2021 Cadillac Escalade Review – More Lux, Tech & Space
It was about time Cadillac pulled the big rabbit out of the magician’s hat and brought a proper Escalade to the American public. The 2021 Cadillac Escalade was completely overhauled from the ground up. The big, bold and luxurious Escalade grew bigger, more bold and luxurious in its latest iteration. We explore what has changed on Cadillac’s latest land yacht, and determine if it’s worth your hard earned buck.
Handsome New Looks
In the late 90s, General Motors had the idea of popping a Cadillac grille on a high trimmed GMC Yukon. That’s how the Cadillac Escalade was born. However, in its fifth generation, the Escalade stands uniquely independent from its GM counterparts. The 2021 Cadillac Escalade brings over design cues found on the 2016 Escala concept car but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it takes everything to the next level.
The front’s daytime running lights cut through the trim, adding depth to an otherwise imposing front fascia. The black grille occupies most of the frontal area of the SUV, its mesh being obstructed solely by the Cadillac logo. Depending on the trim, you can find the grille in chrome-steel although the black version (available on Sport Trim) goes well with the Onyx-trim wheels. Furthermore, black accents are drawn on the sides of the car, continuing to the back.
Taillights are blended with the rear side windows and rear window, also protruding into the body as the DRL (daylight running lights). Aside from the body edges defined by the new horizontal headlights and signature tall taillights, there is nothing to generate edges over the boxed body of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade. Even so, the SUV still creates a bold presence regardless of its environment.
The inside: it’s all about the materials
While Cadillac always marketed the importance of “cut and sew” materials, it painfully left out that importance of how materials are arranged. However, every little inconvenient detail was magically fixed on the 2021 Escalade. The interior simply wows from every angle and provides stunning views no matter where you sit.
Linen-like fabric has been tastefully integrated in the lower dash, door panels and glove box. This brings a healthy dose of elegance and replaces what would otherwise have been soft, plastic or leather in a best-case scenario.
Complementing the linen-like trim, wood inserts are equally handsome. Cadillac loaded the 2021 Escalade’s dash, doors, console and steering wheel with everything you would expect to see on a luxury vehicle three times the price.
Where neither quality textile nor wood resides, the Escalade provides top-grain leather that is not seen in lower-tier GM products. The few plastics available are finished to match the standards of their surroundings.
Rear seats provide the same quality level both on the second and third rows. Thanks to the new rear independent suspension, adults can now comfortably occupy the 3rd seat row. In terms of cargo area, a trip for 6 adults and their generous luggage won’t require any bags to be anchored on the roof, especially in the ESV. That’s how expansive the cargo area is.
Tech: 38 inches of screen, almost as many speakers
There’s a lot of screen to look at in the 2021 Cadillac Escalade. The 14.2-inch gauge cluster, the 7.2-inch touchscreen and the 16.9-inch infotainment screen combines for 38 inches of brilliant OLED display. The smaller screen attached to the left of the gauge cluster can be personalized to display various elements including extra gauges, forward camera view enhanced with augmented reality features, a map, or a night vision screen.
Besides the star of the show (the digital dashboard), two 12.6-inch displays are available to be mounted for rear seat entertainment. Furthermore, regardless of the trim, audiophiles will be treated to award winning AKG sound systems. While the lower trims (Luxury, Sport Premium) come with “only” a 19-speaker Studio System, those who go for the Platinum trim are treated to a 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference system. That’s almost one speaker per inch of digital dashboard display.
Performance: rides softly but won’t sprint
The 6.2-liter V8 small-block does its best to put the gargantuan sized Escalade into motion and keep it rolling. For this, it provides 420hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque to all 4 wheels. You will have to rev this naturally aspirated V8 in order to get it going. On the other hand, an upcoming 3-liter inline-six unit is on its way to solve the low-end torque issues, providing 460 lb.-ft. As early as 1500RPM.
Regardless of the power unit, all 2021 Escalade models come standard with a 10-speed automatic gearbox. It feels nicely calibrated and doesn’t give in to any harshness, quickly dropping gears when you step on the throttle. When it comes to fuel, EPA rates the 2021 Cadillac Escalade at 14/19/16 mpg (city, highway, combined). Real life tests averaged 17.7mpg combined which is not high by any standards, but manages to outscore the EPA rating. Although, given recent innovations in the industry and the abundance of hybrid technology, despite its hefty size, its fuel economy is still a bit disappointing.
When it’s time to come to a stop, the sheer weight (6,000lbs.) and size of the Escalade may cause the brake pedal to feel a little spongy. Still, there is no reason to worry, as a firmer press will provide reassuring feedback that the large front and rear brake rotors are generating extra stopping power. This is especially important when you find yourself in a vehicle as hefty as a heavy-duty crawler that moves rockets to the launch pad.
Speaking of crawling and carrying, the Escalade ESV is capable of lugging 7,900lbs, enough for most boats or campers. With this rating and 42.9 cubic-feet of storage space, the 2021 is hard to beat. Fold down the second and third-row seats and this swells to a massive 126.6 cubic feet of space. Moving to a new luxury condo? You might not need a moving van to carry your stuff in one go.
Thankfully GM switched the rear live suspension to an independent system in an effort to improve ride smoothness. Higher trims are available with an adaptive air suspension and computer-controlled, magneto-rheologic dampers. With the fancy combo, the ride becomes cloud-like and careful soundproofing makes tire and wind noise almost inaudible.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is the Escalade we’ve been waiting for since 2015. GM put a lot of money and effort into refining all the flaws from the previous model while turning strong points to 11. The outer shell of the 2021 Escalade looks bold and unforgiving while the interior boasts absurdly high levels of quality. Alongside fine materials and beautifully integrated ornaments, there is plenty of modern tech, with the 38” dashboard screens as the crown jewel. We may wish for a few more ponies from the naturally aspirated V8, but overall it does a fine job for most owners purposes. Plus, a diesel is on the way to provide a bit more push at lower RPMs.
With prices starting at a little over $76,000, top trims of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade will bring the total a few grand above the 6-figure mark. Even at this price tag, it’s hard to deny the perks it provides for money spent.
2021 Cadillac Escalade Pictures:
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