What's New for 2013
The Cadillac Escalade returns unchanged for 2013.
Fashion is a fickle mistress. There was a time when the Cadillac Escalade was the vehicle du jour for the wealthy, famous or those keeping up appearances. Unlike the classic black cocktail dress or gentlemen's two-button suit, however, the Escalade doesn't enjoy a timeless status. Six years into the current generation's run, the Escalade now looks more like yesterday's fashion.
That's not to say the 2013 Cadillac Escalade lacks merit, as it still satisfies the core expectations of any large luxury SUV. A long list of features, plenty of power at the driver's disposal and an unmistakable road-going presence help this big Cadillac hold much of its original appeal.
But other rivals have upped their game and tarnished the Escalade's shine with more capable alternatives. The Escalade's third-row seats, for example, which penalize the center passenger with a distinct lack of space, mark one of the SUV's more glaring faults. Cargo space also suffers, as the third row does not fold neatly out of the way and requires complete removal to accommodate a respectable amount of luggage. Add to that a thirsty V8, long braking distances and the Escalade's attractiveness to car thieves, and it's no mystery why shoppers are looking elsewhere.
For these reasons, we'd steer potential owners toward the all-new and similarly priced 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which essentially outperforms the Cadillac on all fronts. If expanded passenger and cargo capacity aren't absolute necessities, the 2013 Infiniti QX and 2013 Porsche Cayenne are also worth consideration. Any of these choices will likely make a bigger fashion splash than the aging 2013 Cadillac Escalade.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Classified as a full-size SUV, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade is offered in Base, Luxury, Premium and Platinum Edition trim levels. Seven-passenger seating is standard, with an option to add a second-row bench for up to eight passengers (except on the Platinum trims). The Escalade Hybrid, the extended-length ESV and the pickup-style EXT are reviewed separately.
The base Escalade comes standard with 18-inch wheels, an adaptive and auto-leveling suspension, a locking rear differential, a tow package, rear parking sensors, a power liftgate, automatic xenon headlights, foglamps and heated mirrors with power-folding and driver-side dimming.
Interior features include remote ignition, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt-only steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, driver memory functions, heated second-row captain's chairs, leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Additional features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, OnStar, a navigation system, a touchscreen interface and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and rear audio controls.
The Escalade Luxury adds 22-inch wheels, a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, automatic high beams, a blind-spot warning system, a sunroof, power flip-and-fold second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. Options include power-retractable side steps and a rear-seat entertainment system with a single display.
The Escalade Premium adds the above options plus body-colored styling components in place of chrome, dual exhaust outlets and painted wheels.
The Escalade Platinum Edition gets a unique grille and wheels, LED headlamps, upgraded leather upholstery, extended leather interior trim, upgraded interior trim, heated and cooled cupholders and a different rear-seat entertainment system with twin headrest-mounted screens.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Cadillac Escalade comes with a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard, but all-wheel drive is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive Escalade took just 7.5 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph, an impressive number for this size vehicle. Properly equipped, two-wheel-drive versions can tow a healthy 8,300 pounds. Fuel economy, as you might guess, is pretty dismal. The EPA estimates 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 13/18/15 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Cadillac Escalade include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and OnStar emergency telematics. A blind-spot warning system is standard on all but the base model.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Escalade came to a stop from 60 mph in 144 feet, disappointing even for a full-size luxury SUV. In government crash tests, the Escalade earned an overall rating of four out of five stars. It earned five stars for total frontal and side crash protection, but just 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 a Tahoe or Yukon's interior. The gauges and controls are well-placed and intuitive in operation, and there are plenty of luxurious features to keep driver and passengers comfortable and entertained.
In its standard seven-passenger configuration, the big Caddy features second-row captain's chairs and a three-person third-row bench seat. Adding the available second-row bench raises total seating capacity to eight. The 50/50-split third-row seats don't provide much legroom, however, and the middle passenger must sit atop the gap between seats. The third-row seats also don't fold neatly into the floor as in most other SUVs. Instead, owners needing to carry bulky items are forced to either fold and tumble the entire assembly forward -- consuming precious cargo space -- or remove the heavy seats entirely.
Removing the third-row seats yields a cavernous 60.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second-row seats. Fold those second-row seats down and cargo capacity grows to an impressive 108.9 cubic feet.
On the road, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade's big V8 delivers swift acceleration at all speeds. Its handling inspires confidence, especially with the active Magnetic Ride Control suspension, though you'll never mistake the Escalade for anything other than a truck-based SUV. You will appreciate the ride quality, though, as it remains comfortable even with the larger 22-inch wheels. A relatively tight turning circle helps with overall drivability, but maneuvering in tight quarters can be a chore despite the aid of the standard rearview camera.