine returned 26 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
As the flagship of the Cadillac lineup, the 2021 Escalade ups the ante on in-cabin luxury. Faux leather is used in the base Luxury trim, but all other trims receive the real deal, with Platinum models getting soft semi-aniline hides. Leather-covered dash and door panels, aluminum speaker grilles, and adjustable interior ambient lighting provide an upscale appearance. Like the outgoing model, both a standard and long-wheelbase model are offered, the latter of which yielding more legroom for third-row riders and additional cargo space.
Infotainment and Connectivity
In addition to the extra luxury features in the cabin, Cadillac has completely tricked out the Escalade in the electronics department. The main showpiece is the digital dashboard that's comprised of three curved OLED displays that layer on top of one another to create a cool 38-inches of combined digital real estate, some of which serves as the driver's gauge cluster while the rest projects the CUE infotainment system for the driver and passenger. The collection of displays is reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz GLS-class's giant monolithic infotainment setup, but the Escalade's stacked setup creates depth and looks less tacked-on than the Benz. Other tech features include an augmented-reality navigation system and an available rear-seat entertainment package that includes two 12.6-inch displays with streaming capability. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration and a Wi-Fi hotspot are also standard. Audiophiles will be in for a treat no matter which Escalade model they choose. Cadillac has partnered with Grammy-award winning audio and acoustics company AKG to develop the Escalade's standard and optional sound systems. A 19-speaker Studio Sound system is standard on the Luxury, Sport, and Premium Luxury models, but Platinum trims get the AKG Studio Reference system with a whopping 36 speakers.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Cadillac is set on making its flagship SUV a showcase for driver-assistance technology, though, and in addition to making many of the most popular active-safety features standard, Cadillac says it also will offer its Super Cruise semi-autonomous drive mode as an available feature. For more information about the Escalade's crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with front and rear pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The 2021 Escalade offers the same standard warranty package as the rest of the Cadillac lineup. Its powertrain warranty stretches for longer than rivals such as the GLS-class and the BMW X7, but the BMW's complimentary scheduled maintenance plan is far better than the Caddy's.
- 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
2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV 4WD
front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$112,965 (base price: $83,490)
pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
376 in3, 6162 cm3
420 hp @ 5600 rpm
460 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Suspension (F/R): control arms/trailing arm
Brakes (F/R): 13.5-in vented disc/13.6-in vented disc
Tires: Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02, 275/50R-22 111H M+S TPC Spec 3156MS
Wheelbase: 134.1 in
Height: 76.5 in
Passenger volume: 180 ft3
Cargo volume: 43 ft3
Curb Weight: 6270
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 5.9 sec
100 mph: 15.4 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.3 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.2 sec
1/4 mile: 14.5 sec @ 97 mph
Top speed: 120 mph (governor limited)
Braking, 70-0 mph: 176 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft dia skidpad: 0.71 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 14 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 16/14/19 mpg