Test Drive Notes Library
- New for 2021. This is a much improved Escalade. With a significantly enhanced suspension system, it takes another step away from its pick-up-truck roots and becomes a legitimate luxury cruiser for the first time.
- Ride. GM has finally added independent rear suspension to the Escalade. Prior to 2021, the Escalade ran on a live rear axle, which was directly descended from the Conestoga Wagon. Needless to say, ride quality is improved immeasurably in 2021. Add in Cadillac’s Dynamic Ride Control (active suspension) and the Escalade is downright cush. Bumps and imperfections in the road are seamlessly absorbed. The harshness that we felt in the trucky old Escalade is gone. The ride is smooth, comfortable, and isolating. This is one comfortable beast.
Interior. The inside of the Escalade is a pleasant place to be. It’s like GM went to Bed Bath and Beyond, bought every pillow in the store, and stuffed them all in the Tahoe. The result is pillowy comfort and vault-like quiet. The materials inside are high quality, from the seats, to the trim, to the switch gear. Most striking is the fully digital dashboard. Spread out in front of the driver are 38 diagonal inches of sharp OLED screen. Yes, 38 inches. Eat your heart out, Elon.
It’s actually three screens. One makes up the traditional instrument cluster, a small one to its left handles a few more displayed options and selections, and a 14 inch infotainment screen to the driver’s right handles media, navigation, and everything else. It’s well executed. It looks very sleek and futuristic, while still being highly useful. There’s more useful tech with GM’s video rear-view-mirror, which is particularly great on behemoths like the Escalade. The view behind you is clear and unobstructed, rain or shine, and you can look at the video feed in your rear view mirror and see just how many Fiat 500s you ran over.
- Well appointed. Granted, we were driving the high end Platinum trim, which starts at $102K and rolled out to us at $109K with options. But it had leather everything, heated and cooled everything, great seats, an astronomy department sunroof, and just about anything else a selfish human might desire.
- Powertrain. OK, we’ll stipulate that a 6.2 liter V8 that makes 420 hp is not the epitome of efficiency. That explains why our overall mileage was even less than the EPA rated 16 mpg. However, it is smooth and powerful. The 10-speed automatic shifts imperceptibly, as it should. And the powertrain, overall, keeps the Escalade gliding along effortlessly. It has a “sport" mode that tightens up the suspension a scoch and raises the shift points. We found it defeated the whole purpose of the Escalade, which is cushiness. But it’s easy enough to add with today’s electronics. And if you ever do find yourself on a curvy coastal road with your spouse turning green from the loll of the suspension, sport mode might help a bit. If not, at least the leather seats are easy to clean. We just left it in Tour mode (comfort) and enjoyed the luxury.
- Room. The 2021 Escalade is a good half a foot longer than the old Escalade. While you might wonder why, those who owned the old Escalade know that despite its exterior girth, interior room was tight. Now it’s more spacious. There are captain's chairs in the second row (well, let’s call them sergeant's chairs, they’re a step down from captain). And there’s a wide aisle providing access to the third row, which is now a reasonable place, even for modest sized adults.
- It’s huge. While Cadillac has legitimately moved the Escalade away from its truck roots, its size is one thing that reminds you that it started life as a beast of burden. It’s tall enough to require the $1750 optional motorized running board so you can step up and in. It’s wide enough that if you drive through a construction zone on a highway, where the lanes narrow, you start to worry about what kind of nasty marks those jersey barriers could leave on your doors. And it’s ginormous enough that every time you park in a garage or a Trader Joe’s lot, you might think, “Why did I think the Telluride was too small for me?”
- Differentiation. From the sides, it looks pretty damn similar to the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Suburban. And they’re fundamentally the same vehicles. The front grill is fancier on the Escalade, and the rear end tail lights are distinctively Cadillac. And that OLED dashboard is only available on the Escalade. But those who don’t feel they need the Cadillac branding, or quite as much interior bling, can get much of what they get in the Escalade for a good bit less.
- Price. The Escalade starts at around $76,000. But even at that price, some of the stuff you need is optional. High speed automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert all cost extra, or force you to buy a higher trim model. Most people will end up doing just that.
Test Drive Notes Library
- One can argue that this is the natural evolution of the Cadillac of Cadillac’s heyday. It’s ostentatiously big. But incredibly comfortable and almost opulent on the inside. It’s soft, isolating, cushy, and blingy. You can drive it with one finger. Handling? Who bought a ’65 Cadillac for handling!? In fact, the long, tall taillights that sit aside the tailgate are even reminiscent of fins.
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