Escalade: a Presence in the SUV Landscape

CHATHAM, Mass. – Commanding is the feeling I got  when I climbed behind the steering wheel and began driving the 2023 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum Sport thanks to the elevated seating position and full-color augmented-reality (AR)cluster monitor supplementing my view through the massive windshield of this full-size sport-utility vehicle (SUV).

There is no minimizing the road presence of the LARGE, angular Escalade, one whose unique front-end/headlight configuration and Cadillac-emblem-embedded grille emphasizes. There are other SUVs this size, including several siblings from General Motors, but none which stands out like the Escalade.

And, unlike some of the domestic luxury vehicles in the past, the 2023 Escalade is filled with the latest technology and systems to enhance driving safety, comfort and convenience including unique touches like the AR-enhanced navigation system, pedestrian-and-animal-friendly (optional, $2,000) night-vision system and 38-inches of OLED screens fronting the driver.

Complete set of advanced driver assistance systems

You would expect a thorough group of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in a top-of-the-range vehicle like this Escalade and Cadillac does not disappoint. In addition to the AR system, which provides street views supplementing turn-by-turn navigation directions and acting as a ”second” windshield should something obscure vision through the actual one, as well as night vision, the list of ADAS includes:

  • Enhanced automatic-emergency braking (AEB)
  • Reverse AEB
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Enhanced parking assist (front, sides, rear)
  • HD surround vision
  • Forward collision alert
  • Front-pedestrian braking
  • Rear-pedestrian alert
  • Lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning

Not considered an ADAS, but a feature I believe certainly assists driving safety is a very useful heads-up display (HUD) which is controlled through the 7.2-inch driver-information touch screen at the far-left side of the dashboard.

To my point, I was driving along a tight, winding country road in Eastham, Mass., when an orange image of a person popped up on the HUD. This alert indicated a walker on the left side of the road. It was a help as the walker’s clothing blended into the foliage just to his left, making him difficult to see with the naked eye.

Behind the steering wheel sits the 14.2-inch customizable color cluster display which projects the AR image as well as complete driving information, an image which seems to bring the interior of the Escalade alive.

Luxury and technology within the cavernous interior

Big, roomy, huge, cavernous – words which come to mind upon climbing up, with the aid of the (optional, $1,750) power running boards, into the spacious interior and taking a seat on the leather-covered throne. The front seats are power adjusted with heat and ventilation; the two captain’s chairs in the middle are heated, and both this and the third row can be power folded from the diver’s seat.

Heating and leather wrapping extend to the steering wheel, which is also power adjustable and whose settings are covered by the two-person memory system.

An automatic tri-zone climate-control system with easy-to-comprehend and use dash buttons/toggles (no searching a touch screen to adjust the temperature or lower the fan speed).

The center of attraction is the 16.9-inch infotainment OLED touch screen. Supplementing the touch controls are steering wheel ones as well as a pair of console-mounted dials for control of the infotainment system as well as volume for audio.

The infotainment system features wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto; SiriusXM satellite radio; HD radio; Bluetooth streaming audio and AM/FM. The system’s sound is projected by the first automotive implementation of an AKG audio system with 19 speakers, including a subwoofer, and 14-channel amplifier.

The overall environment is comfortable for any of the three-row occupants. The running boards help getting in and out but there is definitely a need for a grab handle either on the “A” pillar or dashboard for the front passenger (the ceiling grab handle is out of reach for anyone of normal height trying to climb into the Escalade).

2023 Cadillac Escalade Sport interior showing driver IP and steering wheel. Certain features shown not available with all configurations. See dealer

Ride, handling not truck-like

This fifth generation Escalade (first introduced in 1999) rides and handles in ways which belie its being based on the full-size GM pickup truck (think Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra).

The Escalade is fitted with an independent rear suspension, Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control (which uses sensors to continually “read” the road and alter the damping rate of the shocks almost instantly), Air Ride Adaptive Suspension (delivers automatic load-leveling and ride-height adjustments continuously at all four wheels) and electronic limited slip rear differential.

All these pieces combine to help the 211.9-inch long, 81.1-inch wide, 5,823-pound SUV handle and ride without drama or feeling like you are piloting a yacht.

Bringing this full-size SUV to a halt is a power-assisted braking system with anti-lock (ABS) and four-wheel vented rotors which ride inside 22-inch 12-spoke dark-android wheels shod with P275/50R22SL all-season tires.

Motivating these chassis pieces is a 6.2-liter V8 producing 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission backs up the large powerplant and helps squeeze out the 15.5 miles per gallon I saw during my week behind the wheel. This was slightly less than the 16 mpg the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the vehicle (14 urban, 18 highway).

The Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum, as its name suggests, features an automatic four-wheel drive system with the SUV’s computers deciding when to switch from rear-wheel drive to four-wheel-drive (which it does seamlessly, without anything beyond a dash LED indicator tipping off the change to driver and occupants).

The Escalade bottom line

The 2023 Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum tops the brand’s full-size SUV range and does it with panache, style and substance. The version I sampled had a base price of $107,095. Four options (the running boards, night vision, a refrigerated console [$700] and Galactic Gray [$625}, $1,795 destination charge brought the total to $113,965.

The total is actually quite competitive with the top of the luxury SUV market and anyone looking for a large, three-row ultimate SUV will find the Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum an excellent choice.

TBR Drives will be off for the holidays with the next drive appearing January 2nd.