2019 Cadillac Escalade Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz
December 5, 2018

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade can hold its own against more modern designs in many ways even if it’s definitely showing its age.

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade is a full-size luxury SUV that feels like it’s stuck in time, at least up against its fresher, more modern rivals.

The 2019 Escalade doesn’t disguise its Chevy Tahoe and Suburban roots as well as it should for a price that can climb to six figures. The Escalade still has its merits such as a lavish interior, competitive tech inside, and a cosseting ride quality.

Overall, we rate the Escalade at 6.4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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This year’s mostly a repeat of last year, when a slick-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission was the newsmaker. Unless the newly optional Sport Package (on an Escalade, really?) with its blacked-out trim appeals to you. Base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and tony Platinum trim levels are on offer and range from Uber Black coddling in base to an impressive, if costly, display of semi-aniline leather and exotic wood trim in Escalade Platinum guise. The Escalade comes in two sizes: standard and long-wheelbase Escalade ESV, which adds considerable cargo room behind the standard third row of seats.

The Escalade dips into GM's V-8 family for power. its 6.2-liter V-8 churns out an impressive 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The Escalade has rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is an option. A 10-speed automatic designed by General Motors and Ford handles the shifts in the Escalade SUVs, just as it does in the rival the Lincoln Navigator. Predictably, the Escalade is a fuel-guzzler and it’s a shame that no hybrid version exists any longer.

Standard magnetic shocks disguise the Escalade’s truck-based architecture, at least to a degree. It lacks the twisty road composure of more sophisticated rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class and Land Rover Range Rover, but the Escalade makes a confident trailer-hauling vehicle and soaks up bad pavement with poise.

Inside, the Escalade’s truckiness results in some compromises such as a tall cargo area floor and less rear-seat leg room than its exterior dimensions might suggest. Still, Cadillac’s flagship piles on luxury and comfort as well as ever.

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2019 Cadillac Escalade

Styling

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade is brash but refined.

Like a diamond-studded belt buckle, the 2019 Cadillac Escalade tells onlookers all they need to know. Its toothy chrome grille and the big, 22-inch wheels fitted to most models earn our respect. We rate it 7 out of 10 on account of its boldness. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2019 Escalade and its 20-inch-longer Escalade ESV sibling share a profile and most of their underpinnings with the comparatively plebeian Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, but the difference is in the details. Chrome won’t get you home, but it’ll probably get valets to park your Escalade up front.  

All but the base Escalade have big 22-inch alloy wheels that fit their demeanor. Just be prepared to spend on replacement tires.

Inside, the Escalade has less in common with its Chevy and GMC siblings and more with Cadillac sedans. Most of its switches are capacitive, a trendy look that’s not always terribly functional. The standard leather upholstery on most trims feels good enough, but the range-topping Platinum wraps the seats, dash, and door panels in dressy semi-aniline hides offset by stunning real wood trim. The Escalade’s basic design might not scream upscale, but its finishes are top-notch.

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2019 Cadillac Escalade

Performance

Muscle-truck acceleration and a surprisingly good ride make the 2019 Cadillac Escalade a proper luxury SUV.

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade’s big V-8 engine provides it with thrilling acceleration and its trick magnetic shocks take the edge off of its ride quality. Based on those assets, we rate the Escalade at 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All Escalades use a 6.2-liter V-8 engine rated at 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, substantial numbers that help offset its hefty 5,600-pound curb weight. The V-8’s prodigious power output endows it with excellent acceleration from a stop and good passing power.

That engine is aided by a quick and usually smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission. In certain situations, the transmission can find itself in the wrong gear, but it usually corrects itself quickly.

The standard magnetic dampers quell road imperfections with aplomb despite the big wheels and short tire sidewalls and make the Escalade more comfortable through sweeping highway curves compared to its mainstream-brand siblings. Quick, well-weighted steering helps, although there’s no escaping the reality of its tall design when it comes to a winding byway. Strong brakes bring things to a halt with considerable nose-dive.

Underneath its flashy body, the Escalade features throwback body-on-frame construction with a simple live axle at the rear that endows it with a truckier feel than high-tech rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. That simple design pairs well with the Escalade’s V-8 engine to provide it with ample towing capacity—as high as 8,300 pounds—and a confident feel with a trailer attached.

Rear-wheel drive is standard and should be just fine for most sun-belters. The Escalade’s optional all-wheel-drive system requires no driver intervention but lacks the low range that’s useful for lugging boats out of a lake, for instance. Notably, the 22-inch alloy wheels on most Escalades can be expensive to replace.

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2019 Cadillac Escalade

Comfort & Quality

Big on the outside, not quite as massive on the inside, the 2019 Cadillac Escalade pampers with old-school luxury.

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade earns points for its all-day comfort up front, its voluminous cargo capacity, and its quality furnishings especially in the Platinum trim level. We rate it at 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Up front, the 12-way power thrones on most Escalades are wrapped in soft leather and provide supreme comfort. The 18-way power-adjustable seats with built-in massagers on the Escalade Platinum are divine, and that’s before we even talk about the extra-soft semi-aniline leather that wraps almost every surface.

Rear-seat riders have good space in the Escalade ESV, but the standard Escalade has less leg room than its garage-filling dimensions might suggest. All Escalades include a power-folding third row of seats that can hold two adults or three children in decent comfort. Behind the third row, the standard Escalade offers 15.2 cubic-feet of cargo volume, while the ESV can swallow a week’s worth of luggage to the tune of 39.3 cubes. Fold the second and third rows and the Escalade ESV rivals a San Francisco apartment with its nearly 121 cubic-foot capacity.

Worth special mention is the Escalade Platinum that marries softer leather on the seats, dashboard, door panels, and center console with a suede-like headliner, and exotic wood trim for a truly special feel inside.

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2019 Cadillac Escalade

Safety

The Cadillac Escalade earned worrying four-star rating from the feds and its limited roster of standard safety gear is another concern.

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade proves that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to safety. An alarming four-star overall rating from the NHTSA and lack of standard active safety tech would raise eyebrows at half these prices. At nearly $80,000, the Escalade should be better-equipped, but we can’t give it a score until the IIHS weighs in. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2019 Escalade checks all the typical boxes for its standard safety gear: six airbags, stability control, and a rearview camera. Low-speed automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors come on the Escalade Luxury trim but aren’t available on the base model. Full-speed automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control require stepping up to the Escalade Premium Luxury.

Nearly all rivals include this gear as standard equipment.

In the federal government’s crash testing, the Escalade’s biggest demerit is its three-star rating for rollover, an unusual score that serves as a reminder of its truck-based platform.

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2019 Cadillac Escalade

Features

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade wants for little, at least once a few options are selected.

From Uber Black to uber luxury, the 2019 Cadillac Escalade has a trim level for just about everyone. It’s fairly well-equipped from the get-go, but a lack of standard active safety gear means we land at a 7 based on its good infotainment system and its numerous configurations. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base Escalade comes with 12-way power front seats, leather upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and a 16-speaker Bose audio system.

We’d bypass it in favor of the Luxury trim, however, which adds low-speed automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors, plus 22-inch alloy wheels that suit its bling style better than the standard 20s.

The Premium Luxury trim adds full-speed automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and a rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system. But once you’re at that level, you might as well step up to the Escalade Platinum for its divine semi-aniline leather upholstery, massaging front seats, and real wood trim.  

All in, an Escalade ESV Platinum with all-wheel drive crests six figures—and it mostly feels worth its weight in steel, wood, and leather.

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2019 Cadillac Escalade

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Cadillac Escalade does not qualify for Greenpeace membership.

Big bruisers do not make for fuel-efficient rides. Case-in-point: The 2019 Cadillac Escalade, which rates just 3 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

It could be worse, but it could also be better. With standard rear-wheel drive, the Escalade earns 14 mpg city, 23 highway, 17 combined. Opting for all-wheel drive bumps that down to 14/21/17 mpg.

Regardless of drive wheels, the Escalade requires pricey premium unleaded gasoline.

No hybrid Escalade exists any longer, either.

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$75,195
MSRP based on 2WD 4-Door
 
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6.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety N/A
Features 7
Fuel Economy 3
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2019 Cadillac Escalade Pricing Insights

  • 2019 Escalade arriving; plenty of 2018s remain
  • Up to $7,000 rebate on 2018s; $1,000 on 2019s
  • Lease a 2019 from $919 for 30 months
  • APR as low as 0% for 36 months + cash
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