Cadillac Escalade XL
Once the de facto king of bling, the 2019 Cadillac Escalade XL still symbolizes high-class transportation to consumers; however, its luxury reputation is under further consideration. Its hulking chrome shell and Cadillac badge keep up appearances, but its pickup-truck roots and carryover interior parts reveal a choppy ride and superficial quality. These issues are tolerable on cheaper Escalades; unfortunately, they all surpass $75K. That pill is even harder to swallow when the Caddy’s price approaches six digits. Still, the Slade’s mighty V-8 powertrain is surprisingly quick and, unsurprisingly, effective at burning fossil fuel at a prodigious rate. The 2019 Cadillac Escalade and the longer Escalade ESV version both have three rows of seats and can accommodate up to eight passengers. While they’re among the classiest ways to tow more than 8000 pounds, the Escalade is no longer the face of SUV royalty.
The 2019 Cadillac Escalade lineup receives minor updates that include a hands-free liftgate with an illuminated Cadillac logo. A pair of new metallic exterior colors (Shadow and Manhattan Noir) will be available later.Every 2019 Escalade represents a significant investment. The long-wheelbase ESV costs $3000 extra. It adds considerable cargo space behind the third row, but to keep costs down we’d stick with the shorter-wheelbase version. Thankfully, even the base Escalade comes heavily equipped with appointments such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, adaptive dampers and selectable drive modes, front and rear parking sensors and self-parking capability, and leather interior with heated and cooled front seats. All-wheel drive adds $3000 and paint colors other than black and silver cost at least $625 on the base model.
Behind the Escalade’s giant sparkling grille sits a mighty 420-hp V-8 engine connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Together, they push this plus-size SUV with authority and can tow up to 8300 pounds. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. In our testing, the Escalade was always responsive, and the transmission handled gearchanges without fuss. We also appreciated the hearty growl that exited the exhaust pipes after heavy throttle inputs. At cruising speeds, the Slade was quiet and refined.
Despite a set of standard adaptive dampers, the Escalade never felt as convincingly comfortable as its branding and price would suggest. Sure, it rode just fine over smooth pavement, but as soon as things became bumpy, the luxury layer disappeared. To be clear, the Caddy never felt explicitly uncomfortable. However, the way it shivered over uneven surfaces and how harsh bumps infiltrated the cabin are unacceptable. At least the Escalade is composed around corners—just don’t launch it onto an exit ramp above the posted speed limit. The steering effort felt lighter than we found on the Chevy Tahoe and the GMC Yukon; thus, it was easier to operate at low speeds. Unfortunately, that lack of directness allowed the Cadillac to wander in its lane on the highway. The brake pedal had smooth and strong responses that we appreciated on daily commutes.