With SUV prices rising, it was a sure bet that the new-generation Cadillac Escalade was going to end up being a six-figure vehicle.
The question was: Could Cadillac make it unique enough, given its shared bones with the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, to justify the premium?
The answer: Oh, yeah – and then some.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is a return to glory. The gulf between Cadillac and Chevy hasn’t felt this wide in maybe 50 years, when GM made the mistake of erasing most of the distance between a Coupe DeVille and a Caprice.
Sure, the Escalade, Tahoe and Yukon share a shape and a size, but the Escalade makes it clear it is the Cadillac of the bunch.
Under the hood of the new Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum is a 420 horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine. With a 10-speed automatic transmission, the Escalade can hit 60 mph from a standing start in 6.1 seconds. That’s not a hair-on-fire number until you realize the Escalade weighs roughly 5,700 pounds without people or cargo. Factor that in, and it’s impressive.
Less so is the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimate. If it takes that much power to move that much weight, it’s going to take some gasoline. The EPA says 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway. Based on our observations, that’s probably right on the money.
It’s inside where the Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum really shines. Cadillac spent money here, and it shows. An Escalade-specific dashboard and instrument panel – not shared with Tahoe or Yukon – features true luxury materials and excellent fit and finish.
The base price for the 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum is $102,995. Among the standard equipment highlights at that price are Air Ride adaptive suspension, electronic limited slip differential, magnetic ride control, 16.9-inch OLED infotainment and navigation screen, 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference premium sound system, head-up display, panoramic sunroof, tri-zone climate control, 22-inch wheels and leather-wrapped interior trim with a suede headliner.
Our tester also had extra-cost options. The one of the greatest interest, by far, is Super Cruise. Super Cruise is Cadillac’s answer to Tesla’s autopilot. It will maintain a set distance between you and the car in front of you, keep you in your lane, follow curves in the road and even change lanes when you turn on the turn signal and the car senses there’s a safe space for that maneuver.
Having had experience with everything from the first distance-keeping cruise control systems more than 20 years ago up to this – man, it’s good. And unlike Tesla’s autopilot, there are safeguards that require an awake, attentive person at the wheel. Sensors make sure you’re there – including reading your eyes to make sure you’re checking the road.
Super Cruise is $2,500. That includes three years of connectivity, after which you have to buy a connectivity plan through OnStar.
Our tester also had Night Vision ($2,000), power-assisted retractable assist steps with perimeter lighting (you know, running boards, for $1,750), console cooler ($700), heavy-duty trailer-
ing package (two-speed transfer case, auxiliary trailering camera, trailer tire pressure monitor system and trailering assist guidelines for the extra camera for $600) and the extra-cost and very rich-looking Shadow Metallic paint ($600).
With $1,295 destination charge, the as-tested price is $111,170.
Yes, that’s a serious price, but this is a serious luxury SUV. In the three years since Lincoln introduced its newest Navigator, the starting price of a top-of-the-line Navigator Black Label has gone up to six figures with destination charges, and I’m sure taking liberties with the option list could get a base Navigator to that price, too. So, that’s probably a draw.
But then there’s Super Cruise. Until Lincoln whips up an equally good competing version, the Escalade has regained its crown. It has something Lincoln doesn’t. And in a page from Cadillac’s glory days (the brand led in tech such as air conditioning, signal-scanning radios and automatic headlight dimmers), it’s something that pioneers a way forward.