What Is It?
The Escalade is one of the most luxurious full-size SUVs on the road, and the most popular model in the Cadillac lineup. Already loaded with the latest high-end features and materials, the only way to further upgrade this big SUV is with higher performance. That’s exactly what GM’s luxury brand has done with the premiere of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V. Boasting almost 700 horsepower and bold styling to match, this is the first-ever V-Series Escalade, joining the highest-performing models Cadillac offers.
Cadillac provided us with a 2023 Cadillac Escalade 4WD V-Series painted in Argent Silver Metallic. While the V is the top-level trim in the Escalade lineup, our test vehicle had additional options of Super Cruise, a console refrigerator/freezer, and a credit for the missing second-row express-up window control for a total MSRP of $154,765. Competitors to the Escalade V include the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, Dodge Durango Hellcat, BMW ALPINA XB7 and Land Rover Range Rover SV.
The Escalade was redesigned for the 2021 model year, and the V-Series builds on that new design with bolder styling to help this high-performance variant stand out from the everyday Escalade. Up front is a large black mesh grille adorned with the Cadillac logo. Additional air intakes below, alongside the vertical LED running lights, give the Escalade V a more aggressive look while bringing more air into the big V8 engine.
Quad exhaust outlets in black and a V badge on the tailgate let others know this Escalade is something special. If these cues aren’t noticed, the sound emanating from those pipes will undoubtedly get the message out. Exclusive 22-inch alloy wheels and red brake calipers underscore the V’s the high-performance looks.
The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V has an elegant interior awash in premium materials. All three rows of seats are trimmed in soft semi-aniline leather, and the leather carries over to the doors, dashboard and center console. Exclusive Zebra wood provides a lovely accent on the dash.
All vehicle information is presented on a high-tech 38-inch curved OLED display that includes a 16.9-inch infotainment system, a 14.2-inch driver display and an additional smaller screen on the left, which displays trip information as well as controls for the HUD and night vision. Climate functions are located within a separate control under the display for quick access to this high-use feature.
The front seats feature a stylish pattern and provide decent support and comfort to help reduce fatigue during long road trips. Adding to the experience are seat heating and cooling, as well as multiple massage functions which work well.
Instead of the typical large center console storage, the test Escalade V had an optional refrigerator/freezer. The freezer has enough space for multiple water bottles or a couple pints of ice cream for a tasty treat on the road.
The Escalade V comes with second-row captain’s chairs that provide the same level of comfort as the front seats, along with similar styling. There’s appreciable legroom and headroom to accommodate most adults easily. Seats are heated and can recline, and for additional enjoyment the Escalade V gets a standard dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system.
Cadillac engineers and designers introduced many improvements in the 2021 Escalade. One of the most significant was the new chassis, which increased interior space specifically for the third row. With 40 percent more legroom than the previous version, the third row is no longer a penalty box. The seat sits higher and is surprisingly spacious and comfortable for two adults, and it can even be used by three in a pinch.
The Escalade’s cargo space also increased with the last redesign. At 25.5 cubic feet behind the third row, there’s plenty of room for multiple pieces of luggage or other cargo. Folding the third row flat — quickly done via buttons in the cargo area — the space almost triples to 72.9 cubic feet. The hatch features a hands-free operation. Simply sweep a foot under the rear bumper, in the correct spot identified by the Cadillac logo projected on the ground, and the hatch opens.
For additional convenience, the rear window of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V opens independently of the hatch. This extra opening can be beneficial when loading cargo against the rear hatch.
Under the Hood
At the heart of the Escalade V is a hand-built 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that produces 682 horsepower and 635 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission. That’s 222 more horses than the standard Escalade. All that power gets sent to the road via a full-time all-wheel-drive system that can split torque between front and rear wheels as needed for optimal grip.
As a full-size SUV, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V is not exactly aerodynamic and it weighs in at more than three tons — hardly characteristic of a performance vehicle. However, with enough power these things don’t matter, and that’s why the Escalade V can sprint to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Stomping the throttle delivers a glorious experience of being slammed back in the seat as the front end lifts, all accompanied by a soundtrack more appropriate to a muscle car than a luxury SUV.
That wonderfully loud exhaust does an excellent job of hiding the sound of fuel draining from the tank at an alarming rate. According to the U.S. EPA, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V is rated at 11 mpg city / 16 mpg hwy / 13 mpg combined. We drove the Escalade V approximately 200 miles during our weeklong loan, and during that time we could never break 11 mpg with a mere 10.9 displaying on the trip computer. A few more mpg is likely achievable, since we admittedly drove the Escalade V with a heavy right foot.
On the Road
When it comes to cruising, the Escalade is pure Cadillac. The ride is comfortable and smooth, with a relatively quiet cabin except for the powerful exhaust note. Moving down the highway at 70 mph seems effortless, and with Super Cruise engaged the driver can sit back and relax. But every Escalade offers these qualities — an Escalade V customer wants more than just a luxury cruiser.
In the center console is a button labeled V — pressing this sets the Escalade V up for the highest level of performance. Steering, shifting, brakes and all-wheel-drive system get optimized for utmost response. In addition, the Escalade V’s Air Ride Adaptive Suspension firms up and lowers the big SUV for better handling, while active exhaust opens the valves for an even louder exhaust blast.
Not Quite a Sports Car
With its most extreme settings, the Escalade V is great fun to drive. Every stab of the throttle brings a smile, and launching this full-size SUV with so much power and throaty exhaust never gets old. Steering has appropriate feedback, and there’s plenty of braking force via the 6-piston Brembos up front. The Escalade V performs well on the back roads of the Pacific Northwest, thanks to decent handling, but that much mass doesn’t like to change direction quickly. Basically the Escalade V may sound like a sports car, but ultimately it’s not.
Even in standard form, the Cadillac Escalade delivers a healthy dose of luxury and technology with a comfortable and luxurious cabin, great cargo-carrying ability, all-weather capability, and good towing power — all the attributes of a proper full-size Cadillac SUV. For those customers who don’t want to give up any of the aforementioned qualities but are wanting to up their performance game, the Escalade V fits the bill with its extreme power, surprising performance and an exhaust note that seems straight from a muscle car. Granted this vehicle is not cheap, and a healthy bank account would be required to pay for the fuel, but the Escalade V certainly adds fun and excitement to full-size SUV ownership.
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