To paraphrase The Bard: Now is the winter of GM body-on-frame SUVs. Chevy launched the new 2021 Suburban and Tahoe in December. GMC followed with the 2021 Yukon in January. Now it’s February, which means we get Cadillac’s all-new 2021 Escalade. It’s a vital vehicle for GM as both the flagship for the Cadillac luxury brand and the company’s retort to the universally-acclaimed Lincoln Navigator.
The Escalade’s broad mechanical changes are similar to those that came to the Suburban/Tahoe and Yukon. The Escalade shifts to an independent rear suspension, a change that both improves on-road driving dynamics and allows for substantially more cargo capacity and third-row legroom. The Escalade also scores a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six option in addition to the familiar 6.2-liter V8; while the diesel only makes 277 horse to the V8’s 420, both engines churn out an identical 460 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come paired with a 10-speed automatic.
The Escalade is largely differentiated from its brethren via fancy tech features. Impossible to miss: the massive 38-inch curved OLED display that sits front and center. It actually consists of three screens: a 7.2-inch touchscreen driver information center, a 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster and a 16.9-inch infotainment screen. It’s not quite full-Byton territory yet, but it’s in the ballpark.
The Escalade also offers an impressive AKG audio system with 36 speakers, three amplifiers and studio 3D surround sound, which should offer sound quality so crisp, you’ll feel like you’re sitting in Marc Maron’s garage. The speaker system can also be used for conversation enhancement, alleviating the need to yell from the third row. The front passenger can also adjust his or her volume independently.
The Escalade also receives an enhanced version of GM’s SuperCruise hands-free driving system, which now supports automated lane changes. That system has been widely acclaimed as one of the best Level 2 semi-autonomous driving system, but so far has been relegated to a single model: the large, rarely-bought CT6 sedan. Now that SuperCruise is coming to the Escalade (and other products in the Caddy lineup), however, the technology seems likely to receive far greater awareness.
Of course, the Escalade news isn’t quite done yet. Cadillac will unveil the long-wheelbase ESV version will at the New York Auto Show in April, and the new 2021 Escalade will go on sale in late 2020. No word on pricing yet, but it probably won’t be cheap.
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