Wednesday, October 20, 2021
2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV FIRST IMPRESSION: Cadillac is at the top of its game with the completely refreshed Escalade. Gorgeous inside and out, responsive, and loaded with space—including a great third-row seat—makes this among the best SUV offerings out there.

When we told Bill Cunningham of Acton SoCal Penske that were test-driving the 2021 Escalade ESV, he couldn’t stop raving about the updated Big Kahuna luxury SUV—a vehicle that he says he can barely keep on his lots on both coasts due to customer demand.

2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV Seeing it person, you can understand because it’s a commanding presence. Starting with the exterior, the next-generation Escalade loses the prominent chrome bars that were its signature in previous models and replaces them with a more subtle grille with chrome accents. The length was stretched another 3 inches to 227 inches and it’s a hair wider and taller too than 2020. The flat front feels modern, even futuristic, but equally conveys the luxurious and high-end ride that awaits, which is epitomized by the Cadillac crest puddle lamp when you approach. The headlights are also horizontal in this gen, bucking the vertical placement of recent models. We tested the massive SUV on some pitch-dark roads in South Jersey’s Pine Barrens and we can attest that the headlights offer wide-spectrum illumination so there’s no doubt about what critters are hanging out on the side of the road (optional Night Vision could also come in handy here too). The rear design is pretty similar to last year with vertical taillights and hands-free liftgate, which can also be opened by key fob or now by pressing the Cadillac emblem on the tailgate.

2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV Inside, however, is where you’ll find the most noticeable and useful upgrades. Cadillac has completely revamped its information center and replaced it with a stunning curved OLED touchscreen display that essentially extends from the instrument cluster to the middle of the dash and feels almost like an IMAX screen in your vehicle. The wide display certainly makes navigation and scrolling through the settings a breeze, facilitated by touchscreen or knob. The 360-degree camera helps with parking in space-challenged lots and backing out of tight spaces to avoid any hidden obstacles. Blind Spot and Collision alerts all aid in avoiding near-accidents. Cadillac also brought back the rear camera mirror for 2021. The electronic shifter was moved to the center console, where you’ll also find power outlets and even a spot for the optional cooler/fridge to keep a few bottles of water chilling for your clients. Look up and you’ll see sky for days with the panoramic moonroof, or look down for ambient lighting available in a wheel of colors. The only thing we wish it had was a grab handle in the front cabin, but the running boards certainly meet the height challenge when stepping up (there are grab bars in the rear cabin).

2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV One of more interesting new features is Augmented Reality, which displays a live image of what’s in front of the vehicle. While it may seem redundant, it actually overlays directional information on the live image when navigation is active. We didn’t use it much, but it’s definitely innovative and could be helpful.

Cadillac 2021 Escalade ESV Specs:
ENGINES: 6.2L V8 (standard), 3.0L Duramax Turbo Diesel
MPG: 14 (city)/19 (highway)
LENGTH: 227"
WHEELBASE: 134.1
HEADROOM (second row/third row): 38.9"/38.2"
LEGROOM (second row/third row): 41.7"/36.6"
WARRANTY: 3 years/150,000 miles (ZR3)
Moving to the passenger cabin, the model we tested had second-row bucket seats with bench seating for three in the third, which power-folds flat for added cargo space. The vehicle’s extra length means—hooray!—an actual functional third row for adult-sized humans. Second-row legroom is a few inches greater than last year at 41.7 inches while legroom behind that row clocks in at more than 36 inches. Headroom for your passengers is also pretty good at 38.9 and 38.2 inches, respectively.

There’s also the standard climate controls and USB ports in both rows. Handling is pretty consistent with previous Escalades, and there’s no mistaking that you’re driving a truck—albeit, a really nice, 5,700-pound truck. The 6.2L V8 comes standard, and you can opt for a Duramax Turbo Diesel if you prefer. Plus, the Livery Package (ZR3) comes with the coveted 36-month/150,000-mile Professional Vehicle Warranty.

2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV Also note that the MY21 has a slightly smaller fuel tank than previous years (28.3 gal. vs. 31 gal.), and that the combined MPG is 16 (vs. 17 for the 2020 ­Escalade ESV).

Cunningham also notes that the Escalade has another added benefit: great resale value. Besides the excellent relationship that he says GM and Cadillac have with the industry, especially when it comes to warranty work and producing a cutting-edge product that they stand behind, he notes that his customers have been pleasantly surprised by the value during trade-in. That’s definitely something to think about.

The MY21 might be a little hard to come by, but the virtually identical MY22 will be available this fall with livery incentives of $5,000 for the Escalade and $5,500 for the Escalade ESV (for qualified livery, hotel, and funeral home operators).

BOTTOM LINE: This is another winner from Cadillac when you absolutely need a top-of-the-line luxury SUV. With comfortable seating for five passengers (six if you include the front seat), and the latest innovative technology all packed into nearly 19 feet of vehicle, there’s not much more your passengers will need for a safe and relaxed ride.   [CD0821]