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.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Jason Kavanagh
Edmunds Editor

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, 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).



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 2015 Cadillac Escalade Premium (6.2L V8 | 6-speed automatic | 4WD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Escalade has received some revisions, including additional driver assistance and infotainment features and a new 10-speed automatic transmission for 2018. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Escalade, however.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

4.0 / 5.0

Acceleration4.5 / 5.0
Braking3.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 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

Getting in/getting out4.5 / 5.0
Roominess3.0 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality2.0 / 5.0

Utility

2.5 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.0 / 5.0
Cargo space2.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
The 6.2-liter V8, with its 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, is the star of this show. Handling capabilities are adequate.

acceleration

edmunds rating
With its big, 420-hp V8 and tons of torque, the Escalade gets out of its own way. Easy, effortless acceleration.

braking

edmunds rating
Our panic-stop braking tests from 60 mph resulted in average stopping distances. Pedal travel is long, soft and predictable. Noticeable dive when braking hard.

steering

edmunds rating
It is surprisingly easy to place the big Cadillac exactly where you want it, though the wheel does require more turning than most drivers are used to. Very, very heavy effort. Almost to a fault.

handling

edmunds rating
There's a surprising amount of response and confidence, but because of the Escalade’s sheer size and weight, its limits are quite low. Seat bolstering isn't up to the task of twisty roads or quick freeway exits either.

drivability

edmunds rating
Despite its size, the Cadillac Escalade is exceptionally easy to drive. The transmission and 6.2-liter V8 make a good pairing.

comfort

edmunds rating
In a category that should be a slam-dunk for Cadillac, the Escalade is less than perfect. Things start off as expected with an admirably quiet interior, but the busy ride, so-so seat comfort and nearly unusable third-row seat take their toll.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
For a luxury vehicle, the seats are a surprising weak 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 the heavy 22-inch rims. This does not, however, mean the ride is 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 has a pleasantly quiet ride. At times there's a touch of wind noise from the sideview mirrors. Road noise is well managed, apart from the occasional tire thunk over pavement cracks.

interior

edmunds rating
This generation of Cadillac Escalade undoubtedly has a nice interior. We like that it's easy to get in and out, too. But the build quality is a bit of a letdown, and third-row seating is tight.

ease of use

Major controls such as the gear selector, headlights and wipers are very good. The instrument panel is crisp and clear.

getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
An optional power-retractable step aids access without getting in the way. Shorter (sub 5-foot-5) passengers wished it was lower still, though. Tumble feature makes third-row access a snap.

roominess

edmunds rating
Headroom and legroom are exceptional in the first and second rows. The third row of a standard-length Escalade is very tight, however, and is only recommended for kids or short trips. Oddly, all three rows feel narrow at the shoulders.

visibility

edmunds rating
You'd think that driving an Escalade would require the use of the blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors and backup camera. It doesn't: Visibility is good all-around. It's impressively easy to park. That said, the camera is useful in close quarters.

quality

edmunds rating
Much of the competition feels more substantial and more precisely tailored. Our tester had a rocking driver seat and squeaky second row.

utility

edmunds rating
Its cargo space is smaller than in the competition and is hampered by a high, uneven load floor. In-cabin storage is better, with a good variety of pockets and a huge center console bin. Boasts a strong tow rating.

small-item storage

edmunds rating
Decent array of nooks, including a cavernous console bin, a well in front of the two cupholders, two amply sized pockets per front door and two flat slots on the transmission tunnel. The back seat has large door pockets.

cargo space

edmunds rating
As in all current GM full-size SUVs, the Cadillac's third-row seats now fold flat. But the floor was merely raised to manage this, resulting in an oddly shaped, higher load floor and reduced overall cargo capacity. Little space behind third row.

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.