A day in the life of most Cadillac Escalades starts with dropping the kids off at school followed by a visit to the local Starbucks watering hole, but these big brutes are well-suited to far more strenuous activities.
While most of the Escalade's rivals feature car-like unibody construction for improved on-road dynamics and more interior space, underneath the hulking Escalade sits a beefy, pickup-derived frame that makes it a not-too-distant cousin to the Chevrolet Silverado. That makes for tighter interior room than its ZIP code-filling proportions might suggest, but it's weekend-rated with optional four-wheel drive and up to 8,300 pounds of trailer-tugging capability.
After spending a weekend towing boats with the Escalade, we learned a few things you might want to know:
Luxury towing is nice
While the Escalade might be a truck at heart, it's a damn fancy rig. With an as-tested price of $91,435, our test Escalade wasn't cheap—but its price is justifiable. My wife, who sits shotgun in a different test vehicle every week, was quick to pick up on the beautiful open-pore wood trim and matte metallic finishes scattered about the cabin.
Befitting its luxo-barge status, the Escalade can be fitted with a long list of optional tech, much of which has the added benefit of helping to shoulder trailering duties. The surround-view camera provides a glimpse of the entire vehicle to help hooking up to a trailer or backing into the water at the boat launch. Instead of a conventional rearview mirror, the Escalade features an HD camera mounted to the tailgate that live streams what's going on behind. It can revert back to a standard glass mirror at the flip of a switch, but the camera's view eliminates the wide roof pillars and makes keeping tabs on your trailer a cinch.
You might need extra gear
The Escalade is pitched as an urban SUV with its flashy chrome. The downside to the optional 22-inch wheels on our tester is that they force its receiver hitch to sit up higher than you'll find in a crossover. I had to use a drop hitch to place the ball lower to ensure that the trailer was level behind the SUV.
Additionally, a newer boat trailer's safety chains had no problem reaching the Escalade's hitch, but an older trailer I also towed required an extension.
The lesson here: you're probably going to need to purchase a few items to tow a trailer behind your Escalade.
Choose your Escalade wisely
Not all Escalades are equal when it comes to towing. The short wheelbase, rear-wheel drive model that serves as the entry to the lineup is the towing champ with its 8,300 pound towing rating. If you opt to add four-wheel drive to your rig, that rating drops to 8,100 pounds.
The long wheelbase ESV models in two-wheel drive form can tow up to 8,100 pounds, but four-wheel drive drops that to 7,900. And if you spring for the blingy 22-inch wheels, you're down to a still decent 7,800 pounds.
You're going to want to use Tow/Haul mode
The 2018 Escalade features a new 8-speed automatic transmission, which is terrific in day-to-day use. Throw a 5,000 pound boat setup behind it like I did and suddenly eight forward gears feels like a lot. In the name of fuel economy, the transmission upshifts quickly to save fuel unless you've engaged Tow/Haul mode on the gear lever. Then, it modifies the shift pattern to hold gears an extra 1,000 to 2,000 rpm to make things a bit smoother.