Cadillac’s Escalade is a full-size luxury SUV that unexpectedly became the icon for the hip-hop culture in the early 2000s. Taking a step back from the limelight in recent years, the Escalade has instead focused on becoming the luxurious people mover that it is very capable and as a result, we now see more of them at red-carpet premieres than in hip-hop music videos. This test vehicle is GM’s crème de la crème, the 2019 Cadillac Escalade Platinum. After a heated battle of straw picking in the office, I won and got the keys to this rolling yacht for a week-long evaluation.
The Escalade Platinum arrived at our office, painted in a sophisticated Black Raven, which for the record should be the only colour available. With the Cadillac crest being displayed proudly up front on the giant grille, along with vertical LED head/fog lights and 22” alloy wheels, the Escalade is all business and has tremendous curb appeal. Even though my Escalade tester is the standard wheelbase model and not the extended ESV (reviewed here), it is still larger and sits taller than most other vehicles on the road. This is one of those vehicles that lets everyone knows who’s boss from the second it appears on the horizon.
Cadillac has given the Escalade exactly the power plant it deserves. A 6.2L V8 engine, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission moves the Escalade along effortlessly, all the while making a thunderous grunt to reminder onlookers of its presence. With 420 horsepower arriving at 5,600RPM, and a max torque of 460 lb-ft, the 5,551-pound truck is capable of getting up to speed without ever needing to be pushed past 2,000RPM.
Exert a bit more effort into the throttle and the engine responds with a glorious roar and a surge of power that is not unlike the feeling of a cruise ship propelled at full steam. Those who actually have a yacht and plan to tow using the Escalade will be happy to know that its standard Trailering Package provides an astounding 8,300-pound towing capacity.
Drivers can select to lock the Escalade on two or four-wheel-drive (high/low range available), or set it to “Auto” and let the system determines the best fit. All Escalades come standard with the StabiliTrak system enhancing control of the Escalade by applying braking to any one of the wheels to keep it from veering out of control in the corners. The Escalade does not try to be a canyon carver, its enormous size and truck-based DNA is easily felt when driving as with any body-on-frame setup.
However, the standard Magnetic Ride Control system keeps the car from feeling too wobbly and offers drivers with confidence in all road conditions. It’s worth noting that the GM full-sizers have much better body control than the newest crop of Ford body-on-frame models, namely the Expedition and Navigator (reviewed here). The optional performance front brake kit installed on our tester helped me feel more assured that the Escalade will be able to stop in time in any emergency situations.
To enhance efficiency, General Motors has packed the 6.2L V8 with technologies such as Continuous Variable Valve Timing, direct injection, and Active Fuel Management (AFM) systems. The last of these is particularly interesting as it allows the engine to deactivate four of the cylinders in light driving conditions such as highway cruising. The system seamlessly deactivates and reactivates itself during normal operation, with an icon on the instrument cluster that shows how many cylinders are operating.
During real road testing, the AFM system is excellent as I felt absolutely no indication of its changeover. I observed no performance loss as it handily kept the Escalade moving along at speed, and assisted in achieving an impressive 10.9L/100km fuel economy on my weekend highway run, matching Cadillac’s rated highway consumption figures. For the rest of the week in mixed driving conditions, I observed 14.5L/100km, which is close to the rated figure of 14L/100km in combined driving. The Escalade has a big 98L fuel tank to allow for significant range between fill ups, and recommends premium gas.
Being one of America’s finest limousines, the Escalade has an interior that rivals the best of what Europe and Asia have to offer. Thanks to its acoustic front glass, triple-sealed doors, and embedded Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology, almost no sound from the outside world is transmitted to the cabin, other than the occasional engine roar. Our tester is equipped with the delicious Maple Sugar interior that looks and feels rich. Every piece of leather is silky smooth to the touch and there is plenty of it covering the real estate inside.
The semi-aniline Nappa leather seats in the first two rows are superbly comfortable, and the two loungers in the first row offer heating, cooling, as well as massage capabilities. Second row passengers have the choice of enjoying the dual DVD screens, or sharing using the ceiling mounted widescreen that is visible to the third row as well. The 16-speaker Bose Centrepoint system delivers crystal-clear sound and booming bass to the hushed cabin to complete the mobile theatre experience. For those who want a beverage with their entertainment, there is even a mini fridge in the centre console that can chill up to six 20-ounce bottles.
The onboard Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system sticks out as the glaring liability to an otherwise brilliant people mover. It is a system that is solely reliant on touch, and simple commands such as switching audio source and inputting destinations require multiple clicks and the ‘buttons’ are too small to be used confidently while driving. There are no knobs on the central panel, instead volume and climate controls are done using the touch buttons that are imprecise and inconsistent to use even with haptic feedback.
I found myself duplicating my commands throughout the week as I was not sure if the system had accepted it, and the steering wheel mounted volume buttons also takes too long to reach meaningful adjustments. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is supported, and it has an available built-in 4G Wi-Fi hotpot with data plan subscription. Those wanting this experience without CUE can opt for the GMC Yukon Denali or Chevrolet Tahoe Premier (reviewed here), which offer a more user-friendly infotainment interface.
To help drivers navigate surroundings given the mammoth footprint, Cadillac has equipped the Escalade Platinum with standard Surround Vision camera, Forward Collision Alert, Forward and Reverse Automatic Braking, Front and Rear Park Assist, Lane Change with Side Blind Zone alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems. These systems all work together seamlessly and made driving in tight urban streets a far more manageable endeavor than one would expect.
The 2019 Cadillac Escalade starts at $87,495, with the Platinum trim starting at $110,295. Our tester was equipped with Performance Front Brake kit for $4,415, Sport Edition package for $3,395, and a wheel lock package for extra $95, bringing our as-tested total to $118,200. Cadillac aims to market its lineup to busy professionals, and in an attempt to make its shopping experience more convenient, Cadillac has recently launched its Cadillac Live service. Similar to Genesis’ At Home program, it delivers a virtual showroom experience to anyone at the comfort of their home or office, and you can learn more about it here.
The 2019 Cadillac Escalade Platinum is a no-compromises full-size luxury SUV, one that has traded in its oversized clothes bling for a well-tailored tuxedo with shiny leather shoes. It has a look that commands attention everywhere, and a healthy V8 power plant that makes the journey as enjoyable for the person driving as the ones being chauffeured. The Escaladehas earned its right to be taken seriously amongst a field of very capable people movers like the all-new BMW X7 (reviewed here), Range Rover (reviewed here), and Lexus LX 570. For those who do not want the physical showroom experience, for now Cadillac Live is the only option in its class in North America.