Cadillac Escalade Platinum vs Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III

For nearly two decades now, Cadillac has enjoyed tremendous success with the Escalade. It’s one of the brand’s best-selling models, it’s carved out a space in popular culture that I’m pretty sure even Cadillac didn’t have the ability to predict, and it’s fought on through thick and thin with its parent company.

And now there’s a new one and it’s great – but there’s also a new (somewhat) entry into the world of the domestic full-size luxury SUV, and it’s got the makings of quite a combatant.

It’s called the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and while it’s an all-new vehicle for 2022, it’s a name that’s also cemented its place in the world of luxury SUVs. When it debuted back in the 60s, it was one of the first to offer such niceties as air conditioning, an automatic transmission and leather seats.

Watch out, Escalade; heavy lies the crown, and the Wagoneer comes for it.

Styling

For its part, the new Escalade is a departure from the previous number of versions dating back to 2007 in that it has adopted a pair of squinty horizontal headlights instead of the vertical items we’re familiar with. For the most part it works for the Escalade, but I miss the distinctive vertical lights from before. The new truck still gets the awesome taillights that span the height of the rear tire, which is an Escalade staple. It also still gets a massive chrome grille (which can be darkened in some details), large wheels and vertical fog lights, giving it presence for days.

2021 Cadillac Escalade

Speaking of chrome: you’ll find it on the Wagoneer’s window surrounds, taillight surrounds, under the doors at the leading edge of the power-retractable footpegs, on the roof rails and all over the grill.

Inside, these two go shot for shot with each other. They both have a good fit and finish, the materials used are of the highest quality and they are spacious. However, the Grand Wagoneer is only slightly more spacious especially in the third row, although you can pack more cargo in the Caddy.

While the Escalade benefits from the new suspension setup that all new GM full-size SUVs get and actually adds additional rear seat room, the Grand Wagoneer was the one that impressed both myself and my passengers the most. The third row is roomy, it comes fully equipped with cup holders and USB ports, and you can access it even with child seats installed in the second row thanks to a tilt-and-slide feature that the Escalade doesn’t get. You can walk between the seats in the Escalade to get to the third row—the passage there is surprisingly wide—but that means you still have to either twist around a child seat or only access the third row from one side of the vehicle.

Overall though, I have to give the nod to the Escalade here. The Grand Wagoneer is definitely eye-catching with all the chrome, but the ‘Lade is an exercise in clean, strong lines with just the right amount of flare. It doesn’t take as much effort. It’s so simple.

Performance, ride and handling

We find two very similar situations here when it comes to powertrains — except for one important caveat: The Escalade has two engine choices — a 3.0-liter Duramax six-cylinder diesel or a 6.2-liter V8 — while the Grand Wagoneer only gets one: a 6 ,4-liter V8 with a mild hybrid system.

Both V8s get cylinder deactivation, which is good and both are smooth, powerful plants; The Caddy gets 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, while the Grand Wagoneer beats the Escalade by offering 471 hp but falls short with 455 lb-ft. Anyway; these are two big, beefy engines mated to multi-speed transmissions (10 speeds for the Cadillac, eight for the Grand Wagoneer) that get these big, beefy trucks moving in good time. The Grand Wagoneer is only available in one length – 5,543 millimeters, which is down about 200mm on the Escalade ESV, and up about 200mm on the standard Escalade.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 2021 Jeep Wagoneer

The drivetrains are a bit of a pick’em scenario unless you’re a hp-first person. The ride and handling category, on the other hand, has a clear winner in the Grand Wagoneer. Both versions of these SUVs I tested had adaptive magnetic suspension, but the Grand Wagoneer’s way of predicting what bumps were coming your way and changing the air suspension on the fly made for a smoother ride. The Escalade gets some points back in how it sends corners with slightly less body roll than the Wagoneer, but those points aren’t quite enough to push it over the top.

Practicality

There’s plenty of storage space inside these two, but only slightly more in the Grand Wagoneer, which gets huge, deep top-load bins between the first and second rows, while the second row also gets a secondary cargo area closer to the floor. I also like how the secondary screen that sits below the main display in the Wagoneer can be retracted with the push of a button, revealing six USB ports (three USB-A, three USB-C) and an HDMI port, as well as a wireless charging pad. I like less though, how there’s no other storage anywhere on top of the transmission tunnel to speak of, this side of a pair of cup holders and who wants to waste them on a wallet or mobile device?

2021 Jeep Wagoneer 2021 Cadillac Escalade

The Escalade has a more traditional storage compartment there, while its wireless charger is mounted right in front of the center armrest and I have no problem with that, especially since I don’t have to open or close any panels to access it.

Both of these come with a power-folding third row which then leaves a perfectly flat cargo area, and they both offer the ability to ‘bend’ to allow for a lower lift height. Of the two, however, only the Caddy allows users to only open the rear window as opposed to the entire gate – I like that, as it allows you to carry longer items and not have tall loads fall out after opening the tailgate.

2021 Jeep Wagoneer 2021 Cadillac Escalade

Functions

Both vehicles have massive head screens that are modifiable and have all kinds of information. With the Escalade, you get night vision as well as augmented reality navigation. It also gets optional Super Cruise technology, which when activated will maintain speed, distance and change lanes autonomously without the driver ever having to put their hands on the wheel, as long as you’re on one of the roads programmed into the system’s database.

However, the Grand Wagoneer fires back. On this top-spec Series III trim, there’s a total of almost 45″ screens: the gauge cluster (also with night vision), main infotainment display, additional display below it, a display for each second-row passenger and the kicker: a display in front of the front passenger that lets them set navi and infotainment commands for the driver. That passenger, as well as the second-row passengers, all have access to Amazon FireTV. Both vehicles also get digital rear-view mirrors, although the Jeep example is larger than that of the Caddy, which sees slightly askew given the size of its surroundings is.

While both vehicles get heated and cooled front seats as well as massaging seats, the items on the Grand Wagoneer are a little fuller than those on the Cadillac and the massaging function is more robust.

It’s a tough call here between these two but the edge has to go to the Grand Wagoneer, thanks to its plethora of screens (although no augmented reality nav is a shame), spaciousness and seating comfort.

Value

It is expensive though, this Grand Wagoneer. It starts at just over $100,000 in base Series I form while in the Series III form seen here it rings in at $120,000 before options; even in larger ESV form, the Caddy starts at just over 90 grand and you have to tick all the option packages to get it to the $130,000 level that my Series III sits at, and it’s still less than the ESV.

Of course, there’s also the fact that you can get a fuel-efficient diesel for the Caddy and I could barely get the Wagoneer to return 20L/100km in the combined cycle. Yes, much of my test was spent around town but it’s a thirsty mother, this Grand Wagoneer.

Judgment

Yes, the Cadillac has the efficiency and the looks, but the Grand Wagoneer is a big event when you approach it and step inside and I think that’s important at this level. It’s also less ubiquitous, of course, than the Escalade is, and that uniqueness can pay dividends in buyers’ minds. If you want the stable, then the Escalade is the choice, but if you want all that luxury, more technology and to stand out that much more, then the Grand Wagoneer is definitely worth a look.

The vehicle was provided to the author by the car manufacturer. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval

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