2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV

2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV Review

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

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, 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.



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 2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium (6.2L V8 | 8-speed automatic | 4WD).

Note: The ESV has a longer wheelbase and more room for passengers and cargo than the regular Escalade. Additionally, there have been some changes since this test was conducted, including this year's new 10-speed transmission. Our findings, however, remain broadly applicable to this year's Cadillac Escalade ESV.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Comfort

3.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort2.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort2.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration4.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.0 / 5.0

Ease of use2.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.5 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality2.0 / 5.0

driving

The 6.2-liter V8, with its 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, is the star of the Escalade ESV show. The big V8 has power to spare. But there's no denying the ESV's size and bulk.

acceleration

The big 420-hp V8 has tons of torque, which helps give the Escalade easy and effortless acceleration. It also makes a great V8 rumble along the way.

braking

The brake pedal travel is long, soft and predictable, but there is a noticeable nosedive from this massive machine when you brake hard. Our panic stop from 60 mph in a regular Escalade took 131 feet, which is long but about what we'd expect. The ESV could fare a bit worse.

steering

It is surprisingly easy to place the big Cadillac exactly where you want, though the wheel requires more turning than most drivers are used to. The steering effort is very, very heavy — almost to a fault.

handling

There's a surprising amount of response and confidence on twisting roads, but because of sheer size and weight, the Escalade ESV's limits are quite low. The seat bolstering isn't up to the task of twisty roads or quick freeway exits.

drivability

Despite its size, the Cadillac Escalade is exceptionally easy to drive. The eight-speed transmission and 6.2-liter V8 make a good pairing. For 2018, a 10-speed transmission should make cruising at high speeds even more effortless.

comfort

edmunds rating
In a category that should be a slam dunk for Cadillac, the Escalade ESV is less than perfect. As expected, the interior is admirably quiet, but the busy ride, so-so seat comfort, and nearly unusable third-row seat take their toll on overall comfort.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
For a luxury vehicle, the seats are a surprising low point. Stiff, wide and featureless, they simply don't provide enough support or comfort for long drives. Taller drivers will wish for more thigh support.

ride comfort

edmunds rating
The Magnetic Ride Control suspension helps the Escalade manage its heavy 22-inch rims. But the ride is not particularly polished and well-isolated. Expect truckish behavior on anything less than a glass-smooth surface.

noise & vibration

edmunds rating
As you'd expect from Cadillac, the Escalade ESV has a pleasantly quiet ride. At times there's a touch of wind noise from the sideview mirrors. Even so, it's pretty silent. Road noise is well-managed apart from the occasional tire thunk over pavement cracks.

interior

edmunds rating
If you're going just by the numbers, the Escalade ESV's interior is pretty great. The interior quality, especially compared to high-dollar rivals, isn't, though. The Escalade has a pleasant interior, but for buyers in this class that may not be enough.

ease of use

edmunds rating
Major controls such as the gear selector, headlights and wipers are very good. The instrument panel is crisp and clear. But the touch-based CUE system is slow and hard to use. Some of the most used radio and climate controls suffer from CUE's drawbacks.

getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
An optional power-retractable step aids access without getting in the way, but shorter (under 5-foot-5) passengers will wish it was lower. The doors are wide enough for easy entry and egress, and a tumble feature in the second row makes third-row access a snap.

roominess

The Escalade ESV is one of the biggest vehicles on the road, and the inside makes pretty good use of that space. Headroom and legroom are exceptional in the first and second rows and acceptable in the third row for the kids. Oddly, all three rows feel narrow at the shoulders.

visibility

edmunds rating
You'd think that driving an Escalade ESV would require the use of the blind-spot monitors, parking sensors and backup camera, but it doesn't. There is good enough visibility all around to make it impressively easy to park. That said, the camera is useful in close quarters.

quality

edmunds rating
The latest Escalade generally looks and feels significantly improved from the previous generation, but that's not quite enough. Much of the competition feels more substantial and more precisely tailored. Our tester had a rocking driver's seat and a squeaky second row.

utility

Able to tow 8,100 pounds and capable of carrying eight passengers, the Escalade is one of the most utilitarian luxury vehicles you can find. The ESV's massive cargo space helps you haul quite a bit of luggage as well.

technology

For such a stylishly forward SUV, the Escalade ESV's infotainment tech comes up short. Cadillac's CUE system continues to improve incrementally, but we still find it awkward to navigate its menus and structure, more so than rival systems from Mercedes and Lincoln.

audio & navigation

A navigation system with an 8-inch display comes standard on all Escalade ESV models.

driver aids

The Escalade ESV packs impressive driver assistance features, including an automated parking system for parallel and perpendicular spaces, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warnings and assist, automatic emergency braking, and a driver's seat that buzzes to warn of potential hazards.

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.