A year after the Lincoln Navigator debuted, General Motors launched the Cadillac Escalade, the luxury brand’s first sport utility vehicle. It was 1998, and a rivalry quickly began between the makers of gas-guzzling apartments on wheels. It also marked an opportunity for RVers to use behemoth SUVs for towing. Besides the Navigator and Escalade, the GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada are also in the market segment.
Powerful and optimally comfortable, the new Escalade is 17 feet, 6 inches long; 6 feet, 7 1/2 inches wide; and 6 feet, 4 inches tall. It weighs nearly 6,000 pounds. Some Escalades seat eight passengers; second-row captain’s chairs cut the capacity to seven in other models.
There’s a collective strut among the heavyweight SUVs. Other drivers often steer clear of these road giants. But it’s not all good; the kings of the road do have certain drawbacks. Parking in standard-sized parking spaces? Good luck with that. Environmental considerations? Expect to pay about $7,700 per year buying premium gas.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade launched the vehicle’s fifth generation, and it’s available in five trim levels, all with 22-inch alloy wheels. All models are equipped with 6.2-liter, V8 engines (a diesel version is available), 10-speed automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is an option. Cavernous and classy with its modern exterior and interior looks, the Escalade combines top-line comfort with a top-line ride. Cadillac has remained a luxury badge for about a century, and the Escalade is the carmaker’s delight. Dismiss its size and fuel inefficiency and it’s a glorious, moveable model home.
Open the split-level tailgate and gaze into the vehicle. With the third-row seating down and the second row’s two captain’s cars also flat, the back of the front seats could be in a different zip code. Cargo capacity is 121 cubic feet.
The Premium Luxury Platinum trim showcases what the manufacturer does best: the cream of the lower trim levels with a bundle of stuff added, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with massage and soft-close doors. The symphony-like AKG audio system has 36 speakers; music is elevated to astonishing levels of clarity. Large SUVs can’t masquerade as sporty, but the Escalade gets close. With its composed ride and sizable engine, the nearly 3-ton tank advances swiftly. Freeway cruising? The Escalade is at ease and in charge.
Big power running boards assist passengers entering and exiting the high-sitting Escalade, but it’s as if Cadillac simultaneously forgot the size of its vehicle; the rear-view mirror is minuscule.