“Dude, is that the new Escalade? The V right?”, asked someone in a lifted F-150. I looked down on him from my throne. Literally. Why yes it is in fact the Cadillac Escalade V, and it is possibly the best car Cadillac has ever made. Make that GM. That’s not hyperbole, so let’s hop in (up?) and go for a ride in the world’s fastest, most comfortable couch.
The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V Overview
Would you like to know what stories have the worst click-through rating on this site? Racing stories. Makes sense. Is the general public really concerned with racing? Sure, F1 is on the rise and provides great spectacle. Maybe NASCAR depending upon where in the county you hail from. Everything else? Nah.
But we do love the idea of racing, don’t we? Sweaty palms, the romance of motor oil in your face as you push it down the back straight on the final lap. Brands know this, and mostly cater to us. We can have an alphabet soup of cars on the grid if we wanted. M, F, V, RS – the list goes on.
So what’s an automaker to do? They can pretend, like M does, that cars like the 7 Series and X7 don’t warrant an M version because their mission is one of luxury. Or they can use the badge as a guide, like Cadillac does here. The Escalade V is the best version of an Escalade, period. It does not mean you want to take this nearly three-ton truck onto a track.
But you can.
Performance Score: 8. Pummel the pavement
The formula here is simple. Take the most luxurious and refined car that Cadillac currently makes, throw in the superb engine from the Blackwing, and give the car enough capability and feedback to make it more comfortable at the limit than it has any right to be.
I get the feeling that this supercharged V-8 could power the U.S.S. Nimitz if given the opportunity. In the CT-5 V, it’s attached to 2,000 lbs less of leather and luxury (and mated to a manual), but the Escalade solves some of the weight by adding more.
More what? More ‘charger. The Blackwing gets a 1.7 liter supercharger, but in the Escalade it’s 2.7 liters, good for 682 horsepower. It’s pretty much the size of a six-cylinder engine on its own. While not much more than the 668 found in the sedan, it’s enough to get the Cadillac Escalade V to 60 in 4.1 seconds.
“Mike, that’s not that fast.” Yes, I have tested faster cars, but none give you the sensation this car does. The engine provides relentless thrust, and you’re so high that the motions of acceleration are exaggerated. Do you have the guts to keep your foot in it?
I’ve never flown a plane before, but I imagine you’d pull out onto the runway and look as far into the distance as you can to make sure the coast is clear. This V makes you do it at every red light, because if you use launch control, you’re going to get to the end of the runway pretty fast. Cleared for takeout. The surge of torque is akin to an electric car.
And the sound? Press the “V” button behind the shifter to engage V mode, and the car becomes shockingly loud considering its luxury mission, with a perfect Corvette-like roar singing in your ears. Imagine meeting Darth Vader only to have him suddenly burst out in song with the voice of Mariah Carey. You making a face at the screen? You make the same contorted face in this car. It’s weird, yea, but I dig it.
Turn off this sport mode, and it’s as quiet and comfortable as a regular Escalade. But don’t be fooled – even as idle, there’s a lumpy rumble that lets you know “I’m ready”.
An engine with this much power is going to use a lot of fuel, so Cadillac gave the Escalade V a ten-speed automatic transmission in an attempt to keep the revs low.
It works well and never draws attention to itself by hunting for gears or any other unruly behavior. If you ask it to kick down a few notches with a stab of the gas, it easily complies. Snappy shifts are part of the reason this car feels much more athletic than its curb weight would suggest.
Paddle shifters are a novelty that work well here. Response is immediate, and for some reason I found myself using them more than in other cars. That’s to say I was using them at all, because I hardly ever do.
The engine might make the Cadillac Escalade V defy physics, but the real magic here is in the chassis and suspension setup.
Though the Cadillac is a body-on-frame design (vs the unibody creations of its competitors), you don’t notice it. The ride is firm in sport, comfortable in, well, comfort. Few manufacturers get that part correct. Thank not only the air suspension, but GM’s Magnetic Ride Control.
Squat and dive are there but controlled. It’s amusing to watch the horizon disappear when you floor it as the nose points toward the sky. When in V mode, the Air Ride suspension will drop the car 0.8 inches and firm it all up a bit.
The steering is superb – perfectly weighted, with natural feedback at road speeds. There’s tons of Blackwing spirit in the Escalade V.
GM wisely decided on three-season versatility, so the Escalade V is fitted with 22-inch all-season tires that do hold it back against its alphabet-themed competition, but it’s Cadillac leveling with you. Are you driving your GLE 53 AMG on the track? Wouldn’t you trade some of that aggression for a bit of real-world comfort, while being able to enjoy it at non-supersonic speeds?
I’m no engineer, so I can’t tell you the mathematical equation to find out the proper size for brakes on a truck this size. Looking at the wheels, it’s obvious they crammed the biggest brakes they had on the GM parts shelf.
They feel good and are adjustable for pedal feel, with maybe just the initial bite being a bit spongy. I never felt them fade from a spirited drive on the back roads. There’s no carbon ceramic option (you don’t need one).
When you sum up the Cadillac Escalade V’s performance envelope, it’s fair to say it’s less hard-core than an X7 M might be if such a thing existed. But it doesn’t, and I’m not sure it would be better if it did. The V has enough dynamic ability to make you smile. Floor it at every stop light, leave traffic behind, and listen to all the giggles from the two rows of seats behind you. Actually…
Utility Score: 10. It’ll fit
This is essentially a Chevrolet Tahoe, with all the big box implications that implies. The Escalade is wide, with tons of room in both rear rows.
You can fit plenty behind the seats in the trunk, or fold the third row for even more room. Captain’s chairs in the second row were praised by the family for their comfort, but buckling in a child was a bit of a challenge with the seat belt receptacle. Remember that you’ll do it every day, so it can get frustrating.
Need even more room? There’s a longer wheelbase ESV version. Costco will surely be your second home.
Economy: 2. Bring dinosaurs
Can you get range anxiety in a gas-powered car? The Cadillac Escalade V comes closest to achieving it. I averaged 11 MPG. That might be the biggest tipping point in favor of an Escalade without a “V” on its door, as they get a more reasonable 16 MPG combined.
Despite the car’s 24-gallon fuel tank, range hovers around 300 miles. I don’t think you can fault the car. Physics makes the rules, not GM. But there is a reason the supercharger is going away.
Features and Comfort: 10. 5-star hotel
I’ll admit to being a little surprised as I climbed inside the Escalade for the first time. The CT-5 V was a nice place to be, and it had everything you’d expect from a car at that price point, but the fit and finish wasn’t on par with some of its rivals.
Not so here. Each time you open the Escalade’s door, a waft of leather smacks you in the nose. If a Mercedes is a 10 inside, the Escalade V is a 9.5. It’s really beautiful to behold.
This car wants you to feel amazing even walking up to it. The Escalade V performs a little light show as you get close, and then the side steps motor out to provide easy entry into the cabin.
Once in, you’re greeted by no less than four screens plus a HUD. The dash is nicely designed with tiers, so it never feels overwhelming. Even the climate controls have a display dedicated just to them. This is a much better way of doing it than burying everything into one screen and menu system.
The second row has two screens for the kids, along with Cadillac-branded headphones so you don’t need to hear Bubble Guppies on repeat the entire road trip. Needless to say, the Escalade was my daughter’s favorite press car so far.
A last word on the digital dash here – it’s stunning in both resolution and beauty, resembling a chronograph watch face. Cadillac has everyone else beat when it comes to instrumentation.
The Escalade V is the most expensive car I’ve ever tested, with this one ringing up the register at $150,640, so the interior should really be a “wow”. And for the most part, it is. We’ve got night vision that displays in the center dash screen, a center console refrigerator and freezer, a button for conversation enhancement so you can hear the complaints pour in from the third row, even an AKG stereo with, ahem, 36 speakers, 3 amps and subwoofers in the front and rear of the cabin.
I honestly can’t think of something a modern car would have that this one does not.
The wood on the dash (I think Cadillac used to call it Zebrano) is stunning. Curious that you have only Jet Black or Dark Auburn, a sort of brownish red that isn’t nearly as nice. Isn’t part of luxury having variety of choice? I digress.
This is GM’s nicest interior to date, much further ahead than other high-end offerings in their catalog. If there’s any wiff of cheap, plastic-like bits from old-school GM, it’s barely perceptible.
The 2023 Cadillac Escalade needs no excuse
Perhaps what’s holding you back is the name. Escalade might conjure up memories of the original, barely altered from a Yukon Denali. Or the famous (infamous?) second generation, which helped usher in Cadillac’s edgy look at the time. But there was always the caveat of it being based on a pickup truck body-on-frame design, despite being Cadillac’s best-selling model and the only one to carry on its original name to present day.
That’s the thing. There was always a “but” when it came to Cadillac.
No more buts now. The Escalade V has the proper vehicle dynamics to make you say “How did they do that?” It defies its size and weight, ditches the plastic feel of prior GM products, and has all the lux features you’d expect in a car of this class.
Thumbs up from the F-150 driver. Thumbs up from me as well.
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