Review of Cadillac Escalade 2021: The competition is strongest from within

  • Pricing for the 2021 Escalade starts at $ 90,348 in Canada, $ 76,195 in the United States.

  • The 15-inch longer ESV is $ 3,500 more in Canada.

  • GM’s full-size trucks are exceptional.

The more I think about the new 2021 Cadillac Escalade and its closest siblings, the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe, the less the big Caddy seems special to me. This is by no means Slade’s fault as it has never been more unique or distinctive; it’s simply that the other two are so damn good too.

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

I did this backwards, I think. I reviewed the Tahoe for the first time in the fall of 2020. It was equipped with the Z71 package and I quickly became convinced that it was a full-size GM truck ever built. I followed it up with a GMC Yukon Denali in the spring of 2021 and that solved the issue. As impressive as it was and as much as I liked it, I would choose Tahoe and save about $ 15,000 (tested versus tested price). Then I had to drive the Escalade.

As tested, my Sport Platinum with Super Cruise, Night Vision and a few other options, sold for an eye-catching $ 126,000. With almost $ 35,000 more than Yukon Denali and $ 50,000 over Tahoe, I needed to experience the abundance and power that made the other two feel itself as a 1995 Chevrolet Cavalier.

Duramax is not for Escalade

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The reality is that beyond a massive, curved OLED screen and an insane sound system with 36 speakers, I was not, as they say, blown away. A specific object, which I thought would play in Escaladen’s favor, had the exact opposite effect, to my great surprise and dismay.

First, it must be said that the GMT1XX platform is a revelation. Its engineered rigidity has given the trio a level of sophistication that was once not thought possible for a large full-size truck body. With the Four-Corner Air Ride Adaptive suspension with Magnetic Ride Control dampers, the Escaladen is soft and sophisticatedly quiet. Competent and foot-safe, however, its ride is not as cozy as Grand Wagoneers. Both are powerful SUVs, but if I’m going to spend a lot of time at the helm of such a mastodon, I do not want to feel anything when I drive.

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Nevertheless, the Escalade is exceptionally comfortable. I expected to be trapped in sheer opulence while I was with Cadillac, but it did not happen. The reason? The only specific item? There was no simple linear force from a V8. The presence of the available Duramax turbodiesel 3.0-liter inline-6-cylinder engine under the hood took away from what should have been a warm comforting embrace of power.

Duramax is brilliant on its own and in other larger trucks. Its 277 horsepower and 460 lb.ft. torque (equal to 6.2-liters) is good, however, and despite how agile and quiet it is, Duramaxen’s workhorse character is in conflict with Escaladen’s first-class behavior.

Tahoe and Yukon have more personality

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

It is possible that Sport Platinum with its glossy black trim and dark 22-inch wheels in combination with the Crystal White tri-coat color scheme made it look too limousine-fleet-like. Maybe in Dark Mocha, Infrared or Shadow it would have been more convincing.

Again, I remind you that I first drove the other two SUVs and they were at their best or almost equally configured. In a way, this Escalade looked too “normal” and not exclusive enough. Parked next to a white GMC Yukon Denali or even a Tahoe High Country, The Caddy does not really stand out. Truth be told, the Chevy trucks, and this is despite my aversion to Silverado’s front-end styling, give the impression that more work has been put into their design.

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

This is not really the case when we board the Cadillac. The Escalade gets, for the first time ever, its own genuinely unique dashboard layout. And it’s impressive because it houses a combined 38-inch curved OLED screen. Display components are superimposed and for the most part the menus and availability are pretty good. The plumbing controls are also exclusive to Escalade and although they require some attention because the narrow screen lights up but the buttons themselves do not – a mild problem at night.

Otherwise, the cabin, luxury and space are more than generous. The semi-aniline leather-covered seats, which massage in the front, are comfortable and no matter where someone is sitting, there is plenty of space to walk around. The last third of the SUV benefits most from the new structure because the luggage compartment, with the third row stowed away, can now hold over 2,000 liters of gear, or about a third more than the outgoing model.

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

I mentioned this in my Denali review and yes, it’s only important when there are passengers in the second row as a child, but the Escalade does not have a rear window. That’s a strange omission in my opinion.

The escalade has never been more challenging

I said earlier in this story and here I go again: New Tahoe and Yukon are so good that it is almost impossible for me to justify Cadillac’s significantly higher asking price. In addition, competition from other car manufacturers has never been stronger.

The first challenge comes from brand new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer from Jeep. In short, it matches or surpasses the Escalade at every point. Then there is the Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80, the all-new Lexus LX 600 and the Mercedes-Benz GLS.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe First Drive Review: Full-size institution

For all car manufacturers involved in the segment, a lot of money is at stake. Given that GM owns a quarter of the segment, they have the most to lose. But they will not because this trio has never been better. For my money I would get a Tahoe Z71 with some options and save enough money to buy a nice boat.

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Cadillac Escalade | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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