Skip to main content

As a luxury SUV, the Cadillac Escalade has few equals. However, the Escalade promises a luxurious ride, but some model years are better than others. Let’s look at four of the worst and four of the best model years for the Cadillac’s premier SUV. 

Common Cadillac Escalade problems

CarComplaints says the 2016 model received the most owner-reported complaints of any model year, and broken exterior door handles received the most complaints over multiple model years. Most of the 2016 Escalade’s problems involve the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system and transmission failures, but other years experienced engine problems and an abnormally rough ride.

The Cadillac Escalade offers average reliability and ranks 6th out of 19 luxury full-size SUVs. However, CoPilot says, “not all Cadillac Escalade years are created equal.” This inequality is especially true in 2007, 2008, 2015, and 2016 Cadillac Escalade models.

2007 Cadillac Escalade

CoPilot notes that the 2007 Cadillac Escalade, the introductory model of the third-generation Escalade, has nearly 300 NHTSA complaints. These complaints include the broken door handles mentioned above and a more serious electrical that left the luxury SUV “engulfed in flames.” 

2008 Cadillac Escalade

The 2008 model received fewer complaints, with 176 total, but the broken door handle issue carried over from the previous model year. Another common problem for 2008 models is a faulty instrument gauge panel that works intermittently. The remedy requires replacing the gauge cluster, an expensive repair process. 

2015 Cadillac Escalade

A white Cadillac Escalade parked indoors.
2014 Cadillac Escalade | Getty Images

With 72 NHTSA complaints and seven recalls, the fourth-generation 2015 Escalade isn’t the worst. Still, as a premium luxury SUV, it’s not as refined or dependable as people expect.

According to CoPilot, the most frequent source of complaints is shaking and bumping while driving. Several reports describe the Escalade’s rough-shifting automatic transmission in this way, but the 2015 Escalade also has recurring engine misfire issues that cause rough idling. 

2016 Cadillac Escalade

According to the NHTSA, the 2016 Escalade received 61 complaints and four recalls issued by the manufacturer. Most of the complaints involved the electrical and suspension systems.

Two manufacturer recalls are issues with the front airbags, with one for the power brake system. However, the most severe potential defect calls for owners of affected Escalades to “stop driving this vehicle immediately” until a qualified mechanic inspects the upper control arms (part of the front suspension) for “insufficient welds.”

Four better models

CoPilot recommends 2002, 2013, and 2014 Cadillac Escalades, and Money Inc. adds the 2018 model year to the list of reliable models. CoPilot says that first-generation Escalades received criticism as a “rebadged Chevy Tahoe with leather upholstery.” However, as the 2002 model ushered in the second generation Escalade, critics began to recognize it as the “first true full-size American luxury SUV. While the 2002 Cadillac escapade isn’t perfect, CoPilot says “its engines are priced reasonably nowadays.” 

The 2013 and 2014 models are part of the third generation. Both models offer plush interiors with leather upholstery, heated seats, and lots of space for passengers and cargo. In addition, the 403-hp 6.2-liter V8 provides enough smooth power to make the large Escalade feel nimble. 

Money Inc. lists the 2018 Escalade among “the 10 best Cadillac Escalade models of all time.” In addition, the review lists the 2018 model, the newest on either list, as desirable due to its magnetic ride control, adaptive suspension, and heads-up display. 


5 Best Luxury SUVs with the Best Gas Mileage According to TrueCar