Once upon a time, back in the late 1990s, General Motors slapped a Cadillac grille on a GMC Yukon—and the rest is history. The 2021 Cadillac Escalade will mark the model’s fifth generation and this new one is head and shoulders above the original in terms of luxury, style, and technology. Borrowing elements from the Escala concept car from 2016, the new Escalade offers visual panache worthy of its price tag. Two engines are offered—a familiar 6.2-liter V-8 and a new turbo-diesel inline-six—both hooked up to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Inside, a series of clever curved OLED displays takes the Escalade’s dashboard to the digital realm, serving as the gauge cluster and infotainment display in one slick assembly.
The 2021 Escalade has undergone a thorough redesign, complete with a new independent rear suspension, savvier interior technology, prettier styling, and a new optional diesel-powered engine
To truly deck out the Escalade in its best features, go for the Premium Luxury Platinum trim. It adds semi-aniline leather, 16-way power-adjustable front seats with massage, soft-close doors, and an AKG audio system with 36 speakers. It also comes standard with a self-parking feature, a head-up display, and adaptive cruise control.
Cadillac’s biggest SUV is powered by either a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that makes 420 horsepower and can deactivate half of its cylinders when cruising to save fuel or a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six. A 10-speed automatic transmission will be standard with both engines, and buyers will be able to choose from rear- or all-wheel-drive setups based on their individual needs. As with its siblings, the Chevrolet Tahoeand Suburban and the GMC Yukon, the 2021 Escalade now rides on an all-new platform with an independent rear suspension to help provide a smoother ride. Higher-end models also offer an air suspension with adaptive dampers that use computer-controlled shock absorbers. At our test track, the long-wheelbase Escalade ESV with the V-8 engine sprinted to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. The diesel engine sounds less refined than the V-8, but for some buyers that compromise is worth the improved fuel economy and low-end torque.
The EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2021 Escalade are lower than the 2020 model–at least for those powered by the 6.2-liter V-8. Rear-wheel drive examples are rated at 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined; adding all-wheel drive drops each of those numbers by 1 mpg. The 2020 model carried ratings as high as 23 mpg highway and the Escalade’s key rival–the Lincoln Navigator–offers more efficient ratings too. Opting for the turbo-diesel engine should make a difference, but estimates haven’t been reported for that model yet. We’re looking forward to testing both powertrains on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test route.
As the flagship of the Cadillac lineup, the 2021 Escalade ups the ante on in-cabin luxury. Faux leather is used in the base Luxury trim, but all other trims receive the real deal, with Platinum models getting soft semi-aniline hides. Leather-covered dash and door panels, aluminum speaker grilles, and adjustable interior ambient lighting provide an upscale appearance. Like the outgoing model, both a standard and long-wheelbase model are offered, the latter of which yielding more legroom for third-row riders and additional cargo space.
Cadillac is set on making its flagship SUV a showcase for driver-assistance technology, though, and in addition to making many of the most popular active-safety features standard, Cadillac says it also will offer its Super Cruise semi-autonomous drive mode as an available feature. For more information about the Escalade’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites.