Large, American Luxury: We Drive the 2023 Cadillac Escalade
The Cadillac Escalade has quickly become a status symbol here in the States. Since its introduction as a rebadged GMC as a 1999 model, the Escalade became the segment-defining vehicle: besting its then-sole competitor in the Lincoln Navigator thanks to its foothold in pop culture.
Thanks to its importance in culture, the Escalade is the only Cadillac vehicle that has dodged the company’s many different naming structures over the years. When other models started ditching their heritage names like DeVille, Seville, and Eldorado in favor of three-letter designations, Escalade remained. When CTS, ATS, and SRX lost favor, Cadillac went with an alphanumerical system with CT denoting cars and XT for SUVs followed by a single numeral denoting a size. Through this, Escalade remained. As we head into the all-electrified era of Cadillac, model names have finally returned with examples like LYRIQ and CELESTIQ (since a new theme?) yet (for now) Escalade remains.
What does the future hold for this big, gas-guzzling SUV in an all-electric Cadillac future? We still do not know the details, but parent company GM has shown competency in big electric vehicles with the GMC HUMMER EV, Silverado EV, and GMC Sierra EV, with the latter 2 promising over 400 miles of range in some models.
We have also heard rumors that Cadillac may be spinning off the Escalade into its own sub-brand within the Cadillac lineup (much like the aforementioned HUMMER EV in GMC’s lineup).
What we DO know about the Escalade is what we experienced in this 2023 model provided to us by Cadillac for a week of testing. We sampled the Premium Luxury trim, which starts at $89,595 as the step up from the “base” Luxury trim, but our tester was very well optioned at $107,810. Luxurious features include soft-close doors, power running boards, adaptive Magnetic Ride suspension, rear seat entertainment, a night vision camera, and a 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference sound system. About the only thing we wished we had on this model was massaging seats as ours “only” had heat and ventilation.
With an increased wheelbase over the previous generation and an Escalade-first independent rear suspension, there really was room in this vehicle for 7 real-life adults as equipped. You can opt for a middle bench seat and seat up to 8 if needed. Cargo space impressed us as well, with us able to get every bit of our family’s luggage behind the third row of seats without having to fold them down.
The ride was smooth and composed, and the steering helped this large SUV feel much smaller than it actually is. It proved to be quite maneuverable in traffic and the school drop-off line. The V8 is quite thirsty, however. We managed around 13 mpg in mixed driving while we had it, just under the 14 city, 18 highway, and 16 combined that is printed on the window sticker, though we did appreciate the fact that the Escalade is becoming the last of the big, luxurious SUVs in the segment to offer a V8. The Lincoln Navigator has switched to a twin-turbo V6 and the Grand Wagoneer is trotting out its “Hurricane” inline-6 to replace the HEMI V8. Cadillac does offer a 3.0L turbodiesel with the same 460 lb-ft of torque as our 6.2L V8, but with better fuel economy numbers. (They even sell a high-powered V performance model that makes 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque.)
While we would have optioned our Escalade slightly differently if we were purchasing one for ourselves here at the channel, this Premium Luxury model did not disappoint and left us quite sad when it pulled away after our week of testing was over.
2023 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury Specs:
6.2L V8 Engine
460 lb-ft of Torque
10-Speed Automatic Transmission
4 Wheel Drive with Auto, 2 Hi, and 4 Hi
Selectable Drive Modes
Up to 8,000 lbs of Towing
Electric, Rack-mounted Steering with Variable Assist
Adaptive Air Ride Suspension with Magnetic Ride Control
All Season Tires
Heated and Ventilated Leather Front Seats
Heated Rear Captains Chairs
LED Daytime Running Lamps
36-Speaker AKG™ Studio Reference Sound System with Conversation Enhancement Mode
360-degree Camera System
7.2-inch OLED Control Panel
14.2-inch Digital Gauge Cluster
16.9-inch OLED Infotainment Display
Color Head-Up Display
USB-C charging ports
Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control
Proximity Key with Push Button Start
EPA Fuel Economy 14/18/16 (city/hwy/combined)
Starting MSRP $89,595 (Premium Luxury Trim)
Price as tested: $107,810