Used 2016 Cadillac Escalade Review
Edmunds expert review
Do you like the idea of a luxury SUV with attitude? Then look no further than the 2016 Cadillac Escalade. This is a vehicle that says something about you. From its expressive styling that stands out in a crowd to the beautifully trimmed interior that cradles you in luxury, the Cadillac Escalade never misses a chance to show off a little. Sound like your kind of luxury SUV?
What's new for 2016
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 thriving. There are a number of strong competitors in the large luxury SUV segment, and keeping up with the Joneses gets more difficult each year. But coming off last year's complete redesign, the 2016 Cadillac Escalade is a strong seller once again, which says a lot about this model's enduring appeal.
The exterior remains the same for 2016, the Escalade's imposing size emphasized by the new-for-2015 blockier styling and more conspicuous flourishes. Inside, the sleek, modern dashboard design distinguishes the Escalade from its more openly trucklike predecessors. The big news for 2016 is that Cadillac has updated its often-criticized CUE touch-operated infotainment system with a quicker 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 will come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
On the downside, the Escalade's high cargo loading floor and relatively cramped third-row seat are unfortunate side effects of its truck-based architecture, which is shared with full-size SUVs from Chevrolet and GMC. The same goes for the ride quality, which can be unbecomingly rough and jittery for a luxury vehicle.
Certainly, the Escalade is a desirable choice for a three-row traditional luxury SUV, comparing well against the 2016 Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 570 and Infiniti QX80. But 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. In final measure, we're pretty lukewarm about the latest Escalade, but if a beefy SUV with all the trimmings is what you're after, this big Caddy should hit the spot.
All versions of the Escalade 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 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. An Escalade ESV extended-wheelbase model that increases third-row legroom and cargo capacity is covered in a separate review.
The base Escalade is generously appointed with 20-inch wheels, magnetic adaptive suspension dampers, 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 electronics 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 a flip-down, ceiling-mounted 9-inch screen (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 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 is a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 420 horsepower 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.
The EPA estimates a rear-wheel-drive Escalade will return 17 mpg combined (15 city/22 highway), while the four-wheel-drive model is rated at 17 mpg combined as well (15/21). These figures are competitive with those of gasoline-powered rivals with similarly sized engines.
In Edmunds testing, a four-wheel-drive Escalade Platinum took 6.1 seconds to accelerate from a stop to 60 mph. That makes it one of the quicker large SUVs available. Properly equipped, an Escalade can tow up to 8,300 pounds.
Standard safety features on all 2016 Cadillac Escalade models include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a surround-view camera system (with a 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 and stolen vehicle assistance.
The Luxury trim adds a blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, 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 received five stars for side-impact protection.
In Edmunds testing, two 2015 Escalade test vehicles with the same 22-inch tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 and 127 feet, respectively. Those are long distances compared to some rivals; for example, the QX80 stopped in 118 feet, while a trio of GL-Class models stopped between 114 and 118 feet.
It wouldn't be an Escalade if it didn't have a brawny V8 under its hood, and the 2016 Escalade 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. The 2016 Escalade also feels solidly planted to the pavement when going around turns. Regardless of speed or road surfaces, the cabin remains blissfully quiet. Wind, road and engine noises are kept to premium luxury-sedan standards, allowing for relaxed conversation between rows.
Surprisingly, the adaptive suspension does not produce a completely civilized ride, even in its default Tour mode. Perhaps it is 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's truck underpinnings reduce this big Cadillac's standing in comparisons with more refined competitors.
The 2016 Escalade's cabin features an abundance of premium materials and an attractive, visibly contemporary 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, at least in the first two rows. Full-size adults can ride comfortably in the front and middle, even on extended road trips. The third-row seat is fine for small children, but its low mounting position relative to the floor means taller teenagers and adults will likely find their knees pushing uncomfortably toward the roof. Most competitors offer more spacious third-row seating.
One of the centerpieces of the Escalade'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 quicker processor and other upgrades for 2016 that are designed to make it more responsive.
In terms of cargo capacity, the Escalade is comparable to other large luxury SUVs, with 15.2 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, 51.6 feet behind the second row and 94.2 cubic feet with the second and third rows stowed. The third-row 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 that's 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.