There’s no question that the Escalade boasts more bravado than just about anything else to ever hit the road, but this latest SUV is far more luxurious, refined, and capable than ever before. Straddling the line between tasteful and excessive, the Escalade’s unmistakable style is evident from every angle. At its core, it shares its frame, its structure, and much of its running gear with the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban and the GMC Yukon, but the Escalade takes things to an entirely different level inside and out.
Two configurations are on offer, the standard wheelbase shared with the Tahoe and Yukon and a extended Escalade ESV model based on the Suburban and Yukon XL. Either way it is ordered, all Escalades ride on a choice of 20- or 22-inch alloy wheels, the latter of which feature a new design for 2017. Full LED lighting outside is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Escalade’s high-tech features; LEDs line its vertical headlights and taillights and they illuminate the Cadillac logo on the SUV’s grille.
Inside, the Escalade moves even further from its comparatively pedestrian siblings. Cut-and-sewn leather upholstery trims out the cabin, with genuine hide and suede tucking neatly next to open pore wood trim. From the front seats—which are heated and cooled as standard—the centerpiece of the dashboard is Cadillac’s tablet-like CUE touchscreen infotainment system, which can be activated by voice, capacitive touch and swipe gestures. The driver faces a 12.3-inch display with a cluster of digital gauges that can be configured in one of four themes. A head-up display is optional and projects selected information onto the windshield for the driver.
New for 2017 is a rearview mirror that isn’t a mirror at all. Instead, it is actually a high-resolution screen for a camera mounted to the Escalade’s tailgate. The mirror takes some getting used to, but it eliminates any blind spot normally caused by the SUV’s big roof pillars.
CUE includes as standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as a Bose Centerpoint 2.0 audio system. To keep rear seat passengers occupied, rear seat entertainment systems are available with one or two screens depending on trim. (Luxury and higher trims can get dual monitors in the front headrests, when selected.) Parent company General Motors’ OnStar 4G LTE connectivity also comes standard and includes a wi-fi antenna that makes the ‘Slade into a mobile hotspot—albeit for an extra monthly charge after an initial trial period.
Opt for the range-topping Escalade Platinum package, available on either wheelbase, and the interior comes alive with aromatic semi-aniline leather trim. Short of a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, we can’t think of many vehicles upholstered in so much leather. Second- and third-row seats fold flat at the touch of a button, and though the cargo floor is somewhat higher than in previous Escalades, it’s at a waist-height level that makes it relatively easy to load and unload heavier items. There’s over 15 cubic feet of space behind the third row on the standard Escalade, a capacity that more than doubles on the long-wheelbase Escalade ESV.
Cadillac Escalade performance
A different kind of beast sits under the SUV’s angular hood: A 6.2-liter V-8 rated at 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It pairs well with the standard 8-speed automatic transmission to reach 60 mph in around six seconds, an impressive feat for a vehicle that tips the scales at about 6,000 pounds when fully equipped. That performance doesn’t hurt efficiency as much as you might think—with features like direct injection and cylinder shutoff, the V-8 earns EPA ratings as high as 17 mpg combined.
As in previous generations, the 2016 Escalade comes in rear wheel-drive and all wheel-drive variants, the latter of which is designed more for slushy weather than climbing a mountain. With running gear derived from that of GM’s full-size pickup truck line, the Escalade one of few large luxury SUVs with a solid rear axle. That’s old-school tech, and it helps explain the high cargo floor, but Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control dampers are standard and finally give the Escalade a ride quality almost on par with segment leaders. Where the Escalade really comes into play is its towing ability; rated at up to 8,300 pounds, the big SUV tows especially confidently.
Safety equipment includes an innovative front-center airbag that protects front-seat occupants thrown toward the center of the Escalade in a side-impact collision. Automatic emergency braking is newly standard on the Luxury trim level, while the optional Driver Awareness package adds a lane departure warning system that can tug the big SUV into its lane if it wanders as well as automatic high beams.
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Gas Mileage 15 mpg City/20 mpg Hwy
Engine Gas V8, 6.2L
EPA Class No Data
Style Name 4WD Premium Luxury
Drivetrain Four Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity 7
Passenger Doors 4
Body Style Sport Utility
Transmission Transmission, 8-speed automatic, 8L90