Used 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV SUV Review

There aren't many luxury SUVs that can seat eight, tow a trailer and still have room for luggage. The 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV can do all that and more. It's the biggest SUV Cadillac offers, so if you have a large family and like tackling big adventures in style, this could be the SUV for you. Let's take a closer look.




what's new

Following a complete overhaul for 2015, the Cadillac Escalade ESV gets only a few changes this year, including an enhanced CUE infotainment interface, a front-view camera and an available lane-departure intervention system.

vehicle overview

When the Escalade debuted as a 1999 model, more than one critic suggested that Cadillac was trying to scratch an itch that wasn't there. But the luxury SUV market caught on, and the Escalade is still here. In fact, one version has grown into the extended-length 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV, an SUV that can serve as a plush, oversized minivan while simultaneously hauling a boat or camper. It's one of the few vehicles on the market with such a broad set of capabilities.

The Escalade received a complete redesign last year, its imposing size emphasized by blockier styling and more conspicuous flourishes. Inside, a sleek, modern dashboard layout distinguished the Escalade from its more openly trucklike predecessors. This year, not much changes, though Cadillac has updated its often-criticized CUE touch-operated infotainment system with a faster processor and a more accurate voice recognition system. There's also a newly available lane-departure intervention system, and this marks the first model year in which every Escalade ESV will come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission that pairs with the strong 420-horsepower V8 engine.

There are some things we're not particularly fond of, however. The Escalade ESV's high cargo loading floor is an unfortunate legacy of its truck-based architecture, which is shared with full-size SUVs from Chevrolet and GMC. We've also found the Escalade's ride quality to be less than optimal, which can also be attributed to those rugged underpinnings. Then there's the ESV's size — it stretches almost 19 feet from nose to tail, 20 inches longer than the already sizable standard Escalade — which makes parking maneuvers even more challenging.

But the reality is that not much else can match the Escalade ESV's towing and hauling capabilities. The 2016 Lincoln Navigator L is the main option you'll want to consider. It rides better and has a roomier interior, but it's not as stylish. As for smaller competitors, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class provides a superior driving experience, better fuel efficiency and a more usable third-row seat, while the two-row 2016 Land Rover Range Rover pairs peerlessly premium brand cachet with serious off-road ability. But if a beefy SUV with all the trimmings is what you're after, this big Caddy should hit the spot.

We Recommend

All versions of the Escalade ESV come with the same powerful V8, sophisticated suspension and unmistakable styling. In order to get the best features on the inside, however, we suggest going with the Premium trim. You'll get the advanced active safety features along with a rear entertainment system and adaptive cruise control.

trim levels & features

The 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a full-size luxury SUV available in four trim levels. It can accommodate seven passengers with the standard second-row captain's chairs, and eight if optioned with the second-row bench seat. The shorter-wheelbase standard Escalade is covered in a separate review.

The base Escalade ESV is generously appointed with 20-inch chrome wheels, magnetic ride control with Sport and Comfort modes, automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, running boards, a hands-free power liftgate, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, remote start, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and driver memory functions, heated rear seats and split power-folding third-row seats. Standard electronic features include the CUE infotainment interface (with an 8-inch touchscreen), a surround-view camera system, a customizable instrument panel, a navigation system, real-time traffic and a Bose 16-speaker audio system with active noise cancelling, a CD player, HD and satellite radio, five USB ports and an auxiliary audio jack.

Stepping up to the Luxury trim adds 22-inch wheels (optional on the base), a sunroof, automatic high beams, power-folding second row seats, a head-up display, an enhanced alarm system, a blind-spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and a safety alert driver seat that buzzes to warn of potential hazards.

To this, the Premium trim adds cornering lights, a rear entertainment system with a Blu-ray player and two ceiling-mounted, flip-down 9-inch screens (offered as an option on the Luxury trim), adaptive cruise control and forward and reverse collision mitigation with automatic braking.

At the top of the range, the Escalade ESV Platinum adds specialized door sills, heated and ventilated 14-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), massaging front seats, upgraded leather upholstery, a simulated suede headliner, a cooled front-seat center console and two more rear entertainment screens (mounted in the front headrests) with individual display capacity for viewing multiple videos when your passengers just can't decide on one.

Power-retracting side steps with approach lighting are optional on the Premium and Platinum trim levels.

performance & mpg

Powering the 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 420 hp and 460 pound-feet of torque. Power flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels or to an available four-wheel-drive system.

In Edmunds testing, a four-wheel-drive, regular-wheelbase Escalade Platinum took 6.1 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph, which is pretty quick for a big luxury SUV. Expect the larger, heavier ESV to be a few tenths of a second slower. Properly equipped, an Escalade ESV can tow up to 8,100 pounds.

safety

Standard safety features on all 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV models include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a surround-view camera system with a selectable front-camera-only mode, front and rear parking sensors, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, and an airbag located between the front seats that aids in side-impact crashes. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.

The Luxury trim adds automatic high-beam control, a blind-spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and intervention, a rear cross-traffic alert system, a forward-collision alert system and a safety seat alert system that buzzes the left, right or both sides of the driver seat depending on where attention is needed. The range-topping Premium and Platinum models add forward and reverse collision mitigation with automatic braking.

In government crash tests, the 2016 Cadillac Escalade ESV received five stars for total side-impact protection.

In Edmunds testing, the regular Escalade needed 127-131 feet to stop from 60 mph. Those are relatively long distances by today's standards, even for such a large, heavy vehicle.

driving

It wouldn't be an Escalade if it didn't have a brawny V8 under its hood, and the 2016 Escalade ESV proudly delivers. Mash the gas pedal and this big SUV easily accelerates to highway speeds. Steering effort is light at low speeds, which makes parking easier, although the ESV's massive size adds stress to any maneuvering in tight spaces. Surprisingly, the 2016 Escalade ESV feels solidly planted to the pavement when going around turns at moderate speeds.

Regardless of speed or road surfaces, the cabin remains blissfully quiet. Wind, road and engine noises are admirably quieted to premium luxury sedan standards, allowing for relaxed conversation between rows. The adaptive suspension is a bit of a letdown, however, as it fails to produce a consistently comfortable ride even in its default Tour mode. Perhaps it's the unforgiving nature of the available 22-inch wheels, but going over bumps results in tiresome impact harshness. The jiggles and shakes that result from the Escalade ESV's truck underpinnings certainly don't help the situation.

interior

The 2016 Escalade ESV's cabin features an attractive, visibly contemporary interior design that's in line with the rest of Cadillac's offerings. As expected from an SUV of this size, passenger space is also generous. Full-size adults can ride comfortably in the front and middle, even on extended road trips. The third-row seat has 10 additional inches of legroom versus the regular Escalade, which should allow even tall folks to stretch out and avoid the "knees pushing toward the roof" problem we encountered with the standard Escalade.

One of the centerpieces of the Escalade ESV's interior is the CUE infotainment interface, set in a beveled pod in the middle of the dashboard. We find it aesthetically pleasing and are encouraged that Cadillac has taken notice of user complaints about the system's sometime balky operation in past model years, providing a faster processor and other upgrades for 2016 that are designed to make it more responsive.

In terms of cargo capacity, the Escalade ESV stands out with an impressive 39.3 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, 76.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 120.9 cubes with the second and third rows stowed. The rearmost seats fold away in a few seconds at the touch of a trunk-mounted button. On all but the base trim, the second row folds forward at the flip of a switch.

Accessing the cargo area is convenient thanks to a hands-free liftgate actuated when you sweep your foot under the rear bumper, as long as the key is within 3 feet of the vehicle. Loading items is hampered, however, by a high cargo floor height that makes it difficult to lift bigger, heavier items up from the ground.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.