Cadillac Escalade ESV

The 2017 Escalade model line includes standard-length and extended-length Escalade ESV models, as well as Luxury and Premium versions of each. With any of these models you also have a choice between rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

All Escalades have a 6.2L V8 engine. With an aluminum block and heads, direct injection, variable valve timing, this is a big V8, but a thoroughly modern one. The engine makes 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, and thanks to an Active Fuel Management system, which will run the engine on four of its cylinders during coasting or some lower-speed cruising conditions, it returns EPA ratings of up to 15 mpg city, 22 highway.

Four-wheel-drive models include an Auto mode that allows on-demand 4-wheel drive when the conditions demand it. All models also have an automatic-locking rear differential.

The Escalade is built on a fully boxed frame, which allows the toughness for towing and heavier uses and payloads. All versions of the Escalade now also include Magnetic Ride Control, a system that uses special shocks that can change their damping characteristics in just a fraction of a second, allowing the softness to soak up coarse surfaces and road shocks while firming up for quick emergency maneuvers when needed. With variable-assist electric power steering, new-design body mounts, a wider rear track, and a new suspension geometry in back, the Escalade handles well for such a heavy vehicle. Meanwhile, Active Noise Cancellation technology and special acoustic-laminate glass help keep it quiet inside. The Escalade also includes 4-wheel disc brakes--now with Duralife rotors with extended service life.

Cadillac Escalade ESV models are about 20 inches longer than the standard Escalade, with a wheelbase that's 14 inches longer. Both offer an official seating capacity of up to eight, depending on the layout, and seating space is technically the same; but the key difference is that ESV models offer easier access to the third-row seats, as well as more than double the cargo space behind the third row (39.3 cubic feet for the ESV, versus 15.2 cubic feet for the standard-length Escalade). Throughout the Escalade's interior, the traditional luxury ambiance hasn't been forgotten, and the cabin feels plush and very well detailed, with cut-and-sewn materials and real wood trim.

In the instrument panel for all models, a high-resolution, 12.3-inch information cluster replaces conventional analog gauges, instead offering a choice of layouts, as well as a go-to point for trip-computer functions, navigation, and hands-free calling functions; meanwhile, there's also the Cadillac User Experience (CUE), a system that uses sophisticated voice controls combined with a capacitive screen at the center of the instrument panel; it even incorporates proximity sensing--showing different menus depending on how near the user's hand is to the display. The system now also includes Siri Eyes Free compatibility, with the capability to read incoming text. The OnStar 4G LTE data connection is also available, which turns the vehicle into a high-speed mobile hot spot.

All Escalades come with a comprehensive airbag system that includes seat-mounted side airbags, front driver and passenger frontal, curtain and side-impact airbags for all occupants. Luxury and Premium models add additional safety features that include Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Lane Change Alert. An available Driver Awareness Package includes Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and a Safety Alert seat that transmits warnings to the driver with patterned vibrations. A front and rear automatic braking system works to avoid or mitigate the severity of a potential accident. For 2017, the entire Escalade lineup gets a surround vision camera system and a semi-autonomous parking system.

There's also a Bose Centerpoint sound system in the 2017 Escalade; it includes 16 speakers, including five in the instrument panel and doors, as well as SurroundStage signal processing. A Blu-Ray DVD rear entertainment system is incorporated, with a 9-inch screen in the Escalade and twin screens on the ESV. It includes a USB port, an SD slot and RCA inputs.

The Escalade Luxury models add huge 22-inch Ultra-Bright Finish alloy wheels, a Driver Awareness Package, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Assist, IntelliBeam headlamps, second-row power-folding seats, a sunroof and a head-up display. Top-level Premium models add the Driver Assist Package with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, illuminated door handles and rear-seat entertainment.

Editors' Review

It's been satisfying to watch the Cadillac Escalade grow over the last decade or so. I don't mean literally, though its dimensions are truly prodigious (especially in the ESV trim you see here). I'm instead talking about how the Escalade has matured and evolved from a stately but familiar SUV into something truly premium.

Making that evolution more impressive is that, on the surface, not all that much has changed since the last revision. This ESV model is a thumb short of 19 feet long and one set of golf clubs shy of 6,000 pounds, all wrapped around basically the same 6.2-liter V8 as in the previous generation, still putting down a healthy 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque.

Even when motivating something this prodigious, that motor proves plenty, accelerating smoothly and cleanly slicing through the attached 10-speed auto. It even sounds nice when pressed, deep and purposeful without being annoying. It's a thirsty thing, though, a fact that should come as no surprise. The EPA says you should expect 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. My mostly rural driving scored me 15.3 mpg, just shy of the official 16 mpg combined rating. Keep in mind those gallons must be of 91 octane fuel, further boosting the running costs. (If fuel economy is a major concern, perhaps consider the Escalade Diesel.)

The Escalade brakes just as competently as it goes, and while the pedal feel can be a bit lacking, the long throw means you can get exactly as much stopping power as you need. The new, independent rear suspension also means a smoother, more compliant ride for those in the back. Important details, these, for a rig destined to haul as many dignitaries as this one surely will.

And what luxurious appointments await for them, a reinvented interior that's far more polished than anything I've seen in Caddy's biggest boy before. Sure, individual features aren't quite as posh as, say, a Mercedes-Benz GLS or BMW X7, but there's a different sort of luxury to be found here, one that emphasizes volume and spaciousness.

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Model Year

The Good ~ Strong V8 power ~ Impressive cabin tech ~ All the good stuff comes standard

The Bad ~ Middling fuel economy ~ A few cheap plastics inside

The Bottom Line The 2021 Escalade truly feels like Cadillac's flagship.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 7.5
  • Features 9.5
  • Design 8.5
  • Media 9

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