Review update: 2021 Cadillac Escalade with Super Cruise rides like a first-class road king

May 26, 2021

It took more than two decades, but Cadillac finally created one of the best luxury family haulers money can buy.

With leather-lined seating for up to eight people, over 38 inches of curved OLED screens on the dashboard, and the ability to drive itself over thousands of miles on certain divided highways, the redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade has finally become the flagship luxury SUV worthy of a luxury badge instead of a tarted up Chevy.

I spent a week road tripping to northern Minnesota with the family, towing boats, and testing Super Cruise hands-free driving system in this nearly 6,000-lb behemoth to determine where it hits and misses.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Hit: A Super Cruiser

Launched in the now discontinued CT6 full-size sedan, Super Cruise is a Level-2 hands-free driver assist system that has finally migrated to the vehicle it deserves in the road-tripping Escalade. It’s fantastic. I drove up to northern Minnesota and back on I-94 and the system let me drive nearly 200 miles without touching the steering wheel other than for a potty break. Kids. Super Cruise tracked my eye movements with its infrared camera to ensure I was paying attention to the road, and if my eyes veered from the road for even a few seconds it warned me the system would shut down. It demands you pay attention to the road, as it should, unlike Tesla’s Autopilot. Tapping the turn signal stalk engages an automatic lane change, which the system performed flawlessly time after time. Super Cruise is easily the most advanced driver assistance system on the market today and can be used on more than 200,000 miles of mapped roads.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Miss: Seats aren’t class-leading

The thrones in the first- and second-row are comfortable, supportive, and there were no complaints on our road trip. But they aren’t as good as the available 30-way power massaging front seats on the Lincoln Navigator. My tester’s 12-way power front seats were narrower than the base 10-way power front seats in the Navigator, and the second row is similarly narrow.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Hit: Third row room

Now that the Escalade grew with 10 inches more leg room in the third row than the outgoing model (thanks to sliding second-row seats), the Cadillac finally features an adult-rated third-row seat like the Lincoln, and it’s not a knees-up affair. At 5-foot-10, I’d be comfortable in the third row for a road trip.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Hit: Tows like a truck

My tester didn’t come with the $600 Heavy-Duty Trailering package with a 2-speed transfer case and 8,200-pound towing capacity but it was still rated to tow up to 7,500 lb. I hooked 5,000 lb of boat and trailer to the Escalade and it barely flinched. The air suspension instantly leveled out the rear end and the 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque shrugged off the extra weight while accelerating to highway speeds. To my surprise and delight, the Escalade featured every imaginable camera angle, enabling a 3D-view of the outside of the Escalade, a top-down view of the hitch while hooking up to a trailer, a wide-angle view of what’s behind the large SUV, and every other view one might need or even want. It makes hooking up to a trailer a breeze even when alone.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Miss: Massive in every way

Despite its surprisingly comfortable ride, luxurious tech-filled interior, and exterior swagger, the Escalade is based on a truck and it’s big like a truck. The massive A-pillar blocks the view of pedestrians out front, and in the rear the massive C- and D-pillars create large blind spots that make it more complicated to back up, whether in the parking lot or while backing a trailer into a storage building. It’s not just the blind spots that are huge, the Escalade itself is borderline obnoxious at this point. The hoodline sits near the top of my chest. It barely fits in my standard garage, which was built in 1997, and it towers over vehicles like a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Lexus RX 350.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Hit: Supremely comfortable

The Escalade finally rides on an independent rear suspension. Paired with my tester’s adaptive magnetic dampers and four-corner air suspension system (part of the $3,650 Driver Assist Tech package), the Escalade is shockingly comfortable. Whether it’s broken Midwest pavement with potholes, heaved highway expansion joints, or even a washboard gravel road, the Escalade gobbles it all up. It’s even more impressive when you remember this is a body-on-frame truck riding on 22-inch wheels.

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Miss: Careful with the options

It’ll take a firm hand and some willpower to keep the Escalade’s cost in check when choosing options. The Escalade starts at $77,490, which seems reasonable compared to a loaded GMC Yukon Denali or Chevrolet Tahoe. But things get real expensive real fast. My tester had a sticker price of $108,810, which included the $4,300 36-speaker AKG sound system, $2,500 Super Cruise driver assist system, $2,700 Performance package that adds magnetic adaptive dampers among other things, Driver Assist Tech package for $3,650 that adds the air suspension. Skip the $1,995 rear seat entertainment system and buy some iPads for the kids. The $2,000 night vision system is cool, but it’s only useful if you’ll be driving on a dark deserted highway in the middle of nowhere often, otherwise it’s an expensive party trick. And I’m a big fan of upgrading audio systems because it’s hard to go aftermarket these days, and while the 36-speaker AKG audio system sounds good, it costs $4,300 and I’ve experienced better systems for less money. Make sure to check out the 19-speaker AKG system that’s standard on the Premium Luxury trim before ticking the box for the 36-speaker system.

The Escalade is a rolling tech showcase that finally shows what Cadillac’s capable of with Super Cruise, the industry’s first curved OLED screen, and a comfortable ride with Canyonero-like room that Homer Simpson would appreciate, but it’s a massive six-figure SUV that might be a pain to park for everyday use.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury

Base price: $77,490
Price as tested: $108,810
EPA fuel economy: 14/19/16 mpg
The hits: Smooth ride, luxurious interior, spacious interior, great at towing, Super Cruise is a killer app
The misses: Seats could be better, gets expensive quickly, so big

2021
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2021
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from The Car Connection. I understand that I can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.