Full 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV is unchanged.
Just like a Rolex on your wrist or a Louis Vuitton bag on your shoulder, parking a 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV in your driveway is synonymous with living large. That also happens to be a fairly apt description of everyday life with this full-size luxury SUV.
At more than 18 feet long, the Escalade ESV dwarfs most other passenger vehicles on the road. It's also an exceptionally luxurious way to transport up to eight people and their luggage. The 403-horsepower V8 under the hood of this gussied-up version of the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL is another celebration of excess, as it delivers strong acceleration and robust towing capacity.
As is typical in life, though, there's a downside to this super-size approach. The ESV's expansive dimensions make it challenging to maneuver in heavy traffic, not to mention cramped parking garages. Then, there's fuel economy, which is predictably poor. The Cadillac Escalade ESV also suffers from an awkward third-row seat design that requires you to remove the entire seat from the vehicle (as opposed to folding it into the floor) before making use of this luxury SUV's full cargo capacity.
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV makes sense for those few buyers who actually need its uncommon blend of luxurious accommodations, enormous seating and cargo capacity and brawny towing capability. We also like it more than its domestic rival, the Lincoln Navigator L. But we certainly suggest comparing the Escalade ESV to the Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX 570 and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. You'll give up some passenger space and cargo capacity by choosing any one of these competitors, but they're all far easier to maneuver than the big Caddy and surpass it in overall refinement.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a full-size, extended-wheelbase luxury SUV. It's to the Suburban what the regular Escalade is to the Tahoe. It's offered in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Premium and a top-of-the-line Platinum Edition. The cabin seats seven with the standard captain's chairs and eight with the second-row bench seat that's optional on all but the Platinum Edition.
Standard equipment on the entry-level Escalade includes 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive and auto-leveling suspension, a locking rear differential, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, power-folding heated mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, running boards, roof racks, a power liftgate, rear parking sensors and keyless ignition/entry. Interior features include tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats with driver memory functions, heated second-row seats, a 50/50-split third-row seat, a power tilt-only steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Standard technology features include a touchscreen interface, a navigation system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar emergency communications, voice controls and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface, rear seat controls and two sets of wireless headphones.
Moving up to the Luxury trim level gets you 22-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded adaptive suspension, automatic high beams, a sunroof, a blind-spot warning system, a power-folding and -tumbling second row and a heated steering wheel. Options here include power-retractable running boards and a rear seat video entertainment system with a single screen. The Premium gets you all of the above plus distinctive exterior trim and unique 22-inch alloy wheels. LED headlights are an option.
The Platinum Edition starts with all those goodies and adds its own special exterior styling details and 22-inch chrome wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, leather-trimmed dash and door tops, genuine wood accents, contrasting stitching, heated and cooled cupholders, and unique interior color choices. The standard video entertainment system also gets dual headrest-mounted screens.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV gets a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 403 hp and 417 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is an option.
Accelerating from zero to 60 mph should take a little over 7 seconds, an impressive number by large SUV standards. Estimated EPA fuel economy numbers are about what you'd expect from a heavy vehicle with a powerful V8: 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 13/18/14 with all-wheel drive. A properly equipped rear-drive Escalade ESV can tow up to 8,000 pounds, while the all-wheel-drive model's towing capacity is only slightly less at 7,700 pounds.
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV comes with most of the expected standard safety features including antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags that cover all three rows, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance. A blind-spot warning system is included on all but the base model.
In Edmunds testing, the regular Escalade posted excessively long braking distances, and you shouldn't expect the larger and heavier ESV to stop any shorter. In government crash tests, the Escalade earned an overall rating of four out of five stars, with five stars for overall frontal- and side-impact crash protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Compared to the Chevy model upon which it's based, the 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV offers a handsome cabin with an upscale look enhanced by high-quality materials. From a practical perspective, the gauges and controls are easy to see and operate. The Escalade hasn't received Cadillac's latest CUE electronics interface, which means the Escalade's touchscreen and overall dashboard layout looks comparatively dated. But we suspect a lot of people will actually find this older setup a little easier to use.
Regardless of whether it's fitted with the standard second-row captain's chairs or the available second-row bench, occupants of the first two rows will enjoy a generous amount of head- and legroom. The available power flip-and-fold feature for the second-row seats makes accessing the three-person third row easier, but between the climb required to get back there and the distinct shortage of legroom, the third row is really only suitable for children.
In addition, the Escalade's 50/50-split third-row seats do not fold into the floor. While this might not seem like a big issue at first, it can be a serious hassle to remove the two heavy sections and find a place to store them whenever you need extra cargo space (in most other eight-passenger SUVs and crossovers, the third-row seats fold into the floor). That said, it's hard to fault a vehicle that gives you a whopping 90 cubic feet of cargo room when the third row is removed, and a humongous 137 cubic feet when the second row is folded down as well.
Considering its truck-based SUV underpinnings, the 2014 Cadillac Escalade ESV does a remarkable job of delivering a smooth ride even with the huge 22-inch alloy wheels. Handling is also better than you'd expect, especially with the available adaptive suspension that's standard on all but the base model. Maneuverability is naturally not this luxurious truck's strong suit, but the standard rearview camera and relatively tight turning radius help drivers make the most of its massive dimensions.
The powerful 6.2-liter V8 is simultaneously the ESV's best and worst feature, as it combines robust performance with appalling fuel economy that's just plain tough to rationalize these days. The brakes are also of concern, as the Escalade requires more real estate to stop than virtually all passenger vehicles this side of heavy-duty trucks. The heavy 22-inch wheels play a role in the long stopping distances, and for that reason, we'd be inclined to stick with the standard 18-inch wheels.