Over the last decade, Cadillac designers and engineers have done a remarkable job of transforming the brand's image from over-the-hill to up-and-coming. Now, however, the very nameplate that helped propel this transformation, the Cadillac Escalade, feels like an anachronism.
To its credit, the 2014 Cadillac Escalade maintains the attributes that made it so popular in the first place, including bold styling, a powerful V8, strong towing capacity, an upscale interior and a long list of standard features and desirable options. But driving an Escalade is no longer as fashionable as it once was, and alongside the newer offerings in this price range, this large luxury SUV is outdated.
Disappointing fuel economy, long braking distances, ponderous handling and 50/50-split third-row seats that have to be wrestled out and stashed someplace before you can load large cargo have become deal-breakers for many luxury SUV buyers. The fact that the Cadillac Escalade has consistently been a popular target for car thieves is another prominent turn-off.
Compared to its domestic rival, the Lincoln Navigator, the Escalade is still the better choice given its more robust V8. But if you check out the Infiniti QX80 (formerly the QX56), Lexus LX 570 or the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class you'll generally find that they provide greater versatility and refinement, and are simply easier to drive on an everyday basis. Overall, the 2014 Cadillac Escalade is still a deluxe SUV, but in the face of such modern competition, it's a little too old-school to recommend.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade is a full-size SUV that's available in four trim levels: Base, Luxury, Premium and the top-of-the-line Platinum Edition. Seating for seven is standard, while all but the Platinum Edition can also be had with a second-row bench that bumps capacity up to eight passengers. The Escalade Hybrid, the extended-length Escalade ESV and the pickup-like EXT are reviewed separately.
The entry-level Escalade comes fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive and auto-leveling suspension, a locking rear differential, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, heated power-folding mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, rear parking sensors, towing hardware, running boards and a power liftgate. Inside, the standard equipment list continues with tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery (vinyl in the third row), heated and ventilated power front seats with driver seat memory functions, heated second-row captain's chairs, a power tilt-only steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and remote ignition. The list of standard electronics features includes a touchscreen navigation system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar emergency communications 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 controls.
Moving up to the Luxury model adds 22-inch wheels, an upgraded adaptive suspension, automatic high beams, a sunroof, a blind-spot warning system, power flip-and-fold second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. Options include power-retractable running boards and a rear-seat entertainment system with a single display. Springing for the Premium trim level gets you all of the above options plus body-colored styling details in place of chrome, dual exhaust tips and painted wheels. LED headlights are an option.
The Platinum Edition starts with all those goodies and adds its own special exterior styling details, 22-inch chrome wheels, upgraded leather upholstery (including in the third row), heated and cooled cupholders, and unique interior color choices. The standard video entertainment system also gets dual headrest-mounted screens.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2014 Cadillac Escalade is a 6.2-liter V8 that puts out 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard, with an all-wheel-drive system available as an option. Note that this is a light-duty AWD system, with no low-range gearing for off-road use.
In Edmunds performance tests, an all-wheel-drive Escalade accelerated from zero to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds, surprisingly quick for a vehicle this size. Properly equipped, a two-wheel-drive Escalade can tow an impressive 8,300 pounds.
The price for all this muscle, as you might imagine, is poor fuel economy, with EPA estimates of 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 13/18/15 mpg with all-wheel drive.
The 2014 Cadillac Escalade's list of standard safety features includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags that cover all three rows, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors. 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 standard on all but the base model.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Escalade came to a stop from 60 mph in 144 feet, a disappointing number even for a full-size luxury SUV. 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 just three stars for rollover risk.
Interior Design and Special Features
Climb behind the Cadillac Escalade's steering wheel and you'll find yourself in a handsome space with leather upholstery accented by simulated wood and metal trim. 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.
Both front seat and second-row occupants enjoy comfortable accommodations thanks to heated and ventilated seats up front and heated seats in the second row. There's a good amount of head- and legroom for those passengers, too, which is something that can't be said for anyone exiled to the 50/50-split third-row seat. It's cramped even for kids.
The interior's greatest weakness, however, is the antiquated design of those third-row seats. Unlike the examples in many of the Escalade's competitors that fold into a well in the floor, these must be removed and stored in order to take advantage of the interior's humongous cargo hold (total capacity is 108.9 cubic feet behind the front seats). With the third-row seats removed, there's still a healthy 60.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row.
Few drivers are likely to accuse the 2014 Cadillac Escalade of not being powerful enough. Acceleration is surprisingly brisk considering the large V8 is propelling more than 5,500 pounds down the road.
Given its truck-based SUV underpinnings, either of the Escalade's available suspensions does a remarkable job of delivering a smooth ride, even on versions with the huge 22-inch alloy wheels. However, those heavy wheels and tires play a role in the Cadillac's long braking distances, and for that reason, we'd be inclined to stick with the standard 18-inch wheels and tires.
Maneuverability in tight parking lots is understandably not this luxurious truck's strong suit, but the standard rearview camera and relatively tight turning radius help drivers make the best of the Escalade's massive dimensions.
Edmunds Insurance Estimator
This is the estimated average annual insurance premium being charged in your state. The premium has been determined based on annual premium data for defined coverages (liability, comprehensive and collision) from a major insurer.
While this information is specific to vehicle make, model, model year and body type, your personal information is not taken into consideration and could greatly alter the actual premium quoted by an insurer. Factors that will affect your rate include your age, marital status, credit history, driving record, and the garaging address of your vehicle.
The Edmunds TCO®
monthly insurance payment for a 2014 Cadillac Escalade Suv
in VA is:
$165.00 per month*
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† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.