2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV

2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV Review

Big, powerful and plush, the Escalade ESV provides a pleasing combination of style and utility.
7.0 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

With undeniable road presence and luxury cachet, the 2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV offers an admirable skill set. Its chiseled design is bold and distinctive, and it adds brawn to its beauty with a powerful V8 engine, traditional body-on-frame construction, and an ability to tow up to 8,100 pounds. Being the long-wheelbase version with enhanced passenger and cargo room, the ESV can accommodate eight passengers with exceptional room and comfort.

Those truck-based underpinnings come back to haunt the Escalade, however: It rides rougher than most other luxury SUVs (not helped any by massive 20- and 22-inch wheels). Other rivals are also easier to live with every day and achieve better fuel economy, even if they lack the Escalade's power and capabilities. But if you need to ferry several passengers in grand style, and maybe even pull an Airstream trailer while doing it, the Escalade ESV is among the best.



What's new for 2018

For 2018, the Cadillac Escalade ESV gets a 10-speed transmission. The new transmission helps the Escalade ESV accelerate a bit more quickly and, according to EPA estimates, increases highway fuel efficiency slightly.

We recommend

All versions of the 2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV come with the same powerful V8, sophisticated suspension and unmistakable styling. To get the best features on the inside, we suggest going with the Premium Luxury trim. You'll get desirable extras from the lower Luxury trim, such as blind-spot monitoring and forward collision mitigation, with the Premium Luxury's rear entertainment system and adaptive cruise control.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV is a full-size luxury SUV available in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum. The base trim comes with a dizzying array of equipment, but the Premium Luxury and Platinum take this big, plush American machine to a whole different level.

The base trim is generously appointed both inside and out. Standard features include a 6.2-liter V8 engine (420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet), a 10-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive (four-wheel drive is optional on every trim), 20-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, an automatic parking system, a hands-free power liftgate and remote start.

Inside the cabin, you'll find tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, heated rear seats, and power-folding split third-row seats.

Standard electronic features include the CUE infotainment interface with an 8-inch touchscreen, OnStar with 4G in-vehicle Wi-Fi, a surround-view camera system, a customizable gauge cluster, a navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a Bose 16-speaker audio system with satellite radio, five USB ports and a wireless device charger.

For additional driver aids and more plush equipment, the Luxury trim adds 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, automatic high beams, power-folding second-row seats, a head-up display, a camera-based rearview mirror system in which the rearview mirror is a screen displaying what the camera sees behind the vehicle. It also includes a blind-spot monitoring system, lane departure warning and intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning and mitigation with automatic braking.

Our recommended trim, the Premium Luxury, hits the sweet spot with the above features plus adaptive cruise control, a rear entertainment system with a Blu-ray player and two overhead-mounted displays, adaptive cruise control, and a more advanced collision mitigation system with both forward and reverse automatic braking.

The most lavish Escalade ESV is the Platinum trim, which adds power-retracting side steps, upgraded power front seats with massaging function, upgraded leather upholstery, a cooled front-seat center console, and two more rear entertainment screens (mounted in the front headrests) with the ability to display individual video sources, for times when your passengers can't agree on what to watch.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum(6.2L V8 | 10-speed automatic | 4WD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.0 / 10

Driving

7.0 / 10

Acceleration7.0 / 10
Braking6.0 / 10
Steering6.0 / 10
Handling6.0 / 10
Drivability7.5 / 10

Comfort

7.0 / 10

Seat comfort8.0 / 10
Ride comfort6.0 / 10
Noise & vibration7.0 / 10
Climate control8.0 / 10

Interior

7.0 / 10

Ease of use7.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out7.0 / 10
Driving position7.0 / 10
Roominess7.0 / 10
Visibility6.5 / 10
Quality7.0 / 10

Utility

7.0 / 10

Small-item storage6.0 / 10
Cargo space7.0 / 10

Technology

7.5 / 10

Audio & navigation7.0 / 10
Smartphone integration9.0 / 10
Driver aids7.0 / 10
Voice control7.0 / 10

Driving7.0

Big V8 power is the primary driver of the Escalade's performance. The 10-speed transmission shifts smoothly and even rev-matches downshifts, but the Escalade is too big to be a competent handler.

Acceleration7.0

The 6.2-liter V8 engine is responsive and torquey, and it sounds good as the revs rise. Thanks to the Escalade's robust power and quick-shifting 10-speed transmission, 0-60 mph comes in at under 7 seconds. The engine's responsiveness is one of the Escalade's high points.

Braking6.0

For a vehicle of this size, you shouldn't expect braking performance like a sport car's. The pedal has a long travel with a slow and gradual buildup of brake pressure. There's no initial grabbiness, which may reduce confidence.

Steering6.0

There's no on-center feel, very little feedback, minimal self-centering, and a slow steering ratio. That means you have to wind the wheel a lot to get it to turn. On the plus side, the Escalade is responsive to inputs, with moderate weighting. You just can't tell what the front tires are doing.

Handling6.0

The Escalade has low cornering limits, even among other full-size SUVs. The adjustable dampers keep body motions under control, up to a point. Sport mode stiffens the ride and decreases body roll, but the ride gets overly rough on bumpy roads. The Escalade is big and you can't escape physics.

Drivability7.5

The Escalade's powertrain is responsive, particularly in Sport mode. The 10-speed transmission tends to skip gears, simulating a traditional five- or six-speed automatic, so there's less hunting around. Due to the Escalade's weight, though, nothing happens particularly quickly.

Off-road6.5

The transfer case features a true low range and an auto mode to allow the front axle to engage as needed. Airing down is not recommended for more grip due to the low-profile tires. It's no rock crawler, but it can tackle aggressive terrain. Its size and maneuverability are its biggest issues.

Comfort7.0

Oddly, ride comfort, once a Cadillac strength, suffers noticeably in the Escalade. The excellent massaging seats in our Platinum-trim tester helps the balance, but there's no avoiding the fact that many competitors do better for the same or less money.

Seat comfort8.0

Although the padding and general contouring of the seats are comfortable, you can feel the stitching in the upper seatback. The seat bottom is wide with no bolstering, so it feels like you're in your dad's old recliner. You frequently find yourself shifting around to straighten your posture.

Ride comfort6.0

The adjustable shocks work well on smooth rolling roads, but they get overwhelmed on bumps in quick succession. And they're ineffective against square-edge bumps, such as the choppy conditions on concrete highways. You can occasionally feel the solid axle jiggling around on certain bumpy roads.

Noise & vibration7.0

For the most part, the Escalade's interior is a quiet place since active noise cancellation keeps the bulk of noise at bay. Road noise sneaks in over coarse road surfaces, and certain impacts are out of sync with the active noise cancellation system causing boominess. The cabin is vibration-free.

Climate control8.0

The three-zone climate control can be adjusted via the touchscreen or by capacitive-touch buttons. Front passengers get seat ventilation and heating, while the second-row seats get heating only. The system is quiet and works well.

Interior7.0

Aside from the infotainment system, the rest of the interior is a nice place to while away the miles. The only real issues are the compromises made to the floor of the cabin and third-row seats to accommodate the solid rear axle and non-sliding second-row seats.

Ease of use7.0

The primary controls are easy to use. The infotainment software is adequate, but the buttons around the display are laggy and lack the haptic feedback of the lower buttons. The glossy infotainment stack shows fingerprints and glare.

Getting in/getting out7.0

Even with large door apertures and automatically retracting steps, getting in and out of the Escalade is like climbing two steps of tall stairs. The power-operated tumbling second-row seats allow easy access to the third row.

Driving position7.0

The power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and adjustable pedals allow both short and tall drivers to drive the Escalade comfortably. The reach to the infotainment system, particularly the passenger-side buttons on the center console, requires a stretch even for taller drivers.

Roominess7.0

The inside of the Escalade is generous, with ample shoulder room, leg- and headroom for first- and second-row passengers. The third row is limited by its high floor and so-so legroom. The Lincoln Navigator's third row is much better.

Visibility6.5

The front and driver's side provide excellent visibility but, due to the vehicle's size, views to the rear and to the passenger side are restricted. Quarter-view blind spots are large due to wide pillars. The surround-view camera's display is low-res and distorted, but it's better than nothing.

Quality7.0

The Escalade is well-built, and parts sharing of switches and touchpoints from the Suburban is the only real sore point. The materials quality is noticeably better for the front seats versus the rear seats. The hard plastic used in some areas of the interior feels cheap.

Utility7.0

This is the realm of the full-size SUV, and the Escalade is about average. We would gladly give up the standard, somewhat tepid, center console cooler for more storage space. An oversight is any towing-friendly tech, found in other GM products, on this otherwise capable platform.

Small-item storage6.0

A standard cooler takes up all the space in the center console. Two slim areas, in front of the cool box and in front of the cupholders, are barely enough for cables. Dual-tier door pockets alleviate the issue. The lower pocket is large, while the upper pocket is partially blocked by the armrest.

Cargo space7.0

With its rear seats folded down, the Escalade ESV can hold up to 120.1 cubic feet of cargo. Cargo height is limited due to a high load floor, and loading bulky and heavy items is difficult due to its deep reach-over. More tie-down points are needed.

Child safety seat accommodation7.5

A car seat can be installed in any of the rear seat positions. Because the second row doesn't slide, installing a seat in that row will prevent entry to the third row from that side. All anchor points are clearly labeled and easily accessible.

Towing7.0

Two-wheel-drive models can tow 8,100 pounds; four-wheel-drive models can tow 7,900 pounds. Tow mode holds gears longer and keeps revs higher for better acceleration and more engine braking. The adjustable suspension keeps the body level for steady handling. But there's no trailer brake controller.

Technology7.5

Lack of top-level driver's aids is the Escalade's only real fault. For instance, where's Cadillac's Super Cruise on this otherwise great road-trip hauler? Otherwise, the CUE haptic touch feedback system suffers only because of its gloss-black finish and lack of a dedicated audio-source select button.

Audio & navigation7.0

The surround-sound audio system has a crisp and full sound to it. But the navigation system seems a generation behind. You'll have smoother functionality via smartphone mirroring. The rear-seat entertainment system has dual headrest-mounted screens and dual overhead screens.

Smartphone integration9.0

Bluetooth, auxiliary-in and three USB ports that support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. There's a 12-volt outlet for the front and a 12-volt outlet and 110-volt plug in the second row. A wireless charging pad is on the center armrest.

Driver aids7.0

Adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all standard features on the Platinum. For the most part, they work well. But lane departure warning comes on later than expected, and the auto-parking feature requires a lot of room.

Voice control7.0

Cadillac's own voice control system is satisfactory, but you'll have an easier time using your smartphone's voice controls.

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.