Like its predecessors over the past 19 years, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade delivers a blend of opulence, power and status that resonates with many shoppers exploring the realm of full-size luxury SUVs. But the fact that it's become a favorite among high-profile celebrities, sports stars and business moguls doesn't detract from the Escalade's value as a capable people, cargo and trailer hauler.
Changes for 2017 include reconfigured trim levels, new 22-inch alloy wheels, a rear passenger reminder, teen-driver monitor and a parking assist system, which uses sensors to automatically steer the Escalade into either a perpendicular or parallel space. There's also a unique rearview mirror that's actually a screen for a tailgate-mounted camera, a feature that provides a much broader view behind the vehicle than a conventional mirror.
Power for the Escalade comes from a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque and drives the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. A four-wheel-drive option includes high and low modes to cope with various road conditions and trailering requirements, as well as an auto mode for everyday driving that automatically switches from two-wheel to four-wheel propulsion.
Built on a truck chassis ? shared with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon in standard-wheelbase form and with the Suburban and Yukon XL in the longer ESV model ? the Escalade tends to be a bit harsher over bumps than some of its car-based rivals, although this is mitigated somewhat by the standard Magnetic Ride Control. But the more robust construction will appeal to buyers who intend to tow large trailers, haul a lot of cargo or take the vehicle off-road.
The Escalade might share underpinnings with its siblings from Chevy and GMC, but on the inside the Cadillac makes an entirely different statement. The class-leading interior boasts features that include heated and cooled leather seats, wood and metal trim, ambient lighting and tri-zone climate control, as well as acoustic glass and active noise cancellation for a quiet ride. In addition to a plethora of standard equipment, a wide range of available packages and accessories allow buyers to tailor the cabin to their individual requirements.
Fuel economy may not be the Escalade's strong suit, but its numbers are par for the course with this class of vehicle. Both the two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions are rated by the EPA at a combined 17 mpg (15 city/22 highway and 15 city/20 highway, respectively).
The base Escalade comes extremely well equipped, but shoppers looking for more technology and convenience features can opt for the Luxury and Premium Luxury trim levels. And the top-of-the-line Platinum model piles on even more goodies, like a refrigerated center console, massaging driver seat and exotic wood trim. Whatever your preference, let Edmunds help you find the 2017 Cadillac Escalade that best meets your needs.
Although the Cadillac Escalade wasn't the first luxury SUV sold in the U.S. market, it was the first light truck in the history of the Cadillac brand. Early versions drew plenty of criticism, but in retrospect, the Escalade deserves much credit for being the vehicle that transformed Cadillac's image from traditional and geriatric to youthful and flamboyant.
Much of the Cadillac Escalade's appeal is rooted in its over-the-top attitude. Generously proportioned inside and out, this sport-utility vehicle has a bold and angular face, exaggerated wreath-and-crest badging and chrome trim everywhere you look. There's no subtlety under the hood either, as the current truck's 6.2-liter V8 delivers an imposing exhaust rumble. Although quicker than many competitors, the Escalade often falls behind in refinement, from its handling dynamics to its build and materials quality. Cadillac has taken steps to address these shortcomings on the third-generation model, but there's no question the Escalade is primarily for buyers who like their SUVs large, brash and unapologetically American.
Current Cadillac Escalade
The Cadillac Escalade is a full-size SUV that seats seven people with standard second-row captain's chairs and eight with the optional second-row bench. The extended-length Escalade ESV, the quasi-pickup truck Escalade EXT and gasoline-electric Escalade Hybrid are reviewed separately.
Every regular Escalade comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8 that delivers 403 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque, providing relatively brisk acceleration in virtually any situation. A six-speed automatic transmission handles the gearchanges and even offers a manual-shift mode for those drivers willing to press a pair of buttons on the Escalade's old-fashioned column shifter. The transmission routes power to the rear wheels on two-wheel-drive models or all four on all-wheel-drive models.
Inside, the Escalade presents a much nicer environment than its mechanical near-twins from Chevrolet and GMC. There is an abundance of equipment even on the "base" model, with items like heated first- and second-row seats, navigation and a Bose surround-sound audio system included as standard. The Luxury, Premium and Platinum trims pile on the niceties even further, but most are styling and trim elements. Despite its features list, the aging Escalade doesn't have the same look and feel as other luxury SUVs. Construction and the materials used just aren't as nice, even if leather and wood trim is included.
In reviews, we've found that the Escalade certainly delivers the pomp and power one expects from this increasingly iconic nameplate. However, there are significant practical drawbacks. First of all, the third-row seat is cramped and uncomfortable for the middle passenger and must be physically removed should you need extra cargo space. The third-row seats of competing vehicles fold neatly into the floor. The Escalade is also unwieldy on tighter roads, suffers from lackluster brakes and is very thirsty. There's also its perennial placement atop the list of most-stolen vehicles. In light of all this, we'd consider one of the many other full-size luxury SUVs as well.
Used Cadillac Escalade Models
When the latest (third) generation of the Cadillac Escalade debuted for the 2007 model year, it was the most modern and luxurious version of this full-size SUV to date. A stiff, fully boxed frame and a coil-spring front suspension provide a smoother ride than in years past, and handling is more controlled and predictable. As with the previous generation, there's no option to get four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, as Cadillac has equipped the Escalade for duty in the urban jungle rather than the one with tigers. Unlike previous generations, the third-gen Escalade no longer feels like a hastily reupholstered Chevy Tahoe.
Since its introduction, changes have been light and related mostly to new standard and optional features. The following year saw the introduction of the plush Platinum Edition while 2009 brought E85 fuel capability and available high-tech features such as a blind-spot warning system, LED headlights, Bluetooth and a rearview camera. The '10 Escalade received cylinder-deactivation technology; those models produced earlier achieve 1 fewer mpg. That year also saw the addition of new front side-impact airbags, a strengthened door design and a new USB connection for portable audio devices.
No Escalade was offered during the 2001 model year, but the original version was on sale for 1999 and 2000. This Escalade was a rush job, as Cadillac needed something to fend off Lincoln's Navigator while working on the 2002 model. Aside from its Cadillac badges, upgraded leather and Zebrano wood, there was nothing to distinguish the original Escalade from GM's lower-line SUVs. Acceleration, braking and handling are sub par on this model, and we'd advise you to avoid it.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.