What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Cadillac Escalade ESV returns unchanged.
Let's say you have a family of eight and you want to transport the whole clan at once to and fro in relative luxury. Perhaps you also want to tow a camper or boat now and then, too. Congratulations. You're one of the few who can justify purchasing a 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV.
That scenario is one of the only reasons we can see buying the Escalade ESV. The ESV is based on the equally imposing Chevrolet Suburban, but with Cadillac's upscale luxury appointments. Compared to the already large Escalade, the ESV adds another 20 inches to its overall length, which increases cargo capacity by 25 percent. Rear passenger space, however, sees only a minor uptick.
We estimate that most Cadillac Escalades were purchased more as fashion accessories than people haulers, and not long ago these colossal Cadillacs were the SUV of choice for wealthy patrons projecting a "large and in charge" persona. But in the six years since the current-generation ESV debuted, its looks have aged and conspicuous consumption has lost some of its shine.
Besides an out-of-vogue perception, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV features notable drawbacks that should give buyers pause. The ESV's large dimensions make challenging work of parking lot maneuvers. Quenching a thirsty V8 is still a pricey proposition, regardless of fluctuating fuel prices. And the ESV's braking distances may give drivers some heart-pounding moments. To cap it off, the third-row seats do not flip and fold out of the way to maximize cargo capacity. Instead, you have to wrestle these heavy and bulky seats to completely remove them.
But if you require luxury and maximum passenger and cargo capacity, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV is that rare beast that delivers. The Lincoln Navigator may be the closest competitor, but it lacks adequate power and represents an even more outdated design. For large luxury SUV shoppers that can make do with less space, we suggest the 2013 Infiniti QX and new 2013 Mercedes GL-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Based on the Chevrolet Suburban, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV is the extended-wheelbase version of the regular Escalade. Available trim levels are base, Luxury, Premium and Platinum Edition. The ESV seats seven people with the standard second-row captain's chairs, while an optional second-row bench available on all but the Platinum increases capacity to eight.
Standard equipment on the base Escalade includes 18-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, rear parking sensors, power-folding and heated mirrors with driver auto-dimming, a roof rack, automatic xenon headlights, foglamps, a power liftgate, running boards, remote ignition and keyless ignition/entry.
Inside you get tri-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and driver memory functions, power-adjustable pedals, a power tilt-only steering wheel, heated second-row seats (both captain's chairs and optional bench) and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronic features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar emergency communications, a navigation system, voice controls and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, iPod/USB audio interface, rear seat controls and two wireless headphones.
The Luxury adds 22-inch wheels, an upgraded magnetic automatically adaptive suspension, automatic high beams, a blind-spot warning system, a sunroof, a power-folding and -tumbling second row and a heated steering wheel.
Power-retracting running boards and a rear seat entertainment system are optional on the Luxury and included on the Premium, which further adds unique exterior trim and special 22-inch wheels. LED headlights are optional on the Premium and standard on the Platinum Edition, which further adds its own unique exterior trim, 22-inch chrome wheels, leather-trimmed dash and door tops, contrasting stitching, heated and cooled cupholders, upgraded leather upholstery and unique interior color choices. The Platinum's entertainment system also gets dual display screens mounted in the front headrests.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard, with all-wheel drive available as an option.
Expect 0-60-mph acceleration to take a bit more than 7 seconds, which is pretty quick for such a large SUV. Estimated EPA fuel economy is about what you'd expect from a big truck: 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined for RWD models; AWD versions are thirstier at 13/18/14. Properly equipped, the rear-drive ESV can tow 8,000 pounds while the all-wheel-drive model is rated at 7,700 pounds.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Other standard safety features include rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and OnStar emergency communications. All ESV trim levels except the base model also feature a blind-spot warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, the regular Escalade's stopping distances were excessive. It's likely that the larger, heavier ESV fares even worse. In government crash tests, the Escalade earned an overall rating of four out of five stars, with five stars for overall frontal and side crash protection and a lowly three stars for rollover risk.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Escalade's cabin, highlighted by supple leather upholstery and attractive faux-wood and alloy trim, looks and feels more luxurious than what you'd find in a Suburban. The gauges and controls are well-placed and intuitive in operation, and even the base Escalade is crammed full of luxurious features to keep driver and passengers comfortably entertained.
The Escalade ESV can accommodate seven or eight occupants, depending on the second-row configuration of either bucket seats or optional bench seating. A power fold-and-flip feature for the second-row seats eases access to the third row. Unfortunately, a more convenient foldaway third-row seat isn't available, so owners must remove and store the heavy and cumbersome 50/50 seat sections in order to boost rear cargo capacity.
Still, with all seats in place, there are 46 cubic feet of room for groceries, luggage or pets. Only Ford and Lincoln's extended-wheelbase SUVs and the Escalade's Suburban/Yukon XL relatives can match that ability to carry people and stuff simultaneously. With the rear seat sections folded and removed, the Cadillac Escalade ESV offers a cavernous, class-leading 137 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.
The 2013 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a massive vehicle, so the laws of physics are always apparent, especially while braking. Maneuvering in tight spots requires extra caution and planning as well. That said, the ESV's powerful V8 delivers surprisingly quick acceleration, and its adaptable suspension is well-mannered and calibrated to strike a satisfying balance between a smooth, comfortable ride and decent handling. Road impacts are noticeably harsher, however, with the larger 22-inch wheels.