2021 Cadillac Escalade Preview

Christian Wardlaw | Mar 02, 2020
FAST FACTS
  • Redesigned full-size luxury SUV
  • Two lengths: standard and extended (ESV)
  • Luxury- and Sport-oriented trim levels
  • Standard 6.2-liter V8; optional turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder
  • Significant improvement in comfort and cargo space
  • Ground-breaking available technologies
  • On sale in the third quarter of 2020

Introduction

Dripping in luxury and technical sophistication, the redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade establishes new benchmarks in the full-size luxury SUV segment.

Two versions are available. The standard 2021 Escalade is the smaller model, while the Escalade ESV features an extended wheelbase and longer length to provide more passenger and cargo room. Regardless of your selection, both 2021 Escalade models offer gains in seating and cargo space compared to the previous-generation version of the SUV.

2021 Cadillac Escalade shown with Sport Grille and Luxury Grille

Luxury is the standard trim level. From there, you choose Premium Luxury or Platinum Luxury, or Sport or Platinum Sport. Cadillac will set new Escalade prices closer to the SUV’s on-sale date in the third-quarter of 2020, with expectations of a base price under $80,000.

Exterior Features

Cadillac says its Escala concept vehicle influences the 2021 Escalade’s styling, but at this point that’s true of most of the company’s lineup. Regardless, the result is instantly recognizable as both a Cadillac and an Escalade.

If you want plenty of brightwork, stick with the Luxury side of the trim level ladder. For a blacked-out, sporty appearance, you’ll want the Sport or Platinum Sport versions of the SUV. No matter which 2021 Escalade you choose, it will include standard 22-inch alloy wheels.

Additional highlights include a wheelbase stretch for both versions of the Escalade, and the regular-length model is 7.1 inches longer than before while the extended-length Escalade ESV sees a 2.6-inch gain. In part due to its larger dimensions, the new Escalade offers far more interior room than the vehicle it replaces.

Interior Features

According to Cadillac’s numbers, both the standard and extended versions of the Escalade offer more third-row legroom, but the increase for the standard version is significant. It gets a whopping 10.1 inches of extra space for your legs (2.1 inches for the ESV). This change resolves one of the most significant shortcomings of the previous Escalade.

Furthermore, thanks to the SUV’s new independent rear suspension, the 2021 Escalade’s floor is lower than before. That means the third-row seat provides genuine thigh support. In turn, adults can sit comfortably in the third row, and because the second-row seats now slide forward and back, entering into and exiting from the third row is easier.

How do I know for sure? I sat back there during the SUV’s debut in Los Angeles, and I’m not a small person.

Cadillac improves cargo space across the board, too, especially for the standard-length model. Room behind the third-row seat nearly doubles from 15.2 cubic-feet to 27.3 cu.-ft. in the standard Escalade, while the Escalade ESV expands from 39.3 cu.-ft. to 42.9 cu.-ft. Maximum cargo volumes for the new 2021 Escalade measure 109.1 cu.-ft. and 126.6 cu.-ft., respectively.

Eight different color and trim combinations are available for the interior, including a Gideon Whisper Beige selection featuring custom woven fabric. Multi-color ambient lighting, stainless-steel speaker grilles, and soft-close doors are also available.

Optional Features

Besides options discussed in the sections above and below, the new 2021 Escalade is available with an ionizing air purification system, a refrigerator and freezer, and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Drivers will appreciate the Rear Camera Mirror, which displays a live video feed of what’s behind the Escalade right on the rearview mirror glass. The SUV is also available with a 360-degree surround vision camera system, a multi-camera package used when towing a trailer, and a Night Vision system that helps the driver to see after dark. An oversized 15-inch color head-up display is available for the Escalade, too.

Under the Hood

Every 2021 Escalade has a 6.2-liter V8 engine making 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. The V8 features direct fuel injection, automatic engine stop/start, and a cylinder deactivation system that allows it to operate on as few as two cylinders, such as when coasting down a hill. The intent of these measures is to improve fuel economy.

If you really want to limit visits to the gas station, consider the optional 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder engine. It makes 277 hp, well below the standard V8, but matches the gas engine with 460 lb.-ft. of torque. It should prove remarkably more efficient, but the fuel savings will come at a cost in terms of the engine option’s price.

Both powerplants pair with a 10-speed automatic with a Sport mode, downhill detection, and paddle shifters. It powers the rear wheels unless the Escalade has the optional 4-wheel-drive system.

For 2021, the Escalade gets an independent rear suspension, which contributes to the newfound interior space but also improves the SUV’s ride and handling, according to Cadillac. Two suspension upgrades are available in the form of a next-generation Magnetic Ride Control adaptive setup and a new Air Ride adaptive suspension.

With the Air Ride suspension, the driver can raise the Escalade by two inches for added ground clearance at lower speeds and can lower the SUV by two inches to make it easier to get into and out of the cabin. It also drops nearly an inch at highway speeds to make the Escalade more aerodynamic and efficient.

Safety

Expect the new 2021 Escalade to include a full slate of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). New for 2021, however, is an enhanced version of the company’s semi-autonomous Super Cruise, which allows hands-free driving for miles at a time.

According to Cadillac, Super Cruise now includes automated lane change capability, clearer messaging when the system is not available, more detailed map data, and new software for smoother, more accurate, and easier system engagement.

Technology

Super Cruise isn’t the only tech-driven star of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade show. This SUV breaks new ground regarding instrumentation and infotainment, while catching up with luxury segment leaders in other areas.

With only a glance at the interior, you’ll notice the Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display that marries a 7.2-inch touch-panel driver information center, a 14.2-inch digital instrumentation screen, and a 16.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system beneath an industry-first 38-inch curved surface. With twice the pixel density of a 4K television, it resists glare and reflection.

This sounds complex, but while using the technology during the Escalade’s reveal event, it was clear that if you’re comfortable with modern smartphones and tablet computers, you’ll quickly adapt. The one flaw? It still doesn’t have fully natural voice recognition capability.

Cadillac also debuts two new AKG premium audio systems in the 2021 Escalade. Standard equipment includes a 19-speaker system. As an option, a 36-speaker AKG Reference system is available. It includes three amplifiers, Studio 3D Surround Sound, separate volume controls for the driver and front passengers, and a conversation enhancement function that allows the driver to communicate with rear passengers without shouting.

Catching up to leaders in the segment, Cadillac adds augmented reality to the navigation system’s turn-by-turn feature. This includes a live street view using a forward camera, similar to what Mercedes-Benz offers with its latest infotainment technology. Cadillac takes things a step further, though, by issuing audible direction prompts through the left or right stereo speakers, depending on which way you must turn next, and also increasing the volume of the prompts as the turn gets closer.

For rear passengers, a new dual-screen entertainment system is available. It includes 12.6-inch touchscreen displays, and offers Android mirroring capability and the ability to stream games, video, and music.

Cadillac is the source of the information in this article. It was accurate as of February 26, 2020 but may have changed since that date.

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