It's the most insane gas-powered family hauler ever made.
It's an inescapable fact: electric cars will soon take over. Car companies know the switch is inevitable, so they are sparing no expense to build the most outrageous internal combustion engines while they still can. Few automakers have embraced electrification more than General Motors, but the American giant is simultaneously on a hot streak of building some of the best gas-powered models in company history - cars like the Corvette Z06, Cadillac CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwing, and the subject of this piece, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V.
After getting a short taste earlier this year in Arizona, CarBuzz had a chance to spend a week in the regular wheelbase Escalade-V. Our extended time in the most powerful full-size SUV ever produced had us grappling with two equally true facts: this is possibly the silliest vehicle ever created, and the Escalade-V will be a valuable collectible that displays the peak attributes of a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Collectors purchase classic cars for many reasons, but styling is a major factor. Just think about the most sought-after American classics on the market - the Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang - and you'll see that they all feature evocative design. In recent years, however, people have started to collect more practical vehicles like the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wagoneer, vehicles that feature iconic design but can also carry around their family, their luggage, and maybe a dog. Remember, not everyone can afford a classic car for the weekends and a modern daily driver.
We see the Escalade-V in the same light. When most of the cars on the road are electric, the Escalade-V will stick out as one of the most insane gas-powered SUVs ever built, a relic of a bygone era. Cadillac's styling is on-point with the current-generation Escalade, especially finished in $1,225 Radiant Red Tintcoat like our tester. The V's 22-inch 18-spoke alloys add a sporty touch, as do the red six-piston Brembo brake calipers. When your family pulls up in the Escalade-V, everyone knows you've arrived in style.
Under the hood of the Escalade-V sits a 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 V8. GM fans will know this engine from the C7 Corvette Z06 and the CT5-V Blackwing. It produces 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque in this application, making this among the most powerful SUVs in production, but not the most potent. Honestly, it's not the raw power that impresses most here. A 4.4-second 0-60 mph time and 12.74-second quarter-mile time are mind-blowing for an SUV of this size, but those numbers pale in comparison to some of the German competition and the electric Tesla Model X Plaid.
It's the noise where the Escalade-V truly shines. Cadillac's V engineers fought hard to make sure this car had a proper sports car exhaust. They succeeded, so much so that the Escalade-V is louder than a Corvette Stingray. This vehicle is an aural experience that will leave your bones shattered and your ears bleeding. It's so wonderfully excessive, we were sad to hand back the keys.
Cadillac's engineers may have gone mad turning the Escalade into a roaring monster, but they didn't sacrifice the vehicle's docile side. None of the V goodies erase the positive attributes that make the Escalade such a comfortable luxury cruiser. The adaptive air suspension with Magnetic Ride Control iron out road imperfections and keep this 6,217-pound behemoth impressively controlled in the corners.
Up front, the driver peers out at 38 inches of curved OLED displays with night vision, augmented reality navigation, and other cutting-edge technologies. The driver and front passenger sit on heated/ventilated massage seats (second-row seats are heated too) while the occupants in the rear have plenty of space thanks to the Escalade's massive proportions. There's room in the trunk even with the third row up, though we recommend the longer ESV model if you plan frequent family road trips.
The Escalade is one of the best luxury SUVs on the market, but there are a few small areas where we could see improvement in a mid-cycle refresh. Our test unit did not come equipped with GM's hands-free Super Cruise technology due to the ongoing global semi-conductor shortage. GM assures us this is a temporary issue, and based on our past experience with the car, Super Cruise is still the premier hands-free system on the market.
Though the Escalade's curved OLED displays look great, we don't love how the shape of the main 16.9-inch unit forces Apple CarPlay to project in a smaller area that doesn't take up the entire area. To fix the issue, we'd like to see Cadillac refresh the Escalade with the newer Android-powered infotainment system from the Lyriq.
Finally, though it seems silly to complain about in a vehicle like this, the Escalade-V's 13-mpg combined fuel economy rating is atrocious. During our week with it, we struggled to hit double digits. Just enjoy the exhaust note and ignore its impact on your wallet.
There is nothing else quite like the Escalade-V on the market, nor has there ever been. Nothing German can match its size or personality and the Durango Hellcat is still smaller and far less luxurious. Cadillac is already showing that it can compete on the world stage with electric vehicles like the Lyriq, but before electrification fully takes over, the Detroit luxury brand is out to prove that no company can build a more bonkers luxury SUV. Unless Ford decides tomorrow to relaunch the Excursion as an F-150 Raptor R with an enclosed bed, we can't see any SUVs topping the Escalade-V for maximum excess.