Escalade Provides a Royal Coach Experience

CHATHAM, Mass. – Palatial — as in a palace on wheels — was my initial impression when I piloted the 2021 Cadillac Escalade for the first time.

The Escalade is one of the world’s largest sport utility vehicles (SUV) and, the four-wheel drive Platinum version I sampled, one of the most comfortable and luxurious means to transport up to seven persons and their stuff (and if they need even more room for their stuff than the 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, then a trailer of up to 8,000 pounds can be towed with ease thanks to the power of the standard 6.2-liter V8 engine).

Technology combines with old-fashioned amenities like leather encapsulated seats and steering wheel to enhance occupant comfort and convenience in the Escalade, with the former providing a very modern, up-to-date array of infotainment options and advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS).

The large, vented brake rotors visible through the 22-inch aluminum wheels (rotor size is not revealed) are abetted by anti-lock to provide the stopping power for many of the ADAS features including: automatic emergency braking (AEB), enhanced AEB and front and rear automatic braking. And a brake-pad monitoring system keeps track of the pads’ life (98 percent was the reading on this SUV).

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The extensive list of ADAS standard in the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium goes on to include: front and rear pedestrian detection; forward collision alert; lane keep assist with lane-departure warning and lane-change alert; adaptive front and rear park assist; advanced adaptive cruise control; blind-spot alert; rear cross-traffic alert and 360° camera, and head-up display (HUD).

There are a lot of driving aids, all helping to make living with this SUV very manageable, regardless of road and parking-lot challenges.

The alerts are communicated through the usual means of an audio sound and/or lit warning on the dashboard or in the HUD or through the seat of your pants – literally, The Escalade includes a safety-alert seat which vibrates convincingly simultaneously to one of the ADAS warnings. This really got my attention and further helped me focus on driving!

Night vision system reveals all around

About a year and a half ago I attended a demonstration of Cadillac’s upcoming night vision system and could not wait to try it under real-world conditions. Unlike early night-vision systems which rendered objects indistinctly in shades of green, this system promised to provide accurate views of persons, animals, vehicles and other objects in front of the vehicle.

The static demo looked promising, and the actual system performed great while I drove the 2021 Cadillac Escalade around crowded suburban streets, through an empty business park (while searching for a “hidden” hotel) and at speed on I-80.

I could clearly discern the various objects in front of me when I glanced on the large screen (which replaces the display of the instrument cluster). People are presented as a bright yellow vertical rectangle to make sure you do not mistake them for anything other than a living person.

The night-vision system is an option on the Platinum edition and worth every penny of its $2,000 price tag since its capabilities might just save someone’s life.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade showcases the first curved OLED in the industry with 38” of total diagonal display. It consists of a 7.2-in. driver information display, a 14.2-in unit behind the steering wheel, and a 16.9 –in center display.

An easy place to spend time

The Escalade Platinum cabin provides a wonderful environment for road trips of any length. A multitude of adjustments and heat provide the first- and second-row passengers with throne-like comfort and visibility. The front seats add ventilation and 16-way power adjustment (including lumbar support and intense/adjustable massage capability), with the driver’s having memory for seat/steering wheel and outside rearview mirror settings for two persons.

Leg, shoulder and head room is outstanding for passengers in all three rows (the third-row bench is split and can be raised/lowered electrically), with easy ingress/egress for all.

The advanced tech of the Escalade is immediately evident upon sitting in the sumptuous driver’s seat. On the left is a 7.2-inch touch screen which provides trip information and controls for the HUD and instrument cluster.

The 14.2-inch color OLED configurable instrument cluster can show a variety of information including street maps, gauges, audio data and the aforementioned night vision.

Dominating the center top portion of the dash is the 16.9-inch color OLED infotainment display which provides access to everything from the tri-zone automatic climate-control system to the wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto to the adaptive, voice-activated navigation. Control of these and numerous other functions is through the touch screen, a rotary dial on the console, buttons/switches on the steering wheel or voice activation – whatever combination works for you!

Sound is presented by the 36-speaker AKG studio-reference audio system (AKG produces musician-quality audio components).

Speaking of sounds, communicating with occupants throughout the massive cabin does not require shouting thanks to the Escalade’s enhanced conversation system. Conversation from all three rows is picked up by adjacent microphones and then broadcast through the audio system.

Power and performance

The Escalade’s V8 provides more than adequate power to move the SUV cleanly through any traffic, over any hills, putting 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque through the 10-speed automatic transmission. The four-wheel-drive system can operate either in rear-wheel or four-wheel regardless of road conditions (making it essentially an all-wheel-drive system).

The combination of the large, powerful engine (again, capable of towing up to 8,000 pounds) and sheer size of the Escalade produces fuel-economy numbers in the high teens. I averaged just under 18 miles per gallon during the week, while the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the SUV at 14 miles per gallon in the city, 19 on the highway and 16 overall.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade represents a major step forward for the king of General Motors’ SUVs. The thoroughly redesigned independent suspension system (with height adjustment) provides for a smoother, more comfortable ride and surer road manners than its predecessors. In addition, the company has used the Escalade as a platform for some of its most sophisticated technological advancements, many of which will migrate to other vehicles in the company’s portfolio.

Overall, there is a lot of very modern vehicle within the 2021 Cadillac Escalade, one presented in a luxurious, solid package. The cost of this engineering and luxury comes in at $102,995 with an as tested price of $108,500 (including the wonderful night vision, automatically deployed running boards and $1,295 destination fee).

For those who want the best large SUV, one worthy of a king’s ride, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum has a lot to offer, and the results would be quite rewarding.

Next week TBR Drives the new Bronco Sport compact SUV.