2021 Cadillac Escalade: Still a Barge, No Longer Baroque

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The last model of the General Motors body-on-frame SUV trifecta to drop just hit the ground in Hollywood. After a greater than normal amount of press leakage, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade showed off its upmarket flanks and decidedly less flashy face Tuesday night, marking an end to the trend of overly ornate Caddy range-toppers.

Like the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon that debuted before it, the revamped Escalade adds interior volume and suspends that capacious cabin with fully independent legs. Gone is the solid rear axle.

Gone, too, is the model’s gasoline-only powertrain.

Yes, the official reveal answered a nagging question about the 2021 Escalade: Would it go the same route as its lesser GM siblings in offering an optional 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six diesel? The answer is yes. A diesel Caddy may be in your future, should you care more about fuel economy than horsepower.

Towing figures, like the Chevy and GMC models, are TBD.

Depending on trim, this new Escalade — wearing the tallest Escala-derived face in the lineup — either underwhelms in terms of glitz or provides it in new areas. The Sport trim leaked earlier in the day dons a black mesh grille and blacked-out pillars, arguably turning the luxo-barge into two boxes of understated blandness. Regular variants add chrome mostly to the outer edges of the grille and reserve a big chunk of it for the C-pillar, where it hasn’t appeared in such quantities before.

It’s sort of like the Escalade ditched Baroque for Teutonic, but got lost along the way. However, that’s just this writer’s opinion. Did we mention 22-inch wheels are standard? You’ll need that independent rear. (Magnetic Ride Control is standard kit, thankfully; Air Ride adaptive suspension is optional.)

Out back, the Escalade’s signature vertical taillights remain upright, only now adopt a three-dimensional aspect.

As stated before, the Escalade joined its siblings in rejecting the Slim-Fast plan. The regular-wheelbase model now stretches an extra 4.9 inches between axles and 7.1 inches stem to stern; the long-wheelbase ESV bound for a debut at April’s New York International Auto Show ups the wheelbase by 4.1 inches. Body length grows by a more modest 2.6 inches, as GM isn’t providing buyers with new garages.

The increase in cargo and rear-seat room is in line with the Tahoe/Suburban numbers released earlier. No one will notice the 40-percent boost in third-row legroom, however, because they’ll be craning their necks to take a gander at the massive screen stretching most of the way across the dash. The high-resolution OLED curved screen, stretching 38 inches on the diagonal, is guided by touch, a rotary controller, and steering wheel controls, depending on which screen you’re looking to use.

There’s three screens in all. From the leftmost position, you’ll find a 7.2-inch touchscreen for driver information, followed next by a 14.2-inch display directly in front of the driver, and then a 16.9-inch infotainment screen accessible to both the driver and front seat passenger. Those measurement, by the way, are on the diagonal.

Inches are everything in this game.

One wonders how quickly that screen will “warm up” on a very subzero morning in the frigid north. We’ll have to wait and see about that. If those combined screens, which afford the driver surround and night vision views, don’t turn your crank, the second row features pair of 12.6-inch touchscreens with HDMI and USB inputs, as well as Android Auto mirroring, to ensure no one riding in the second row needs to ever look out a window.

One feature of these screens is worthy of note, if only for the parallels between the 2021 Escalade and a Gilded Age ocean liner’s engine room and pilothouse.

“Additionally, destination ‘suggestions’ can be ‘sent’ by rear passengers to the front navigation screen, for the driver to accept or decline,” Cadillac states, heralding silent road trips by fractured families whose members have sworn not to speak to each other. If music’s your bag, there’s an optional 36-speaker AKG audio system to be had.

That driver will have access to Cadillac’s enhanced Super Cruise system. As mentioned before, the updated version of the automaker’s hands-free driver-assist feature now allows users to instigate a lane change by flipping on their blinker. The vehicle takes it from there.

What noises will those occupants hear, you ask? Those riding in an Escalade with no boxes checked will hear GM’s trusty 6.2-liter V8, good for 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft, routed through a 10-speed automatic. That’s the same output as before. Cylinder deactivation will attempt to lower the vehicle’s thirst.

Optional is the 3.0L Duramax originally foisted on Silverado buyers. That oil-burner generates 277 hp and, guess what, 460 lb-ft. The same tranny manages this engine’s output, sending it to either the rear wheels or all four.

Obviously, there’s more to tell you about this vehicle, but these are the highlights. As for price, that will have to wait until closer to the model’s summer on-sale date.

[Images: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Oldschool Oldschool on Feb 05, 2020

    Definitely too much similarities between this and the Tahoe, exterior wise. The interior looks good, but not amazing like the Navigator with all its bling and lovely detail trimming. The Caddy seats, especially the rear are straight from the Tahoe. They honestly look pretty uncomfortable being so flat, and having such thin seat bottoms. The seats should be much more luxurious with thickly padded materials with higher quality stitching, not like the cheap crap that’s in it now. Don’t get me started with that front end! WTF were they thinking! So basic and conservative. Blahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.....

  • JimZ JimZ on Feb 06, 2020

    OLEDs don't have to "warm up" like LCDs do.

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Feb 06, 2020

      Modern monitors use LED backlighted LCD panels. There is no warm-up period required. OLED is good because it does not need back light and "black" is actually black - no photons are emitted.

  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.
  • VoGhost TL:DL. Younger people less racist.
  • VoGhost None of the commenters who won't buy from China think twice about getting their oil from Saudi Arabia. They may even be filling up with Venezuelan or Russian petroleum, for all they know.
  • Johnny ringo In a word, no-the usual Chinese business model is to invite foreign companies into China as a joint venture, insist on a 49% share in the company-along with technology transfer and then push the foreign partner out and take control. And now with all the sabre rattling going on between the United States and China over Taiwan and the South China Sea and the possibility of a war, I'm not giving any of my money to the Chinese.