Powerful and unapologetically American, the Cadillac Escalade ESV is the Big Kahuna of the Escalade luxury SUV family. Everything about it is massive, from its extended wheelbase to its V8 engine and Bose sound system. Introduced in 2003 as a variant of the regular Escalade, the ESV broadens the Escalade's appeal by offering the absolute maximum in passenger room and cargo space.
The second-generation version was about the same size as the first-generation model but featured enhanced maneuverability, a larger, more powerful engine and a significantly upgraded interior. The latest, third-generation Cadillac Escalade ESV is more refined and features a power-folding third-row seat, a huge improvement over the previous versions' manually removable third row.
Regardless of generation, this big SUV's appeal lies mainly in its bold attitude and large and luxurious interior. That said, shoppers interested in something a little less ostentatious and easier to park might prefer one of the ESV's import-brand competitors.
Current Cadillac Escalade ESV
Redesigned for 2015, the Cadillac Escalade ESV is a longer-wheelbase version of the standard Escalade. It seats seven (with second-row captain's chairs) or eight (with an optional second-row bench seat). There are three trim levels: base, Luxury and Premium.
The standard-wheelbase Escalade is covered in a separate review.
All Escalades come with a 6.2-lilter V8 engine that produces 420 horsepower. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered and drives the rear wheels. Four-wheel drive is optional.
Even the base Escalade is generously equipped, with highlights including magnetic ride control, automatic LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a hands-free power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power front seats, heated rear seats and split power-folding third-row seats. Also standard are a rearview camera, a navigation system and a 16-speaker audio system with five USB ports. The Luxury trim adds 22-inch wheels (versus 20-inch), a sunroof, power-folding second row seats, a head-up display and electronic driver aids. The Premium's perks include a rear entertainment system, adaptive cruise control and forward and reverse collision mitigation with automatic braking.
Within the Escalade ESV's handsome cabin there's an abundance of premium materials and space for full-size adults to get comfortable in the front and middle rows. With 14 more inches between the front and rear wheels than the regular Escalade, the ESV provides a lot more third-row legroom and cargo capacity. The latter stands at an impressive 120 cubic feet, and configuring the ESV for such duty is much easier thanks to a third-row seat that now power-folds flat into the floor. But while that new third-row design is nice, it still has a low seat cushion and also results in a rather high cargo floor. The hands-free power liftgate is handy but that high load floor means a higher lift-over height as well.
In reviews, we've been impressed by the Escalade's effortless acceleration, whether around town or powering up an on-ramp, as well as its composed, planted attitude while negotiating curvy roads. However, as you'd expect, this extra-large Escalade is cumbersome to maneuver in tight parking lots. Regardless of speed or road surfaces, the cabin remains blissfully quiet, but unlike past Escalades, the ride isn't plush over broken pavement. In fairness, we noted this somewhat stiff-legged ride in a model equipped with the available 22-inch wheels, so those with the 20s may ride softer. Regardless of wheel fitment, we suggest seeking out bumpy roads while on your test-drive to determine whether or not the ride is satisfactory.
Read the most recent 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Cadillac Escalade ESV page.