Trucks & SUVs

Is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade the Luxury SUV Standard Again?

As disappointing as the 2020 Escalade could be, Cadillac’s large luxury SUV is redesigned for 2021. And with competition from the Lincoln Navigator, as well as from overseas luxury marques, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade can’t disappoint. But has the rework actually, well, worked? YouTube team Throttle House investigates.

What kind of luxury features does the 2021 Cadillac Escalade offer?

A dark-blue 2021 Cadillac Escalade
2021 Cadillac Escalade front 3/4 | Cadillac

The 5th-gen 2021 Cadillac Escalade still shares a few components with the Chevrolet Tahoe, Automobile reports. But considering the 2021 Tahoe rides on a new frame and suspension, that’s actually to the Escalade’s benefit, Motor Trend reports. Though we’ll get to that shortly.

As of this writing, there’s only one engine available in the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, Roadshow reports. It’s a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft, linked to a 10-speed automatic. However, by the end of 2020, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 will be available. Both engines come standard with rear-wheel drive, while AWD is optional, Autotrader reports.

The dashboard and tan-leather front seats of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade
2021 Cadillac Escalade interior | Cadillac

Arguably bigger news than the new chassis and diesel engine is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade’s interior and tech features. The dash has a curved OLED display made up of 3 separate screens, Car and Driver reports. The driver has a 14.2” display, a 7.2” display to the left of that, and a 16.9” infotainment screen. Naturally, it comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation. However, the 2021 Escalade’s navigation offers augmented reality viewing options, Motor1 reports.

As of this writing, Cadillac’s Super Cruise ADAS suite is available on the 2021 Escalade, MT reports. The driver-assistance feature pairs cameras, sensors, and digital maps along with adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection. It’s still a partially-autonomous system, but it’s one of the most advanced on the market.

One possible seating arrangement for the 2021 Cadillac Escalade
2021 Cadillac Escalade seats | Cadillac

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade offers plenty of interior luxuries besides that, though. The base $76,195 Luxury trim comes with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, a 19-speaker audio system, and ambient interior lighting. Real leather upholstery isn’t standard on the Luxury, but real wood trim is, Car and Driver reports.

The 2021 Cadillac is “finally what it should be,” Motor Trend says

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The 2021 Cadillac Escalade didn’t win Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year award. But it was a finalist, beating out rivals from BMW and Audi. It also placed higher than the Tahoe as well as the GMC Yukon. And that’s because, as Throttle House explains below, there’s a lot to like about the new Escalade.

Everything about the interior “feels high-end,” Autoweek reports. The wood trim, the soft-touch plastics, and, on the higher trims, the leather upholstery. Higher trims also get heated and ventilated massaging seats, air springs, a 36-speaker audio system, and dual 12.6” displays for rear passengers. Plus, if you buy one of the two Sport trims, you get the Performance Package as standard, which adds magnetorheological dampers and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential. There’s even optional night vision, power-retractable steps, and a console refrigerator available.

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The switch to independent rear suspension gives the 2021 Cadillac Escalade more interior room as well as a flat cargo floor. If you fold the two rear rows down, there’s more cargo room than in the BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS, and the Lincoln Navigator, Roadshow reports. That means that adults can sit in the 3rd-row seats comfortably, MT reports. Though if you need even more space, there’s the long-wheelbase ESV model.

While it’s by no means a sports car, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade handles well despite its 3-ton curb weight, Automobile reports. But the Escalade’s biggest strength is that you don’t have to go fast to enjoy it or make a statement in it. To quote Roadshow, the Escalade “is truly a flagship-worthy vehicle.”

What still needs work?

That doesn’t mean the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is perfect, though.

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For starters, Throttle House points out that it’s fairly expensive, even compared to its rivals. The Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury with added ADAS features, air springs, Super Cruise, and magnetic dampers costs $96,140. And the range-topping Platinum trims start at $99,995. You can get the same dampers and air suspension in a much cheaper Tahoe or Yukon. And Throttle House reports the GLS and X7 ride better while costing the same or even less.

Plus, while the Escalade’s interior quality overall is fantastic, MT reports there are still a few components taken from cheaper Chevrolets. The shifter, for example, and some of the minor switchgear.

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Finally, the Cadillac Escalade isn’t particularly fuel-efficient, even for a luxury SUV with a 6.2-liter V8. Its EPA ratings are actually slightly worse than the out-going model, MT reports.

So, is the 2021 Escalade the standard by which luxury SUVs should be judged? Not necessarily. However, of the Cadillacs Motor1’s tested in 2020, the Escalade “is the first one that feels worthy of the badge.” And Throttle House enjoyed the SUV’s interior and exterior design. In short, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade may not be the luxury SUV standard, but it sets a new standard for the brand to follow.

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