The fifth-gen Escalade finally feels like a real threat to the Mercedes GLS and the BMW X7

The Escalade hasn’t had an easy life. It started as a ripped-off GMC Yukon back in the 90s, but was soon spun off as a standalone SUV. That didn’t change its fortunes either. It was never perceived as a strong contender in the market despite having its own set of advantages. This went on for three generations but GM didn’t give up on the moniker. For the 2021 model, the automaker decided to up the ante and how. For the fifth-gen, Cadillac turned the Escalade into a big, attention-seeking SUV with oodles of space inside and a tech-savvy cabin. Stuff like a 38-inch screen, 36-speaker setup, and Super Cruise technology, are only some of its accolades. Can fifth time be the charm for Cadillac and the Escalade?

  • 2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven
  • Year:
    2021
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    Ten-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    420
  • MPG(Cty):
    14
  • MPG(Hwy):
    19
  • Torque @ RPM:
    460
  • Displacement:
    6.2 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.3 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    130 mph
  • Price:
    106000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Cadillac Escalade Drivetrain, Fuel Economy, and Towing Capacity

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Drivetrain
- image 980407

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is offered with two different engines. One is a 6.2-liter, V-8 engine that churns out 420 horses and 460 pound-feet of twist. The other is a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder Duramax mill that makes 277 ponies and 460 pound-feet of torque. Both the engines are mated to a 10-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission and can be had either in a two-wheel-drive configuration or a four-wheel-drive layout.

Engine 6.2-liter, V-8 3.0-liter, six-cylinder Duramax
Horsepower 420 HP 277 HP
Torque 460 LB-FT 460 LB-FT
Transmission 10-speed Hydra-Matic automatic 10-speed Hydra-Matic automatic
2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980378

The best part here is that both the engines are available on all five trims – Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury Platinum, and Sport Platinum. Both of them are priced the same, too. Irrespective of the trim, the four-wheel-drive system will cost you an additional $3,000.

The Escalade comes with an independent rear suspension system. You can also opt for Magnetic Ride Control that constantly keeps adjusting the dampers on the fly to make sure the vehicle rides smooth at all times. The SUV is also offered with Air Ride Adaptive Suspension that comes with auto-leveling to ensure that even if you hitch a trailer at the rear, the car will level itself so you are sitting flat and comfortable inside. The suspension has a range of two inches. Finally, it also comes with an Electronic Limited Slip Differential.

What Is The Escalade’s Fuel Economy?

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980389

The Escalade delivers 15 miles per gallon in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined. The four-wheel-drive models deliver 14 miles in the city, 19 on the highway, and 16 miles combined for every gallon of fuel consumed.

The other two V-8s are a mixed bag too. The GLS delivers 16 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg combined. The X7, on the other hand, returns 15 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 17 miles per gallon combined.

How Much Can The Escalade Tow?

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Exterior
- image 980369

The Cadillac Escalade has a maximum towing capacity of 8,200 pounds on the two-wheel-drive models and 8,000 pounds on the four-wheel-drive models. This is more than the Mercedes GLS’ 7,700-pounds towing capacity and the X7’s 5,950-pound capacity.

Cadillac Escalade Exterior Design

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Exterior
- image 980371

The Escalade, as mentioned earlier, is offered in five different trims. Out of these, Sport, Luxury, and Premium Luxury Platinum come with different grilles. The Sport trim features a blacked-out grille, the Luxury has a chrome grille, whereas the Premium Luxury Platinum has a unique grille of its own.

All the trims come with long vertical LED Daytime Running Lights as standard. The SUV will ride on 22-inch wheels as standard. The wheel arches come with sort of indents that make them look like actual wheel flares. At the rear, it comes with signature long vertical taillights. Apart from this, the SUV can also be had with soft close doors as optional.

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Exterior
- image 980370

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade comes with a color palette of eight different shades for you to choose from. It includes:

  • Black Raven – Standard
  • Satin Steel Metallic – $625
  • Sandstone Metallic – $625
  • Shadow Metallic – $625
  • Dark Moon Blue Metallic – $625
  • Dark Mocha Metallic – $625
  • Infrared Tintcoat – $1,225
  • Crystal White Tricoat – $1,225

How Big Is The Cadillac Escalade?

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Exterior
- image 980373

The Escalade is the longest and tallest of the lot, but not the widest. It measures 211 inches in length, which is six inches longer than the Mercedes GLS and 7.7 inches longer than the BMW X7. It is 81 inches wide, which makes it 2.3 inches wider than the X7’s 78.7-inch width, but 3.9 inches less than the GLS. As for the height, the Escalade stands at 76.7 inches, the GLS at 71.8 inches, and the X7 at 71.1 inches.

2021 Cadillac Escalade exterior dimensions
Length 211
Width 81
Height 76.6
Wheelbase 120.9
Front Track 68.5
Rear Track 68.3

Surprisingly, it has the shortest wheelbase despite being the longest SUV. The Cadillac Escalade’s wheelbase measures 120.9 inches, making it 2.5 inches shorter than the GLS and 1.3 inches shorter than the X7, both of which measure 123.4- and 122.2 inches. The Escalade’s front and rear tracks are 68.5- and 68.3 inches wide, 65.7- and 66.6 inches on the Mercedes, and 66.2- and 67 inches wide on the BMW.

How Much Does The Escalade Weigh?

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Exterior
- image 980368

With the two-wheel drive system, the Cadillac Escalade weighs 5,356 pounds and with the four-wheel-drive system, it stands at 5,544 pounds. The GLS weighs 5,699 pounds, whereas the X7 has a curb weight of 5,661 pounds.

Cadillac Escalade Interior Design

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980374
The Escalade feels very plush on the inside. Cadillac is offering three different interior themes on the top model.

There’s no dearth of space in any corner of the SUV. A lot of storage spaces have also been provided. First up there’s the Whisper Beige theme with Gideon accents. It comes with full leather seats and semi-aniline leather, perforated inserts. Folks who prefer darker shades can opt for Jet Black color, which comes with the same leather seats and semi-aniline inserts. There is also the Dark Auburn theme with Jet Black accents. The last two seats feature Mondrian quilting for added luxuriousness.

Is The Escalade Spacious?

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980392

The Escalade is the most spacious of the lot. It offers 42.3 inches of headroom, 44.5 inches of legroom, 65.5 inches of shoulder room, and 61.7 inches of hip room. The GLS and the X& offer 39.4- and 41.9 inches of headroom, 40.3- and 39.8 inches of legroom, and 59.3- and 60 inches of headroom, respectively.

In the second row, the Cadillac, offers 38.9 inches, Mercedes offers 40.2 inches, and the BMW offers 39.9 inches of headroom. The legroom space offered by the Escalade is 41.7 inches, 41.9 inches by the GLS, and 37.6 inches by the X7. The shoulder room measures 64.6 inches, 58.5 inches, and 58.1 inches on the Escalade, GLS, and the X7 respectively.

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980396

The third-row space follows the same pattern, too. The headroom measures 38.2 inches, legroom 34.9 inches, shoulder room, 62.7 inches, and hip room 49.4 inches on the Escalade. The GLS and the X7 come with 38.9- and 36.6 inches of headroom, 34.6- and 33.3 inches of legroom, and 50.3- and 47.9 inches of shoulder room.

2021 Cadillac Escalade vs competition interior dimensions
1st Row Headroom 42.3 39.4 41.9
1st Row Leg Room 44.5 40.3 39.8
1st Row Shoulder Room 65.5 59.3 60
1st Row Hip Room 61.7 NA NA
2nd Row Headroom 38.9 40.2 39.9
2nd Row Leg Room 41.7 41.9 37.6
2nd Row Shoulder Room 64.6 58.5 58.1
2nd Row Hip Room 61.2 NA NA
3rd Row Headroom 38.2 38.9 36.6
3rd Row Leg Room 34.9 34.6 33.3
3rd Row Shoulder Room 62.7 50.3 47.9
3rd Row Hip Room 49.4 NA NA

How Much Cargo Space Does The Escalade Offer?

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980404

If cargo space is your priority, Escalade has to be your pick eyes closed. The SUV offers 25.5 cubic feet of space, which is almost eight cubic feet more than the GLS’ 17.4, and almost double the X7’s 12.8 cubic feet of space. Flip the third row and you have 63 cubic feet in the Escalade, 42.7 cubic feet in the GLS, and 48.6 cubic feet of space available in the X7. Fold the second row as well and you have a massive 109.1 cubic feet of space in the Escalade, 84.7 cubic feet on the GLS, and 90.4 cubic feet in the X7 available at your disposal.

Cadillac Escalade Technology

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980411

The 2021 Escalade is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors when it comes to tech features. The fifth-gen Escalade’s biggest talking point before its launch was the curved OLED screen on the dash. It measures 38 inches and is basically three different screens conjoined in one. On the extreme left is a 7.2-inch screen, then there’s a 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster, and finally, there’s the massive 16.9-inch infotainment system. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The infotainment system can also be controlled using a rotary knob like in the XT-6.

The Cadillac SUV can be had with Augmented Reality Navigation, similar to one seen we’ve seen on the Mercedes vehicles. A 360-degree camera is also present, but it isn’t the best one out there. The front camera is night vision and relays the feedback in the center part of the OLED screen. Even the inside rearview mirror is a screen and not a conventional mirror.

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980399

Apart from this, the higher models come with an AKG Audio system with 36 speakers! It’s like GM has stuffed one in every nook and cranny of the SUV. Even headrests have speakers in them. The Escalade also comes with Super Cruise, GM’s autonomous technology. It features and changing functionality, wherein you just have to tap the indicator stalk and the SUV will do the rest. GM says the system now covers over 200,000 miles of road data across North America for an improved experience.

Cadillac Escalade Pricing

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980409

The 2021 Escalade is offered in five trims and this is how it is priced:

  • Luxury - $77,890
  • Premium Luxury - $84,890
  • Sport - $87,590
  • Premium Luxury Platinum - $102,290
  • Sport Platinum - $102,290

The top two prices are not a typo; they’re both priced the same. These are the starting prices for a two-wheel-drive model. The four-wheel-drive models are priced at a premium of $3,000 for all the trims.

Is The Cadillac Escalade Better Than The Mercedes GLS?

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The GLS is big, imposing, and butch whichever angle you view it from. It doesn’t have a very sharp or bold design, but it demands attention on the road. Being a luxury brand, you don’t see any sub-par material anywhere inside or on the outside. It features a long screen behind the steering wheel, 12.3 inches of which acts as the digital instrument cluster, and the same size on the right of it as a touchscreen infotainment system powered by the MBUX software.

It is offered with two engine options – a 3.0-liter, six-cylinder turbocharged mill that churns out 362 ponies and 369 pound-feet of torque, and a 4.0-liter, V-8 bi-turbo engine that milks 483 horses and 516 pound-feet of twist. All the oomph hits the ground via a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox in both cases. The V-8 takes just 5.2 seconds from 0-60 mph, whereas the six-pot mill is 0.7 seconds slower. The GLS starts at $76,000, but with the bigger engine and options, it goes north of $100,000 in no time.

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Cadillac Escalade vs Mercedes GLS
Cadillac Escalade Mercedes GLS
Engine 6.2-liter V-8 4.0L V8 Biturbo with EQ Boost
Fuel Premium Premium
Horsepower 420 @ 5600 483 @ 5,500 – 6,100
Torque 460 @ 4100 516 @ 1,600 – 4,000
Transmission 10-speed automatic 9G-TRONIC 9-speed Automatic
Drive 4WD AWD
Towing Capacity 7500 7700
Fuel Economy 14/19/16 16/21/18
Curb Weight 5,822 Lbs 5,699 LBS
Fuel Capacity 28.3 23.8
0-60 mph (seconds) 5.25 seconds 5.2 seconds
Top Speed (mph) 130 mph 130 mph

Read our full review on the Mercedes GLS

Is The Cadillac Escalade Better Than The BMW X7?

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This big-grilled offering from BMW is, well, bold. Offered in 10 different shades, you can’t avoid it on the roads. It is filled to the brim in terms of features with stuff like four-zone automatic climate control, three-stage heated front seats, heated armrests, etc. The touchscreen system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and there’s a 10-speaker audio system on offer, too.

But, all the action lies under the hood. It comes with two engine options – a 3.0-liter, inline-six-cylinder twin-turbo mill that makes 335 horses and 331 pound-feet of torque, and a 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 engine that produces 523 ponies and 553 pound-feet of twist. Power is sent to all the wheels via an eight-speed auto gearbox in both cases. The V-8 takes just 4.5 seconds to sprint to 60 mph from rest, while the six-pot engine takes 5.8 seconds. The BMW X7 undercuts the Mercedes GLS and starts at $74,900.

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Cadillac Escalade vs BMW X7
Cadillac Escalade BMW X7
Engine 6.2-liter V-8 4.4-liter V-8
Fuel Premium Premium
Horsepower 420 @ 5600 523 @ 5500
Torque 460 @ 4100 553 @ 1800
Transmission 10-speed automatic 8-speed Sport Automatic
Drive 4WD AWD
Towing Capacity 7500 5950
Fuel Economy 14/19/16 15/21/17
Curb Weight 5,822 Lbs 5,661 Lbs
Fuel Capacity 28.3 21.9
0-60 mph (seconds) 5.25 seconds 4.5 seconds
Top Speed (mph) 130 mph 130 mph

Read our full review on the BMW X7

Cadillac Escalade Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Interior
- image 980393
  • HD Surround Vision
  • Front Pedestrian Braking
  • Rear Pedestrian Alert
  • Automatic Emergency Braking
  • Rear Camera Mirror
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone
  • Lake Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
  • Automatic Seat Belt Tightening

Cadillac Escalade Warranty

2021 Cadillac Escalade - Driven Exterior
- image 980370

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade comes with a 4-year/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper warranty, and a 6-year/70,000 miles Powertrain limited warranty and roadside assistance program.

  • Leave it
    • Not the most efficient engines
    • The Tahoe and the Suburban are equally competent
    • Six-digit starting price on a couple of trims

Source: Photo Credit: Phil Daix

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read full bio
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