My usual measure of a vehicle is how it balances comfort, power, tech, and fuel efficiency, but you really can’t use all four of these criteria to measure the behemoth 2021 Cadillac Escalade. It’s ridiculously comfortable, plenty powerful and built upon more tech than you can shake a stick at. But fuel efficiency? Let’s just defer that discussion until a bit later. Suffice to say if you want a green, eco vehicle, this is not your car of choice.
For people who have never ridden in a limousine, it’s hard to realize how uncomfortable they are, but every limo passenger is immediately faced with a long passenger area and low roof, meaning you end up having to slide awkwardly along the seats to load up the vehicle. It’s no wonder that luxury mini-busses and luxury SUVs have become more and more popular: They’re way easier to enter, just as big and luxurious, and have the additional benefit of headroom. With its enormous size, the Cadillac Escalade has definitely become a top choice in the luxury SUV and at times I felt like an Uber Black driver with my loaner.
2021 CADILLAC ESCALADE 4WD SPORT PLATINUM
GMC loaned me a 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum with Super Cruise for a week cruisin’ around Colorado. Here’s an exterior shot so you know what I’m talking about:
This car could swallow up my compact Mazda CX-5 whole, spitting out the beams when it’s done. It’s a big vehicle, which means that parking is tricky, as is even driving down a narrow road. It’s about the same width as a 3/4-ton pickup truck (81.1-inches wide versus the Ford F150 at 79.9-inches wide).
It’s no surprise that the interior is expansive and sports a massive center armrest area:
You can see that not only is the Escalade a big, powerful vehicle, it’s also comfortable! The driver cockpit area is very well designed (for the most part) and has an enormous curved infotainment display screen. There’s so much screen that it’s easy to forget where specific information is shown (the time and external temp? That’s on the tiny triangular screen on the very right edge).
It does mean that a lot of the vehicle controls are pushed to the electronic systems. Fortunately, that’s easily controlled by the dial knobs on the center console:
On the right side are cup holders, a coin holder and both USB-C and USB-3.0 charging ports (the vehicle includes wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto so you don’t need to have your phone plugged in to use it as desired). The left features a gearshift and a few safety controls behind it. Below it are two knobs: The smaller knob is audio volume and on/off, along with a few related buttons, while the big knob controls the overall infotainment system (maps, audio, etc). It also includes shortcut buttons to jump to major areas of the system. In practice, it’s super easy to work with even if you’re zipping along on the highway, unable to pull your eyes away for more than a second or two.
Directly between the two seats, hidden in the armrest, is something else that’s incredibly useful, especially on these oh-so-hot days of summer:
It’s a storage box. But this one has a secret superpower: Push the button on the top right and it becomes a chiller. On full, it gets quite cold after a few minutes. This is perfect for transporting cold items or keeping your favorite beverage chilled until you’re ready to drink it. Or, I suppose, if you are a chauffeur, keeping those beverages chilled for your VIP passengers! Also notice that there are more charging ports, another USB-C and USB-3.0 plug.
Let’s go back to the dashboard display, though, because it’s pretty dang impressive. On the left side you have a screen that’s somewhat easy to ignore as it’s behind your left hand on the steering wheel:
Here you can see the ugly news about fuel efficiency. In a word, it’s just not fuel efficient at all. I might have been seeing an average mileage of 15.6 according to the Trip 1 measure, but the lifetime average fuel economy was a cringe-inducing 14.7mpg. That’s just awful, but it’s an enormous vehicle powered by a massive 6.2L V8, 10-speed automatic drive system. It’s fast and that power never quits, whether you’re going 15mph and want to “goose it” to speed up or are moving along at 75mph on the highway. If you wanted to tow something suitably swanky and chic with this Cadillac SUV, its towing capacity is a whopping 8100 pounds. That’s a LOT of towing.
The main gauge area offered few options for additional gauges so ended up being a bit redundant in the information it displayed:
That gizmo sticking up from the steering wheel column? It’s a sensor and it’s watching you. I believe it’s part of the Super Cruise system, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
Can the Escalade really go 160mph? I don’t think so, but I’m sure it’d pop up to 100mph without breaking a sweat, though how such a bulky vehicle would handle at this speed is something I’d be a bit concerned about.
The gauge display is pretty interesting because it really doesn’t offer many other gauges in the settings area, so I couldn’t get a tachometer (arguably irrelevant with an automatic, of course, but it does have paddle shifters) or any other gauges displayed. A surprise, really, as it’s just a matter of software and programming, so why not offer oil pressure, engine temperature, roll/pitch/yaw, etc? Yes, some of this can be displayed, but why not take a page from the excellent Dodge Hellcat gauge display system and let the driver see whatever they want?
Finally, the right side of the panoramic display:
Here you can really get a feel for just how big this display is, though it’s a bit sad to have Apple CarPlay shown because it’s only designed to be rectangular and therefore leaves a lot of unused space fitting into the infotainment display on the Escalade. The nav system, by contrast, uses the entire right side display edge-to-edge and is glorious.
Below this area, you can see the walnut trim accents. Very attractive, and there’s also nighttime ambient lighting on the dash too, though you really can’t see a trace of it in the daytime photos. The climate controls are simple and intuitive, with a super powerful AC that quickly cooled down the car even after sitting in 95º F sun for a few hours.
CADILLAC SUPER CRUISE
Cadillac is very excited about what it calls its Super Cruise system, a limited self-driving capability for highway use. The integration is pretty slick; enable and engage adaptive cruise control, center yourself in the lane, and pushing the Super Cruise button on the steering wheel engages self-drive. It can even change lanes – with turn indicators! – as desired. Once it’s driving, the light strip along the top of the steering wheel turns green and flashes red if you need to regain control.
The cruise controls are on the left button area of the main steering wheel bar, with the Super Cruise button on the lower right edge of that cluster. But when I tried to test it, I just got “Highway Not Mapped”, so was unable to let the Escalade do its thing. Sadly.
INSIDE THE CADILLAC ESCALADE PLATINUM
Of course, your passengers won’t know, given how big and luxurious the passenger area is:
Not only that but there’s plenty of cargo space in the very back too, along with automatic 60/40 rear seats if a third row is required:
And so I’ll stick with my initial assessment: The 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum is ridiculously comfortable, fun to drive with its huge V8 engine, loaded up with some of the best vehicle tech I’ve seen in a car, and gets miserable gas mileage. For some car owners that’s fine, and they don’t much care about the over $100 refuel bills every 300-400 miles. Heck, this is more of a “show up in style” than “take a long road trip” vehicle anyway. It’s also spendy, an expensive luxury SUV that your neighbors are unlikely to also own. Is that enough to make it a winner? Well, in its niche, yes, this is a solid option if you want the biggest, baddest, and best luxury SUV on the road. Just bring along a spare credit card for fuel.
CONFIGURATION: 2021 Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum in Crystal White Tricoat and Jet Black interior. Powered by a 6.2L V8 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. MSRP: $102,995. OPTIONS: Super Cruise, Night Vision, Assist Power Steps, Crystal White Tricoat, Console Cooler, Heavy-Duty Trailering Package. AS DRIVEN: $113,065.
Disclosure: Cadillac loaned me the Escalade for a week to drive and enjoy in return for this candid writeup. Thanks, Caddy!