The king of the Caddy lineup now has the tech to match.
The new 2021 Cadillac Escalade is big news, not just because the full-size luxury SUV is absolutely massive, spanning up to 226.9 inches in length in Escalade ESV form. No, it's because never before has Cadillac crammed this much tech into a single model, and never before has the brand debuted this many new technologies in a production car. The Escalade might have a rich history in pop culture, appearing in a number of rap videos and covered in underglow neon back in the Need For Speed Underground 2 days, but it's the American brand's halo SUV, and for 2021 Caddy's got serious.
Modern smartphones have brought the world of CGI to our pockets, with tech like augmented reality letting kids have hours of fun taking photos with dinosaurs and pulling strange faces on Snapchat. But the tech actually has real-world applications, something Cadillac has been keen on exploiting in the new Escalade. Meet the brand's first Augmented Reality Navigation system, one that will go toe-to-toe with the same tech found in the new Genesis GV80.
Normally, 3D renders help with navigating through some tricky cities, but have you ever been stuck at a three- or four-way fork in the road and the navigation system hasn't been precise as to which split you should take? That's a thing of the past, as the 2021 Escalade will make use of a front-mounted camera displaying the road ahead on the driver information display. This image will be overlaid with real-time navigation instructions, showing you which roads to turn into and which forks to take. It'll be amplified by direction-based audio, which will issue cues through the relevant speakers. Turning left, the instructions will come from the left-hand speakers, with prompts growing louder the closer you get to the turn. It's the most comprehensive navigation system we've ever heard of.
Ever heard of AKG? Possibly not, that's because if you're using their microphones and speakers, you're probably a professional musician - that's how high-end the manufacturer's audio equipment is. So it's pretty special that AKG has partnered with Cadillac for the first-ever AKG in-car sound systems, with the crown jewel being an optional 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference system. 36 studio-quality speakers have been partnered with three amps to deliver 28 channels. Each speaker has been meticulously placed to enhance the quality of the audio, with the system said to deliver audio "like being with the artist in the recording studio." You'll also never fight with your front-seat passenger again over the volume, as the system incorporates dual-zone volume control.
That's not all it does - it also functions as part of the aforementioned direction-based audio prompts on the AR Navigation system, and it gives a new meaning to in-car PA systems by using microphones throughout the cabin to pick up on and amplify speech so you're never unable to hear those in the furthest seats.
This isn't an industry first, but it is a first for the Cadillac Escalade, as the 2021 Escalade will be the first-ever to feature a night vision camera. This optional feature makes use of a forward-facing infrared camera to enhance visibility, not just at night, but during heavy downpours and on foggy days when vision is extremely limited. The infrared imaging easily highlights pedestrians and animals that might be hiding out of the arc of light cast by the headlights, with the image projected on the central information display for easy viewing.
We've seen this before on high-end German machines like the BMW X7 and Porsche Cayenne, but this technology being made available on the Escalade is proof that Cadillac is truly stepping up its game.
It's big news when a manufacturer equips a high-end vehicle with an infotainment screen that measures more than 10 inches, and until now, the most impressive we've seen has been the dual 12.3-inch displays found in high-end Mercedes-Benz models like the S-Class and CLS-Class. The 2021 Escalade makes that look like child's play, thanks to a new display system that not only leaves rivals for dead in the size department but represents the industry-first use of curved OLED technology inside a production vehicle's cabin.
The system is based around the driver and offers a diagonal display measuring more than 38 inches diagonally. It's broken down into three clusters, with a 7.2-inch touchscreen driver information display on the left, a now customary but still massive 14.2-inch instrumentation cluster in the center, and a 16.9-inch infotainment screen. The curved screens ensure perfect viewing, while the OLED technology guarantees the purest color representation and twice the pixel density of a 4K TV. Because of the OLED panel's paper-thin nature, it's also ideal for packaging, allowing maximum screen coverage without taking up vast amounts of cabin space.
Those screens are impressive, but it's what they display that really matters. In addition to the AR Navigation, night vision, and regular in-car infotainment, the 2021 Escalade can also be equipped with a multitude of camera systems. These include a standard surround-vision system that creates a 2-megapixel bird's-eye view representation of the surrounding environment, ensuring perfect vision when you need to navigate the behemoth through tight spaces.
The available Trailering Integration Package brings more cameras to the table, including nine camera views with dynamic guidelines to enable easy hitching and towing of large trailers. This system aims to make solo hitching of trailers a fuss-free affair, and it also equips an integrated trailer brake controller and extended blind spot monitoring for safer towing.
The last of the incredible camera systems comes in the form of a Rear Camera Mirror. Sometimes a rearview mirror doesn't quite provide an accurate view of what's behind you, especially when you're fully loaded with passengers. The RCM displays an image from the rear camera into the internal mirror screen, allowing you to see what's behind you with perfect clarity.
Any family SUV needs to cater to the kids in the back, but in case the 36-speaker AKG sound system isn't enough, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is equipped with two massive 12.6-inch rear infotainment screens. The two screens are independent of one another and boast touchscreen functionality. In addition to HDMI and USB inputs for playing movies and TV series, both are equipped to mirror compatible Android smartphones, and you can use the screens to track live navigation and send destination suggestions to the driver for approval. Great for the wealthy businessman in the back, but maybe not so great when the kids want to stop at every McDonald's they can find on the map.
Everyone is chasing autonomy, but until such time as we get there, a range of semi-autonomous driving aids is all we've got. Cadillac has employed the best it has to offer in the case of the Escalade, equipping the latest version of Super Cruise to enable hands-free driving on a network of highways across the US and Canada spanning more than 200,000 miles.
By combining LiDAR map data, driver attention monitoring, the aforementioned suite of cameras, the standard GPS system, and radar sensors that double up as parking sensors, Super Cruise allows us to get as close as we can to full autonomy. This highly advanced cruise control will stay in a lane, speed up and slow down depending on the flow of traffic, and even change lanes on behalf of the driver. The system will read surrounding vehicles, and in the case an approaching vehicle overtakes, the car will automatically move to the side of the lane to avoid any potential for contact. In the event the system detects that the driver is not paying attention, the onboard driver attention system will signal when more concentration is needed.