2021 Cadillac Escalade

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
March 2, 2021

Buying tip

Pay up for at least a Sport model to get the magnetic dampers.

features & specs

2WD 4-Door Luxury
2WD 4-Door Premium Luxury
2WD 4-Door Premium Luxury Platinum
15 city / 20 hwy
15 city / 20 hwy
15 city / 20 hwy

Roomy, comfortable, and loaded with technology, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is a rolling fortress of luxury.

What kind of vehicle is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is the luxury automaker’s full-size, three-row SUV and its most expensive model. The Escalade is mechanically related to the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, as well as the 2021 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. Rivals include the Lincoln Navigator, BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, and Land Rover Range Rover.  

Is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade good SUV?

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The Escalade has always been a symbol of luxury, but the 2021 model improves its technology, space, and comfort. It rides better than it ever has, remains powerful, and its cockpit sits at the forefront of connected technology. We rate it highly, and give it a TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Cadillac Escalade?

The Escalade is redesigned for 2021 and is now in its fifth generation since it debuted in 1999. The luxurious people mover is even larger and features a roomier third row, more cargo room, and the latest technology, including Super Cruise and up to five screens inside its cabin. It also gets an independent rear suspension, available air suspension, a new diesel engine option, and more safety features. 

Nearly 8 inches longer overall with an almost 5-inch increase in the wheelbase on the standard model, the Escalade will challenge suburban garages. It continues in standard and long-wheelbase configurations; the latter is still called the Escalade ESV, and it is 2.6 inches longer than the 2020 model.

The new Escalade has a blunt front end, horizontal headlights, and vertical taillights that go from bumper to roof. Sport models trade all the exterior chrome for shiny black trim. Every 2021 Escalade rides on 22-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, the Escalade distances itself from its truck-based roots with a true luxury-car interior. The dashboard features 38 inches of curved OLED screens stretched across the dash and wrapped in leather. 

Escalade buyers have two engine options: A carryover 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 or a 277-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 that arrives late in 2020. A 10-speed automatic transmission is paired to both engines. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and four-wheel drive with low-range gearing and a mechanical or electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential is available. 

All Escalades get an independent rear suspension that improves interior space and smooths out the ride quality. The ride is further improved with adaptive magnetic dampers and a four-corner air suspension system can raise or lower the Escalade by up to 4 inches.

Buyers can choose seven- or eight-passenger seating. The larger size greatly improves third-row leg room and cargo space. The second row slides forward and back to trade space with the third row. 

Cadillac outfits the 2021 Escalade with standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, and a seat that vibrates in the direction of a potential danger. Also available are adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear automatic braking, automatic parking, and night vision.

How much does the 2021 Cadillac Escalade cost?

Cadillac offers the Escalade in Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury Platinum, and Sport Platinum trim levels, each in short-wheelbase or long-wheelbase ESV body styles. 

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade starts at $77,490 for the short-wheelbase base model and $80,480 for the ESV. Four-wheel drive adds $3,000 to any trim level.

The Escalade luxury comes standard with 12-way power-adjustable front seats covered in synthetic leather, heated first- and second-row seats, remote start, power-folding second-row seats, a 19-speaker AKG sound system, wireless smartphone charging, a hands-free liftgate, LED headlights and taillights, a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, and 22-inch alloy wheels.  

Where is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade made?

In Arlington, Texas.


2021 Cadillac Escalade


The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is big and brawny outside, and posh inside.

Is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade a good-looking car?

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade doesn’t stray too far from the bold, blocky look it’s always presented. 

We rate the Escalade an 8 for its commanding look on the outside, and its luxurious interior design that integrates its technology well.

The new Escalade doubles down on big and bluff. It’s almost 8 inches longer with a taller nose that presents a imposing version of Cadillac’s shield grille. Sport models make that grille, as well as the window surrounds and roof rails, shiny black, while the others use chrome. The squared-off sides are broken up by subtle fender flares and angled chrome trim behind the rear seat’s windows. The rear has tall, vertical taillights, large exhaust outlets at the corners, and a central Cadillac crest that doubles as the liftgate release. 

Inside, dashboard’s 38 inches of curved OLED screens are made up of a 7.2-inch touchscreen, a 14.2-inch digital gauge cluster, and a 16.9-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The small screen on the left of the gauge cluster provides trip computer information and controls what’s shown on the instrument cluster screen; options include the gauges, a forward camera view with available augmented reality overlays, a navigation map, and the night vision screen. A rotary dial takes up some real estate on the center console, and it can be used to control the center screen instead of touch controls. The column-mounted shifter has been ditched in favor of a center console-mounted electronic gear selector. Buyers have a choice of nine color and trim choices, four perforation and quilting patterns for the upholstery, and seven wood trims.

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2021 Cadillac Escalade


The Escalade is smoother than ever and has plenty of power.

The Escalade’s smooth and powerful V-8 remains unchanged and is now joined by a torquey diesel engine option. The big change, however, is the more controlled ride and handling. We rate the Escalade a 7 for performance for its cosseting ride and smooth and willing power.

Is the Cadillac Escalade 4WD?

Rear- or four-wheel drive with low-range gearing and either a mechanical or an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential is available. 

How fast is the Cadillac Escalade?

Escalade buyers can choose from two engines: A 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 or a 277-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6, though the diesel is due later in the model year. A 10-speed automatic transmission is mated to both engines. The engine delivers smooth power and the transmission’s shifts are barely perceptible. The 0-60 mph run should take about 6.0 seconds with the V-8. Expect the diesel to be in the mid-seven-second range. The Escalade can tow up to 8,200 pounds.

The Escalade is a large, heavy vehicle that comes in a few donuts shy of 6,000 pounds in ESV guise, but Cadillac optimizes the suspension for best control.

The new independent rear suspension smooths out the ride by isolating one side of the vehicle from the other over road imperfections. It can be paired with adaptive magnetic dampers as well as a four-corner air suspension that can raise or lower the Escalade by up to four inches. GM’s magnetic dampers are fast acting and also work well to smooth out the ride. The air suspension allows a lower entry height and a lower ride height that is a step up from entry height to give this big beast better moves. The nicely weighted and stable electric-assist steering doesn’t suffer from the play on center that has plagued past generations of the Escalade. This all adds up to a better riding, nicely controlled Escalade that is still hard to park and far from sporty due to its monstrous size.

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2021 Cadillac Escalade

Comfort & Quality

The Escalade offers comfort in all three rows and achieves a new level of luxury.

Excellent space in all three seating rows, tons of cargo room, and high-quality interior materials are a recipe for a perfect 10 for comfort and quality.

The largest dividends from the 2021 Escalade’s extra length are in the third row with up to 10 inches more leg room than the outgoing model (thanks in part to sliding second-row seats). The independent rear suspension eliminates wheel wells in the third row and enables a flat load floor and fold-flat third-row seats. Two adults can fit back there comfortably with enough head room and leg room, though the low-set seat bottoms won’t provide long-trip thigh support. Occupants will have to be kids to fit three across.

Second- and third-row riders benefit from larger door openings that make entry and exit easier. The Escalade comes standard with two second-row captain’s chairs, but a no-cost second-row bench option increases seating from seven passengers to eight.

Cargo capacity behind the third row for the standard wheelbase Escalade is 25.5 cubic feet. Fold down both rows and the Escalade offers up 109.1 cubic feet of gear; the longer ESV model increases that to 126.6 cubic feet. 

Front occupants get the best deal. They sit on comfortable seats with standard heating and available cooling and massagers. While the leather upholstery is available for all three seating rows, the front benefits the most from the Escalade’s nicely assembled trim, extended leather upholstery, and rich wood veneers. This all creates a lush environment, but the Escalade still has some budget-grade plastics mounted below knee level. 

Second-row passengers can also get a pair of 12.6-inch entertainment screens that  allow access to the navigation system and let passengers send navigation suggestions to the driver. All occupants can enjoy the sounds from a standard 19-speaker or optional 36-speaker audio system, both by AKG.

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2021 Cadillac Escalade


The NHTSA gives the Escalade a low four-star score.

How safe is the Cadillac Escalade?

The Escalade comes with a variety of standard and optional safety equipment, but the NHTSA gives it just a four-star overall rating. It's a 6 here, unless the IIHS has better news.

Every 2021 Escalade comes standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, front and rear parking sensors, active lane control, a surround-view camera system, and a driver seat that vibrates in the direction of a potential danger. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and an automatic parking system are standard on higher-line models. Night vision is optional.

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2021 Cadillac Escalade


The 2021 Cadillac Escalade's equipment list is as big as its footprint, but so is the price.

Cadillac slathers the Escalade with features and amenities, and offers plenty more on higher trim levels. A state-of-the-art infotainment system is another plus. These strengths earn the Escalade an 8 for features.

Which Cadillac Escalade should I buy?

If you’re going to pay up for an Escalade, go with the Sport trim, which costs $89,890 with rear-wheel drive and $92,890 with four-wheel drive. It adds Mulan leather upholstery, an ionizer air cleaner, a panoramic sunroof, an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, magnetic dampers, and a Trailering Integration package. It also comes standard with a host of active safety features that we recommend. We’d choose it for the magnetic dampers alone. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Cadillac Escalade?

The Platinum Luxury and Sport Luxury both start at $104,290 ($107,290 with four-wheel drive) and both add Opus semi-aniline leather upholstery, 16-way power front seats with a massage function, a 36-speaker AKG audio system, soft-close doors, and an air suspension with selectable modes.

Available options include a 2x4-inch head-up display, a center console refrigerator with freezer mode, night vision, and Cadillac’s Super Cruise driver-assistance system that allows hands-free freeway driving as long as the driver is focused on the road. 

Cadillac’s new infotainment system is state of the art. The industry’s first OLED curved screen, it has twice the resolution of a 4K TV and deep blacks that don’t require it to be hooded. It acts quickly, can be controlled by touch or with a rotary dial, and offers lots of functionality, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

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2021 Cadillac Escalade

Fuel Economy

Go big with a V-8 and fuel economy suffers. You can’t have it both ways.

Is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade good on gas?

The Escalade is a behemoth. Of course it’s not good on gas. The EPA rates the short-wheelbase Escalade at 15 mpg city, 20 highway, 17 combined. That qualifies the Escalade as a 3 in our ratings.

Four-wheel drive lowers the Escalade’s ratings to 14/19/16 mpg. Both ratings are with the 6.2-liter V-8.

The new 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 earns 21/27/23-mpg EPA ratings with rear-wheel drive, and 20/26/22 mpg with four-wheel drive.

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MSRP based on 2WD 4-Door Luxury
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Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 10
Safety 6
Features 8
Fuel Economy 3
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