The Cadillac Escalade has been the king of full-size luxury SUVs forever now. While the first generation might not have been a huge upgrade over it's Chevrolet brother, now in it's fourth generation the Escalade remains at the top of the pack when it comes to this segment for one main reason; presence. Over the decades vehicles like the Lexus LX, Infiniti QX80, Lincoln Navigator, and Range Rover have been eating away at the Escalade's dominance, but even when those vehicles offer more features and higher luxuries, the Escalade remains the top seller.
Normally we wouldn't have been interested in a vehicle like this, in fact we mentioned earlier last year during our Spotlight on our 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT that Cadillac was one of three manufacturers I personally would never buy, including Mazda and Volkswagen. Now a lot has changed for me over the last year, I've had the opportunity to drive many new vehicles, and a lot of which are cars I'd never have considered for myself, including this $109,735.00 2018 Cadillac Escalade Platinum. I'm not saying that I'm ready to finance a vehicle that costs 1/3 the price of my house, but I did clear my mind of any lingering biases before getting behind the wheel to drive it.
While the overall dimensions of the Escalade are identical to the Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon, the exterior design elements are unique to the Cadillac, such as the large crystal LED headlights up front and the roof to bumper brake lights out back. Cadillac doesn't use adaptive headlight technology for their vehicles, but still relies on independent cornering lights located along the bottom of the vehicle which turn on when the headlights are on and the steering wheel turns in either direction, or when you activate the turn signals. I personally like that Cadillac is sticking with this design element that has been found on their vehicles for decades.
The side running boards on this SUV are also automatic, which will lower into position when the doors are opened and close back up after the doors are closed. There's an override option to keep them open when the vehicle is running and in park to allow for easier cleaning, which really came in handy during our wintery week with this vehicle. Out back we find a hidden trailer hitch between the parking sensors, and a power lift gate that sports an independent glass opening, something we haven't seen on SUVs for quite some time now.
We did have some issues with the power lift gate though, and we haven't figured out the issue. It would not close automatically, and if we did manage to close it the trunk would open back up. We're assuming it was due to the freezing temperatures, as after we parked the vehicle in the heated garage overnight the issue went away.
Engine & Mechanical
This luxury SUV uses a 6.2L V8 engine producing 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, and also includes a cylinder deactivation system to help with fuel economy. During our real-world driving with this Escalade we averaged 13.7L/100km and very little time was spent in a V4 configuration. You can use the gauge cluster computer to display the trip and fuel economy which will also show a real-time engine status, whether it's running on 8 or 4 cylinders.
We found the engine to have plenty of power without ever requiring more to get onto the highway or pass other vehicles, and despite it's size we were rather impressed with the fuel consumption of it's 95L tank. The 10-speed automatic transmission certainly helps with that, however it does take a second or two for the right gear to be selected if you do kick down in order to pass other traffic.
The Escalade also comes with GM's magnetic ride suspension which really helped with cornering more than anything else. It helped reduce body roll helping to add to the smooth ride of this behemoth of a vehicle. We couldn't tell the difference in actual ride quality over a traditional suspension setup, but we do hope to have the opportunity to test the two types down the road side-by-side.
I'm going to spend a lot of time taking about the interior, because there's a lot going on for almost $110k CAD, but also because I found the interior to be the weakest point of this vehicle. First off this test model was fully loaded, featuring everything available on the Escalade. It was finished in beige leather, and as you can see from the photos almost every surface is the same beige. We mentioned in the Spotlight on this car that different coloured leather might help to enhance the interior feel of this car, perhaps a darker beige or light brown for the top of the dashboard to distinguish the different elements at play.
The front seats are where the action happens, and unfortunately where you'll be spending most of your time. I say unfortunately, because a lot of people buy these cars to be driven around in, but the front seats are the only ones that come fully loaded. You have heat, ventilation, and massage functionality. The heated option also heats the seat backs, rather than just the bottoms. There are also several massage profiles such as kneed and roll, along with an anti-fatigue setting for the driver. The seats are also quite large and comfortable, and offer plenty of adjustment option through the controls found on the doors, and configured through the infotainment system.
The centre console features a wireless charging pad in the arm rest which works with the iPhone 8 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note8, and LG V30, which were the 3 phones we tested with this car. My only issue with the location of the charging pad is access to the fridge underneath, you need to hold onto your device if you need to access below, but realistically there isn't anywhere else to place the wireless charing area.
The rest of the centre stack works out pretty well. At first I wasn't entirely sold on the infotainment setup, as the buttons look cheap at first glance and require you to use them differently since they aren't physical buttons, but rather touch sensitive like your phone. The heating controls can pop out to reveal a hidden compartment behind including a USB outlet, this would be perfect if you have a smaller older Android device that you want to connect to the vehicle's 4G LTE OnStar connection and use Android Auto without having to connect your own device each time.
That navigation screen also could use a bit of an update given the price of this vehicle. By the time I'm writing this we've driven 3 GM vehicles that all share the same infotainment system/software, and we've gotten used to it. The nav isn't the worst we've used, but we do feel the screen should be larger given the price tag of this vehicle. The screen is also angled up a bit too much and should be facing forward more than it is, but overall we liked the setup. The 360º camera system worked great, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay is a huge plus. I know it's not a GM issue, but we'd love to see Google and Apple figure out a way to make their services work over Bluetooth of Wifi, as right now the need to connect your device by USB makes that wireless charing pad relatively useless.
The gauge cluster's screen is quite good, with plenty of customization to suit your driving needs. Paired with GM's excellent colour heads-up display the driver almost never needs to take his or her eyes off the road. We found it very functional, allowing us to see all the data we wanted on either screen, such as music, fuel economy, range, or rev count.
Let's get back to my main concerns with this vehicle, and that's with the back seating area. First off, the absolute back seats in the trunk are functional. A friend of ours who's 6 foot 6 was able to sit in the back without issue, and he said it was comfortable. However unlike the Buick Enclave Avenir we featured earlier, the centre row seats do not move forward or back, but can be flipped up automatically from buttons in the trunk or at the bottom of the c-pillars. Those centre row seats also have very little movement options, and only come with heat on the bottom. We were expecting a vehicle that's targeted as a vehicle to be driven in, that the centre seats would offer more for passengers.
The lack of window sun shades was also a strange omission for us, something that we again had expected to find on a vehicle of this size and class. The centre row is definitely idea for kids though, since the rear entertainment system works well and can keep kids entertained on longer trips. We made excellent use of the DVD system in the back and have learned quite a bit about it. First off, there are 4 'Screens' in total in this vehicle. The main infotainment screen is considered Monitor 1 and can be used to watch movies when the vehicle is parked.
The BluRay® drive in the front operates the audio system for the entire car though, so if you want to watch a BD movie you will have to listen to the audio throughout the vehicle. Also, the centre screen in the back is the only other monitor for viewing BD movies and content, and the two DVD players found in either front headrest are independent from this entertainment system, but are linked together.
For example, someone on the left side with a DVD can watch a movie with their wireless headphones while someone on the right can watch a USB, their own movie, or an HDMI source through their own wireless headphones. Both left and right passengers can watch the same DVD or source from either monitor also, and there's an option for wired headphones to be plugged in on either side.
We did connect a Roku to the rear HDMI input and home outlet found in the centre console, however the centre screen and main infotainment monitor is not designed for this type of input. While the Roku menu rendered without issue, apps like Netflix and YouTube displayed 1/4 of the screen. The potential to use a device like this exists though, with the 4G LTE connection you could theoretically have an HDMI device connected to the rear entertainment system to be able to watch different content that isn't limited to disc or USB.
The Escalade is without a doubt the real king of the full-size SUV world. We had plenty of people staring at us as we drove along the highways or down the road. Other Cadillac drivers noticed us right away, but we had tonnes of reactions from other drivers as well. This vehicle is instantly recognizable and will continue to be dominant in this segment despite the list of issues we had with it. There really isn't anything else like it on the road, and while the competition like the Lincoln Navigator have strong offerings, buyers will continue to buy this vehicle based on the name itself.
Very few cars exist tohttps://youtu.be/x1aUvpkpIA0day that command such an instant brand recognition like the Escalade, and that will continue as far as we can predict. If you want to know more about the 2018 Cadillac Escalade Platinum, you can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight below: