Why The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is The Ultimate Fullsize SUV

Opinion / Comments

We love the updated 'Slade.

Earlier this year, the all-new 2021 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV debuted, arriving alongside their Chevrolet and GMC counterparts, built on General Motors' full-size SUV platform. The fifth-generation Escalade comes sporting a new look, updated engines, and more technology inside than ever before. Cadillac isn't just hoping to gain ground on the Lincoln Navigator; it's hoping to play on a world stage.

CarBuzz spent a few days driving a 2021 Escalade ESV with 4WD in the Sport trim. After handing back the car, we are convinced that Cadillac has leapfrogged the competition, and there will soon be a ton of Navigators, Range Rovers, and X7s traded in for this new Escalade. Here's why the new 'Slade is the ultimate humongous luxury SUV.

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Elegant Concept Styling

While the Cadillac Escala Concept never made it to production there is a lot of Escala influence in the company's current design language. It's challenging to make a boxy shape like the Escalade handsome, but Cadillac's designers have achieved the task. We particularly love the Escala-inspired front end with its small headlights and massive grille. The design looks imposing and elegant at the same time. The black grille found on our Sport trim tester adds a menacing style to the front end, complementing the massive stature.

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Sublime Interior Tech

Previous generations of the Escalade could never compete with Europe in terms of cabin materials and design. With this new model, Cadillac has blown away the competition. Not only does this new cabin look stunning, but the materials feel top-notch as well. Three ultra-high-definition OLED screens act as the centerpiece of the interior, offering fantastic features such as wireless CarPlay and Android Auto and augmented reality navigation. The screens total 38-inches and offer two times higher resolution than a 4K TV.

Though our tester didn't have it, this new Escalade will offer Cadillac's groundbreaking SuperCruise feature, enabling hands-free semi-autonomous driving. Rear-seat passengers can also enjoy dual entertainment screens with Miracast capabilities, with the option of a 36-speaker AKG audio system.

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More Space Than You'll Ever Need

If you need to haul people and their stuff, you won't find a better vehicle than the Escalade ESV. The ESV measures 227 inches long compared to 211 for the standard Escalade, with all of that space going to the third row and cargo area. You can sit seven (or eight) people in perfect comfort with 41.7 inches of second-row legroom and 36.6 inches in the third row. Even with the third-row, the ESV still offers 41.5 cubic feet of space, which opens to 94.1 cubic seats when folded. If you fold the second row, the capacity increases to a class-leading 142.8 cubic feet. Only a handful of minivans and the discontinued Ford Excursion offer more space.

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Luxurious & Comfortable

The Escalade, like its Chevy and GMC counterparts, always felt too truck-like to consider as a world-class luxury option. With the fifth-generation model, Cadillac has finally solved this issue. The new model is available with Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, which controls body roll to improve composure. GM's Magnetic Ride Control technology is also on hand, smoothing out the ride over bumps. Even in the third-row, where the Escalade used to launch passengers into the ceiling over every bump, a new independent rear suspension drastically improves the handling and ride manners.

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Superb Engine Options

Cadillac will offer the new Escalade with two engine options. We tested the 6.2-liter V8, which produces a healthy 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque going out through a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission. Most buyers will love the buttery V8, with its excellent passing power and mountains of torque, but more frugal buyers might want to wait for the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six to become available. It produces less power (277 hp) but the same amount of torque. Cadillac hasn't quoted any exact figures but promises the diesel will offer greater efficiency than the V8.

There are also rumors of an Escalade V, powered by a supercharged V8. Such a creation would finally give Cadilac a competitor to BMW's M Division and Mercedes-AMG.

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