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2021 Cadillac Escalade Review: Finally Up to Expectations

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Auto123 reviews the 2021 Cadillac Escalade.

Cadillac's Escalade, the most elephantine of the American luxury brand's SUVs, hit the road for the first time in 1998. But it’s important to understand that the first four generations were little more than ennobled Chevrolet Tahoes. Fortunately, the fifth generation coming in 2021 is the first edition that is truly worthy of the luxury SUV designation.

See also: 10 Things to Know about the New 2021 Cadillac Escalade

To begin with, Cadillac has corrected a lot of shortcomings. You can sense that with this new version the American brand has done what it needed to produce a true luxury SUV, without needing the approval of the accounting department every step of the way.

Two sizes: long and very long
As before, buyers can choose between a regular or extended-wheelbase version, both of which are available for all versions of the model, Luxury, Premium Luxury, Premium Luxury Platinum, Sport and Sport Platinum. The pricing starts at $89,798 for the base Luxury version and reaches $117,798 for an extended-wheelbase Premium Luxury Platinum version.

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2021 Cadillac Escalade, profile
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, profile

Colossal
While the overall appearance is similar to the recent Tahoe and Yukon models, the face of the Escalade is typical of Cadillac products. The proportions are simply gigantic. Our long test model extended 5.77 meters and rode on 22-inch wheels. Please note that access to many indoor parking lots will be denied you, and trying to park in the city is an act of courage. It would be an understatement to say that the model imposes itself on the road, starting with its headlights that seem to come out of a science fiction movie.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, three-quarters rear, driver's side
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, three-quarters rear, driver's side
2021 Cadillac Escalade, interior
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, interior

A breathtaking interior
So, yes, it’s big  and imposing and all that. But it was that before. But it’s when you enter the elephant that you being to see that Cadillac’s hit a home run here. The undisputed star of the model's interior environment is its curved 38-inch diameter LED screen. Actually, Cadillac cheated a little bit on this one, as it's actually three screens that are combined. To the left of the driver is a 7.2-inch screen that allows you to change the menu on the 14.2-inch instrument panel. Right next to it is a 16.9-inch multimedia screen, for a total of 38. Those are all crazy numbers by the standard of even a few years ago, and it’s impressive to see.

The integration of all three is very well done and the driver-facing orientation makes it easy to use, plus the graphics are exceptionally clear.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, screens
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, screens

Wanting to throw the souls in the second row some bones of their own, Cadillac has also placed two large screens at the disposal of those passengers, which serve a variety of functions.

Also, the second-row captain's seats are very comfortable and it’s even possible to ask adults to occupy the third row, and even then there’s room for luggage in the back. I don’t need to remind owners of older Escalades about the poor quality of the materials in them. Rest assured, all this seems to be a thing of the past in the 2021 version. The quality of the leather materials and the "hand-stitched" finish of our Platinum tester are remarkable. Cadillac has even taken the trouble to apply leather on areas such as the lower door panels, the frame around the glove compartment and the lower part of the dashboard where hard plastic is usually found.

The only downside is that some of the controls are borrowed from Chevrolet.

In our tester, we were also treated to the 36-speaker AKG audio system. It delivers one of the best hearing experiences you can have in a vehicle, akin to being in a concert hall. It's true that the Escalade is actually almost as big as a concert hall, but whatever, the sacred music of Telemann will tear you up, it's so beautiful on this system.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, captain's chairs
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, captain's chairs

More space in the back
The new platform and the Escalade's first independent rear suspension combine to work wonders on the third row, which as mentioned is now open for adults, but is also now comfortable. The only reason to buy the Escalade ESV (extended-wheelbase version) is for the cargo space, which in the regular version is extremely reduced with the third row in place. The ESV variant will carry six people with all their luggage in the back.

On the road
The Escalade offers you two choices of engines: a standard 6.2L V8 producing 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, as well as a diesel version with a 3.0L V6 good for 266 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.

On the road taking us from Montreal to Ottawa, we could have easily continued straight on through to the plains of Saskatchewan, so serene is the atmosphere on board. Even with the 22-inch wheels, comfort levels are very high, the cabin is exceedingly quiet and the Escalade's weight of nearly 2.7 tons keeps it firmly planted on the ground, even in high winds. The steering lacks precision, however, a defect that persists from one generation to the next, and braking is not up to par.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, front
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, front

We suggest that you keep the vehicle in Touring mode for driving. The Sport mode is certainly more dynamic, but it's not suitable for this mammoth, which doesn't really like to be stirred up too much.

We couldn't end this review without mentioning fuel consumption. Our routes consisted mainly of the highway leading from Montreal to the nation’s capital, plus a few side roads. The week ended with the display showing an average of 15.6L/100 km. You'll get better with the diesel engine, but the purchase premium is quite high. The gasoline version, by the way, can tow 3,674 kg.

Conclusion
An ideal vehicle to enjoy long highway rides in blissful contentment, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is as spacious as it is expensive, and it is becoming a strong competitor to the Lincoln Navigator that was the leading U.S. entry in the luxury big-boy segment.

2021 Cadillac Escalade, three-quarters rear
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, three-quarters rear

We like

Very elegant interior
State-of-the-art LED display
Enormous amount or room

We like less

High fuel consumption
Some interior elements taken from Chevrolet
Annoying clutter
Give yourself braking room

The competition

BMW X7
GMC Yukon
Land Rover Range Rover
Lincoln Navigator
Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

2021 Cadillac Escalade, rear
Photo: Cadillac
2021 Cadillac Escalade, rear

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Photos:D.Boshouwers
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