Good lord, Cadillac!

Long-considered the standard-bearer in the large luxury SUV segment, the Cadillac Escalade has yet to return to its once-lofty position, in part because of all the competitors that have arrived, taking a lot of the SUV’s shine in the process.

Cadillac’s understanding of the Escalade’s precarious position in its segment spurred the automaker to go all-in on the fifth-generation model. If Caddy wants the Escalade to return to its place at the cabisera of the full-size luxury SUV dinner table, nothing short of an ambitious offering would suffice.

Well, that offering has arrived. The fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade made a stunning arrival in Los Angeles with an all-new look, new engine options, and a cavernous interior that also happens to be packed with an incredible array of tech and entertainment features. If the fifth-generation Escalade’s debut is anything to go by, Cadillac’s swing-for-the-fences move may have just paid off.

A New Face... Finally

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There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m not even sure where to start. I suppose beginning with the visuals is a good idea, so let’s do that.

The all-new, 2021 Cadillac Escalade boasts a new front fascia that’s dominated by a huge front grille and a new headlight setup that aesthetically blends well with the aforementioned grille.

Chrome trim running from the bottom of the headlights and down into the lower end of the front grille adds a nice premium touch to the SUV’s design. The vertical LEDs running along the sides are signature Caddy lights, as are the vertical taillights at the back. The 22-inch wheels also come as standard.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Exterior
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Overall the all-new Escalade looks every bit the part of a monolithic luxury SUV.

Part of its stature and identity eschews sexy styling in favor of massive girth, and that’s fine. Large SUVs are supposed to be big, and they’re supposed to look like mountains on four wheels.

The 2021 Escalade just happens to have a fresh and appealing face that, by the way, is a welcome change after the fourth-generation Escalade looked more like an evolved version of the third-gen model.

Decent Power for its Size

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Exterior
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A vehicle as big and as massive as the Cadillac Escalade will need an engine — or engines — that can power this luxury rig without coughing up a lung. For this particular job, the General is offering two engines for the all-new Escalade.

The first is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six engine that produces 277 horsepower and an impressive 460 pound-feet of torque.

If gas consumption isn’t an issue, GM’s new 6.2-liter V-8 engine is actually the standard choice. It’s equipped with a host of tech features, including variable timing, stop/start, and Dynamic Fuel Management. Most importantly, the V-8 produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque.

2021 Cadillac Escalade drivetrain specifications
Engine 6.2L V-8 VVT DI with Dynamic Fuel Management and Stop/Start Duramax 3.0L DOHC I-6 Turbo-Diesel
Bore & Stroke (in / mm): 4.06 x 3.62 / 103.25 x 92 3.30 x 3.54 / 84 x 90
Block & Cylinder Head Material: Cast aluminum Cast aluminum
Valvetrain: Overhead valve, two valves per cylinder, variable valve timing Dual-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder
Fuel Delivery: Direct high-pressure fuel injection with Dynamic Fuel Management High-pressure, common-rail direct injection (36,250 psi / 2500 bar); electronic throttle valve
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 420 / 313 @ 5600 (SAE certified) 277 / 207 @ 3750 (GM estimated)
Torque (lb-ft / Nm @ rpm): 460 / 623 @ 4100 (SAE certified) 460 / 623 @ 1500 (GM estimated)

Cadillac didn’t mention performance numbers, and they’re not really as relevant as you’d think. The Escalade isn’t winning any drag races anytime soon. The important thing is that both engine options are matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission that sends all that power to the two rear wheels with four-wheel drive capability available as an option.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Exterior
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Caddy's Super Cruise system, which initially started as a CT6-only feature, is set to become available on all of Caddy’s models, including the all-new Escalade. This is an important feature of an SUV that’s already loaded with the latest tech features.

Even better, the Escalade benefits from an enhanced version of the tech that comes with a handful of new features and improvements, including automated lane change. All you need to do is use the turn signal to indicate the direction you want to go to and the Super Cruise system takes over, performing a single-lane change by itself. Not too bad for an advanced driver assistance system that was only introduced in 2017.

Interior Space for the New Age

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Interior
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The fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade looks fresh and modern. It’s also powered by two intriguing engine options. The inclusion of the Super Cruise system is a welcome bonus, too. And yet, if we’re really going to talk about the Escalade, the most important section of the luxury rig is the interior.

And for what it’s worth, holy cow, the Escalade’s interior is something to behold. For an interior that has way too many things to talk about, I suppose we can start with the headliner. No, I don’t mean the Escalade’s literal headliner; I’m talking about the figurative one, the one that has everyone abuzz.

How do 38 inches of diagonal digital display space sound to you? Cadillac’s digital display setup is on the right side of insane. Mind you, we’re not just talking about a single screen; we’re talking about three screens that are layered one in front of the other and stretching from the far left side of the dashboard to nearly in front of the passenger.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Interior
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The 7.2-inch touchscreen left of the steering wheel is the driver information center. Behind the steering wheel is a 14.2-inch display that houses all instruments and other vital driving information. Then there’s the massive 16.9-inch infotainment screen that’s literally as big as most laptop screens.

There’s an overwhelming feeling when you see the entire setup, especially when they’re all turned on. The totality of it makes Mercedes’ MBUX display look like child’s play. I can’t stress that hard enough.

Even more incredible is that all three displays use OLED technology, which provides twice the pixel density of a 4K television. In terms of display clarity, no vehicles can boast the kind of crispness that the Escalade’s digital screen setup provides. There’s a reason for that: nobody has ever used OLED technology on their displays.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Interior
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Notice how the entire setup curves, too? This is Cadillac — and General Motors — flaunting its tech like never before. And yes, the setup comes standard across all versions of the Escalade. If this is what a chest-puffing, muscle-flexing Escalade looks like, then consider us impressed, even if everything else about the SUV’s interior leaves a lot to be desired.

Here’s the thing, though. The 38-inch digital display setup is just the beginning. As visually stunning as that display setup is, Cadillac also has a treat for our ears in the form of an AKG sound system that boasts 19 speakers. That’s more speakers than most of us probably need but this is the Escalade we’re talking about. There’s no such thing as excess when it comes to this rolling monolith.

The speaker setup includes a large enclosed subwoofer, powered by a 14-channel amplifier. If for some reason 19 speakers aren’t enough, Cadillac and AKG created an optional sound system that can adjust volume settings independently in the front and rear as well as sync with the navigation system to provide audio prompts.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Interior
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Oh, the sound system also boasts an eardrum-popping 36 speakers powered by three amplifiers that deliver 28 channels. Don’t ask us where Cadillac found the space to install 36 speakers inside the Escalade. We’re just as numb at the thought of all those speakers going full blast at the same time.

Speaking of space, give proper thanks to the Escalade’s new chassis, which is directly responsible for the 40 percent increase in third-row legroom space and, just as important, the 68 percent increase in max cargo space behind the third-row seats.
The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Interior
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All told, the Escalade boasts 25.5 cubic feet of cargo room for the standard-issue model and a staggering 42.9 cubic feet of cargo room for the ESV variant.

Final Thoughts

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Is Like a Rolling Man Cave That Can Drive Itself Exterior
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With so many new car releases happening these days, it has become more difficult to be completely wowed by what’s being presented to you. There are some parts about the all-new, fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade that didn’t make us jump out of our seats. But the Escalade’s interior did the trick.

It’s one thing to glean the SUV’s cabin from a computer screen, but to see it up close should be an experience unlike anything we’re going to feel in a long time. I’ve never been as excited with an SUV’s interior as I am with the Escalade’s. Here’s to hoping that this excitement carries over to when I see the SUV up close for the first time.

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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