2018 Cadillac Escalade

2018 Cadillac Escalade Review

It's very capable and packed with features, but the Escalade can't fully hide its truck-based roots.
7.3 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Jason Kavanagh
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Cadillac bases its 2018 Escalade on General Motors' full-size SUV platform that underpins the Tahoe and Yukon twins. The main difference is that everything on the Escalade is "more." There's more power, more brash styling, more standard features, even more features that are optional. All of this gives the Escalade true luxury SUV cred.

The inherent attributes of its traditional SUV design are all here, too. On the plus side, the Escalade can tow up to 8,300 pounds, which is more than most other luxury crossover SUVs. But its solid rear-axle suspension and body-on-frame construction also result in a less than ideal ride quality and a compromised cargo area. Overall, we think the 2018 Escalade is worth a look, but make sure to also check out this year's more refined Lincoln Navigator.



What's new for 2018

For 2018, the Cadillac Escalade receives a new 10-speed automatic transmission.

We recommend

All versions of the 2018 Cadillac Escalade come with the same powerful V8, sophisticated dampers and unmistakable styling. To get the best interior features, however, we suggest getting the Premium Luxury trim. That gives you some desirable extras from the one-tier-lower Luxury trim (such as blind-spot monitoring and forward collision mitigation) and adds the Premium Luxury's rear entertainment system and adaptive cruise control.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Cadillac Escalade is a full-size, body-on-frame 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 yet another level. All Escalade models are equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 engine (420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque) and a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive is optional.

The base trim is generously appointed inside and out. Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, an adaptive suspension, LED headlights, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors, automatic parallel and perpendicular parking assist, a hands-free power liftgate, remote start, three-zone automatic climate control, a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, driver-seat memory settings, heated rear seats and split power-folding 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 parking camera system, a customizable gauge cluster display, a navigation system, five USB ports, a wireless device charging pad and a Bose 16-speaker audio system with satellite radio.

For a few more driver aids and a bit more plush equipment, you can step up to the Luxury trim. This adds 22-inch wheels, a sunroof, power-folding second-row seats, a head-up display, a camera-based rearview mirror system (the rearview mirror is actually a screen displaying what the camera sees behind the vehicle) and the Driver Awareness package (automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and mitigation with automatic braking).

Our recommended trim, the Premium Luxury, adds adaptive cruise control, a rear entertainment system with a Blu-ray player and an overhead-mounted display, and a more advanced collision mitigation system with both forward and reverse automatic braking.

The most expensive (and most lavishly appointed) Escalade is the Platinum trim level. It certainly has all the bells and whistles, but you may not need all the extras it provides. The Platinum 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).



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 Platinum (6.2L V8 | 10-speed automatic | 4WD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.3 / 10

Driving

8.0 / 10

Acceleration8.5 / 10
Braking7.0 / 10
Steering7.0 / 10
Handling6.5 / 10
Drivability8.0 / 10

Comfort

7.0 / 10

Seat comfort6.0 / 10
Ride comfort6.0 / 10
Noise & vibration8.0 / 10

Interior

7.0 / 10

Ease of use6.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out8.5 / 10
Roominess7.0 / 10
Visibility8.0 / 10
Quality5.5 / 10

Driving8.0

Big V8 power is the primary driver of the Escalade's performance. A new 10-speed automatic transmission makes it more efficient than before. The transmission shifts smoothly and even rev-matches downshifts, but the Escalade is too big to be a competent handler.

Acceleration8.5

The 6.2-liter V8 engine is responsive, torquey and sounds good as the revs rise. Thanks to its 420 hp, 460 lb-ft of torque and quick-shifting 10-speed transmission, 0-60 mph comes in at 6.6 seconds, remarkable for such a large vehicle. The throttle is one of the Escalade's high points.

Braking7.0

For a vehicle of this size, you shouldn't expect sports-carlike braking performance. The pedal has a long travel with a slow and gradual buildup of brake pressure. There's no initial grabbiness, which may reduce confidence. Stops from 60 mph take 140 feet; about what we would expect.

Steering7.0

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.

Handling6.5

The Escalade has low cornering limits, even among other full-size SUVs. The adjustable shocks keep body motions under control, up to a point. Sport mode stiffens the ride and further decreases body roll but is chattery on bumpy roads. The Escalade is a big SUV, and there's no escaping physics.

Drivability8.0

The Escalade's powertrain is responsive, particularly in Sport mode. Its 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-road7.5

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. 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 comfort6.0

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 get overwhelmed on a quick succession of bumps and are ineffective against square-edge bumps, such as the choppy conditions found on concrete highways. You can occasionally feel the solid axle jiggling around on certain bumpy roads.

Noise & vibration8.0

For the most part, the Escalade's interior is a quiet place, as 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, which causes boominess. The cabin is vibration-free.

Climate control

Three-zone climate control is adjusted via touchscreen and capacitive-touch buttons. Rear-seaters get their own panel. Front passengers get seat ventilation and heating; second-row seats get heating only. The system is quiet, works well, and can combat solar loading from the giant greenhouse area.

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 compromises to the floor of the cabin and third-row seats made for the solid rear axle and non-sliding second-row seats.

Ease of use6.0

Primary controls, such as shifter, fall to hand. The instrument panel is clear and easily configurable. 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 out8.5

With large door apertures and wide, auto-retracting steps, getting in and out of the Escalade is like climbing two steps of tall stairs. A grab handle, mirroring the passenger side, would make it easier for height-challenged drivers. Power-tumbling second-row seats allow easy third-row access.

Driving position

Power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and adjustable pedals allow both short and tall drivers to drive the Escalade comfortably. Reaching 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 leg-, headroom and shoulder room for first- and second-row passengers. Third-row passengers will feel the pinch in their knees and toes, as the non-sliding second row does not offer much of a toe box.

Visibility8.0

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 restrictive. Quarter-view blind spots are large due to wide pillars. The surround-view camera is low-res and distorted, but it's better than nothing.

Quality5.5

The Escalade is well-built, and parts-sharing of switches and touch points from the Suburban is the only real sore point. The seat materials are noticeably better in the front seats versus the second and third rows, and the hard plastic used in some areas of the interior feels cheap.

Utility5.0

Utility 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. Unfortunately, it lacks the towing-friendly tech usually found in the other GM products on an otherwise capable platform.

Small-item storage

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 space

Behind the third row is 15.2 cubic feet of cargo space, just about the least spacious in the category. Fold down the seats for 94.2 cubic feet. The high load floor limits cargo height, and loading bulky and heavy items is difficult, requiring a deep reach-over. More tie-down points are needed.

Child safety seat accommodation

A car seat can be installed in any second- or third-row position. Because the second row can'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 accessible, except for the top anchors located low on the seatbacks.

Towing8.0

Two-wheel-drive models can tow 8,300 pounds; four-wheel-drive models can tow 8,100 pounds. Tow mode holds gears longer and keeps revs higher for better acceleration and more engine braking. An adjustable suspension keeps the body level for steady handling. But there's no trailer brake controller.

Technology

The Escalade's only real fault is that it doesn't have top-level driver's aids. Where's Cadillac's Super Cruise on this otherwise great road-trip hauler? Otherwise, the CUE haptic-touch feedback system suffers due to its gloss-black finish and lack of dedicated audio source select button.

Audio & navigation

Surround-sound system is crisp, with full tone. The navigation system feels a generation behind; you'll have smoother functionality via smartphone mirroring. Dual headrest-mounted screens and dual overhead screens wired to play from sources including streaming is an excellent touch.

Smartphone integration

Bluetooth, aux-in and three USB ports that support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. The front and rear cargo areas each offer a 12-volt outlet, and the second row has both a 12-volt outlet and a 110-volt power outlet. A wireless charging pad is on the center armrest.

Driver aids

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

Voice control

Cadillac's own voice control system is satisfactory, with issues centered around being sensitive to pronunciation and requiring a specific entry syntax. Smartphone voice controls pass through without issues.

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.