2021 Cadillac Escalade Review
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is fully redesigned with an array of changes. For one, it's longer than the previous Escalade and has more passenger room (particularly for the second- and third-row occupants) and cargo space. It also gets new technology features, including Cadillac's Super Cruise, which is one of the best semi-automated driving systems around, and a sharp-looking display that spans most of the dashboard.
Underneath, there's a new independent rear suspension that provides a smoother ride than the previous solid-axle design. The Escalade's standard 6.2-liter V8 is pretty much a carryover, but there is a newly available turbocharged diesel V6 engine, which could be of benefit if you're planning on doing a lot of towing with your Escalade.
Overall, we're pleased with the new Escalade. It's worth checking out alongside rival large SUVs such as the Lincoln Navigator and Mercedes-Benz GLS. Check out our Expert Rating for more of our in-depth analysis on the 2021 Escalade.
The new Cadillac Escalade is a step up from its dated predecessor in just about every way without straying too far from its formula. The exterior design is still sharp and attention-grabbing, and the interior offers plenty of cargo space. Some of the tech features fall short of those found in some rival SUVs, but overall the new Escalade is a solid pick.
How does the Escalade drive?
Cadillac has done a fine job hiding just how big and heavy the Escalade really is. The Escalade's 6.2-liter V8 might not send it to 60 mph (6.7 seconds) as quickly as some rival SUVs, but it's potent enough. On-ramps and highway passing are no issue, and the V8 sounds pretty good too. The transmission occasionally has some abrupt shifts, and we wish the shift paddles worked in Drive and not just Low, but it's mostly smooth and smart enough to be in the right gear most of the time.
We wouldn't call the Escalade sporty, but it's smooth and composed enough around turns. The steering is light and direct, so parking or driving down winding roads doesn't feel like a chore.
How comfortable is the Escalade?
We don't think the Escalade's ride is quite as refined as that of class leaders such as the Mercedes GLS, but it's certainly comfortable enough most of the time. The seats, too, aren't quite as relaxing as those of the class leaders, but you won't be complaining after hundreds of miles behind the wheel. It's generally pretty quiet too.
The climate control system keeps the temperature even, but overall it falls short of the best of the best. There isn't enough adjustment in the vents, and we had to adjust the automatic temperature frequently. Heated seats allow finer control of the zones, which is great.
How’s the interior?
As you might expect, the Escalade's interior is vast and spacious. All three rows are large enough for adults, and the wide doors and accessible grab handles make getting in and out simple if a bit of a climb. The seating position is high and truck-like, which is either good or bad depending on your preference. Outward visibility isn't great, but the exterior camera system makes parking relatively easy.
Most of the controls are easy to understand, but some are ill placed and hard to see. The climate control settings are difficult to see at night because the toggles that control things aren't illuminated, and we frequently hit the wrong button trying to adjust the temperature.
How’s the tech?
The Escalade offers some of the latest and greatest tech General Motors has to offer. Unfortunately, a lot of it is optional. The adaptive cruise and lane-keeping assist systems make driving such a large SUV easier, but some things, such as the night-vision camera, seem more like a novelty.
The Escalade features a sleek-looking digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen. There's a decent level of customization, and the Escalade's standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mean you can easily run music or podcasts straight from native apps on your phone. There's one wireless charging pad as well as USB-C ports for every row, so everyone has charging options.
How’s the storage?
The Escalade's cargo area is massive. The space is wide and open, and while the liftover is on the high side, the adaptive air suspension can lower when the Escalade is parked to help get stuff inside. Storage for small items is good, too, with plenty of pockets and bins for things such as sunglasses and hand sanitizer bottles. There's an optional chilled center console. The Escalade's tow rating is 8,200 pounds in the right configuration and when properly equipped — that's certainly sufficient for a small or medium-size trailer.
Installing a child seat in the rear should be relatively simple. The doors open wide, the anchors are reasonably accessible, and there's plenty of space for a rear-facing seat. The high seats may make getting in a bit of a climb.
How economical is the Escalade?
EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 16 mpg combined with the 6.2-liter V8 and 4WD. That's not so great even for a large SUV. We saw 17.5 mpg during our time testing an Escalade with the V8 and 4WD, so at least you can expect to get the EPA's numbers or a little better. Choose the diesel if you want better fuel economy — it tops out at 23 mpg combined.
Is the Escalade a good value?
The Escalade looks and feels pretty nice up front, though we don't think the interior feels quite as premium as the cabins of the best luxury SUVs, especially in the back two rows. The design is clean, and the leather feels great. The dash-spanning digital display looks impressive too. Some of the trim and buttons look a little cheap, but overall it's a fairly nice place to spend your commute if you're the one driving.
Pricing lines up right with the competition. Cadillac's four-year/50,000-mile basic and six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranties are average for the class. You also get six years of roadside assistance, but Cadillac only includes a year of scheduled maintenance.
Nothing this big and heavy can be considered fun to drive in a sporty sort of way, but there's something enjoyable about cruising around in a big, comfy V8-powered SUV. The stylish interior design makes it feel a cut above most other SUVs. The sharp exterior angles and formidable size are sure to attract attention, but that's always been part of the appeal of driving an Escalade.
Which Escalade does Edmunds recommend?
The base Luxury trim comes well equipped, but we suggest going for the midgrade Escalade Premium Luxury model. In addition to a few more standard features, it offers a wider array of optional features than the base Luxury model, including Super Cruise and an adaptive air suspension.
Cadillac Escalade models
The 2021 Escalade is a three-row large luxury SUV that comes in five trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury Platinum and Sport Platinum. The Escalade seats up to eight with the second-row bench seat. The optional captain's chairs drop the count to seven.