2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Review: More of an Escalade+
It's no XXL CTS-V, but the hottest Escalade ever still has its charms.
Among people who give a damn about cars, in recent years, Cadillac has been known for two things: the Escalade sport-utility vehicle, and the V-Series line of performance vehicles. Yet while both of these names have been around for (automotive) generations — the first V-car bowed in 2004, while the Escalade first showed up in 1999 — Caddy never thought of pulling a Reese's and putting these two great tastes together until the year 2022, even though luxury competitors have been cranking out full-size SUVs with performance-tuned engines for some time now.
Nevertheless, with electrification looming (remember, Cadillac has promised to go all-EV in the next decade) and the most powerful version of its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 ever made now available under the hood of the CT5-V Blackwing, the time was right for the V badge and the Escalade nameplate to finally meet. Revealed last year, the Escalade-V packs the most potent engine ever outfitted to a production Caddy, with 682 horsepower manifesting under its hood at the flex of the driver's ankle.
Having spent quite a bit of very joyful time behind the wheels of various Cadillac V-cars over the years, I was fairly excited to clamber behind the wheel of the largest and largest one. So when General Motors offered me a chance to put it through its paces in my daily life, well, that was a very easy yes. Here's what I learned.
Well, for the sake of the analogy, ignore the fact that it's not a car at all — it's a three-row, body-on-frame SUV based on a full-size pickup truck platform. Still, it holds. While SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT, Lamborghini Urus Performante and Aston Martin DBX 707 push the boundaries when it comes to the sort of lateral grip and handling you expect from a high-riding machine, the Escalade-V is more content to take turns at a leisurely pace.
Credit, or blame, a trio of factors:
—One: Cadillac chose to outfit the Escalade-V with three-season tires, which are less aggressive (i.e. less grippy) than the summer performance tires most super-zoot sport-utes drive on.
—Two: Even before V-ification, the Escalade was already one of the best-tuned full-size SUVs on sale, offering levels of driving involvement you wouldn't expect from a vehicle of such size and height. Indeed, the suspension changes to the Escalade-V were largely restricted to retuned rear springs and dampers, as well as some software adjustments.
—Three: General Motors left the regular Escalade's highly intrusive stability control in place, which cuts in before things get anywhere close to nuts. (Car and Driver measured a mere 0.69 g on their skidpad.)
Straighten out the wheel and mash the gas to the ground, however, and the Escalade-V doesn't disappoint. 0-60 miles per hour takes 4.3 seconds, according to C/D; stay on the right pedal long enough, and you'll reach 125 mph before the governor calls whoa.
Acceleration is easy and effortless at any speed, in spite of around 3.25 tons of weight in play with a driver aboard. It feels downright silly...at least, until you drive the likes of the Hummer EV, which both weighs substantially more and manages to leave the supercharged Caddy in the dust from naught to 60, thanks to its mind-blowing 1,000 horsepower. But nothing in the miraculous Hummer's bag of tricks can match the song of the blown V8 at full roar.
For those times when you're not trying to beat Mustangs onto the highway, the Escalade-V delivers all the tasty luxury treats you'll find on any new top-shelf Escalade. The giant OLED instrument panel and dashboard layout that looks straight outta Starfleet is there, of course, as well as the comfortable leather seats that do all the things — adjust myriad ways, heat, cool, massage, even play music through speakers in the headrests. (The 36-speaker AKG stereo system remains a delight.)
And, like every version of GM's latest full-size SUVs, interior space is downright phenomenal; even the regular wheelbase Escalade, which is the same size as a Chevy Tahoe, has decent room for adults in its third row — and as much cargo space as a good-size sedan behind that, especially if you don't mind blocking some of the view out the back window. (That's where the video screen wide-angle rear view mirror camera comes in.) The second row, meanwhile, is every bit worthy of the stars and bankers who now make Escalades their chauffeured ride of choice — but the front thrones are truly among the comfiest seats in class.
In essence, then, the Escalade-V simply offers an extra scoop of prestige onto the cachet sundae. Is that worth an extra $40,600 on top of the price of a loaded Escalade with the mere 420 horsepower of its naturally aspirated V8? For my money, I'd say probably not — especially since you can also grab the regular Escalade with a factory cat-back exhaust to help give it some extra burble. (That said, the Escalade-V will probably hold its value better over time, given its status and comparatively limited nature.)
The said, driving the Escalade-V reminded me just how good the non-supercharged Escalade manages to be; if cramming nearly 700 horsepower under the hood doesn't improve a vehicle by much, it either was beyond improvement or already damn good, and this big Caddy is very much the latter. And, on top of that, it made me actually excited for whatever thousand-plus-horsepower Escalade-V EV (E-V EV?) will presumably hit the streets in eight or nine years.
Base Price: $152,590
Powertrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V8; 10-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
Torque: 653 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 11 mpg city, 16 mpg highway, but seriously, do you care
More rear legroom and a throne fit for King Charles come to the Bentley of sport-utility vehicles.