For the past two decades, the Cadillac Escalade was the go-to choice if you wanted a full-size luxury SUV. Just recently, however, it's been surpassed by the equally imposing Lincoln Navigator. The balance of power might shift back with the debut of the fully redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade.
The fifth-generation Escalade follows the related GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe to market when it goes on sale this summer and benefits from a lot of the same changes. Most notably, all three of these SUVs get a new independent rear suspension that promises a smoother ride and increased interior space. That's just the tip of a very large iceberg, though.
The 2021 Escalade is larger than its predecessor. We don't have exact measurements yet, but it's a safe bet that it will mimic the new Yukon/Tahoe footprint, which is about 6 inches longer nose to tail, with almost five of those inches going between the front and rear axles. An even larger Escalade ESV — which we expect to be the same size as the GMC Yukon XL and Chevrolet Suburban — will also be available.
Compared to the fourth-generation, this new Escalade adopts a more deliberate and cohesive exterior design. The headlights are now horizontal and better integrated with a more delicate grille. In person, we think it's more attractive than before, but it still has all of the same presence. The sides are more sculpted, making the profile appear visually lighter, while power-deployable running boards tuck neatly into the rocker panels. New this year are optional soft-close doors. The rear of the Escalade is more familiar, with similar vertical taillights that harken back to 1960s-era Caddies.
Under the hood is a 6.2-liter V8 with the same output as before: 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. However, it has been updated with a new automatic stop-start system, cylinder deactivation and variable valve timing to improve fuel efficiency. The bigger news is the availability of a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine, which produces 277 hp but the same torque as the V8. Either will be mounted to a 10-speed automatic transmission, and shoppers can choose between rear- or all-wheel-drive.
Smoothing out the ride are standard magnetic dampers and, for the first time in an Escalade, an optional air suspension. The latter brings 4 inches of suspension travel, allowing the vehicle to lower itself for easier passenger and cargo loading or to increase ride height for off-roading.