Once the de facto king of bling, the Escalade still symbolizes high-class transportation to consumers. However, its luxury reputation is under further consideration. Its hulking chrome shell and Cadillac badge keep up appearances, but its pickup-truck chassis and carryover interior parts reveal a choppy ride and superficial quality. These issues are tolerable on cheaper Escalades; too bad they all surpass $75K. That pill is even harder to swallow when the Caddy’s price approaches six digits. Still, the Slade’s mighty V-8 powertrain is surprisingly quick—and, unsurprisingly, effective at burning fossil fuel at a prodigious rate. The Escalade and the lengthier ESV version both have three rows of seats and can accommodate up to eight passengers. While they’re among the classiest ways to tow more than 8000 pounds, the nameplate is no longer the face of SUV royalty.
What’s New for 2018?
Since the fourth-generation Escalade debuted back in 2015, there have been only minor changes to the lineup. Perhaps the biggest update arrives for 2018, with the adoption of an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous eight-speed unit. Cadillac devised the updated transmission to shift quicker and help the engine consume less fuel. Inside, Platinum trims now have a tan, brown, and black interior color combination. The lineup also adds Satin Steel Metallic paint this year.
Trims and Options We’d Choose
With a starting price of $75,990, every Escalade represents a significant investment. The long-wheelbase ESV costs $3000 extra, but it adds considerable cargo space behind the standard third row. To keep costs down, we’d stick with the shorter-wheelbase version. The lineup consists of four trim levels: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum. Each increment increases the number of standard features and—of course—the bottom line, which can eclipse $100,000 with all the boxes checked. Thankfully, even the base Escalade comes heavily equipped with upper-crust appointments such as:
• 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
• Front and rear parking sensors and self-parking capability
• Leather interior with heated and cooled front seats
• Adaptive dampers and selectable drive modes
While stepping up to the Luxury trim brings a head-up display, 22-inch wheels, and numerous driver assists, we’d save the $5600, especially since all-wheel drive adds $3000 and paint colors other than black and silver cost at least $625. That escalates the asking price of our Escalade to $79,615.
Behind the Escalade’s giant sparkling grille sits a mighty V-8 powertrain connected to a 10-speed automatic transmission that shifts with finesse. Together, they push this plus-size SUV with authority and can tow more than 8000 pounds.
With 420 horsepower pumping out of its 6.2-liter V-8 at full steam, the heavy Escalade and heavier Escalade ESV accelerate with aplomb. In our testing, the old-school pushrod engine was always responsive, and the transmission handled gear changes without fuss. We also appreciated the hearty growl that exited the exhaust pipes after heavy throttle inputs. Still, the Slade was quiet and refined at cruising speeds.