2021 Cadillac Escalade Interior, Exterior and Drive – Legendary SUV. We’ve reached the final debut for GM’s new generation of brawny, full-size SUVs. Whether or not the best was saved for last will depend on our first-drive impression coming later this year, but we suspect Cadillac executives would be keen to say as much. The new Escalade made a ritzy debut in Los Angeles – arguably the luxury SUV’s home turf where it casually serves a cavalcade of celebrities, musicians, and well-to-do individuals of numerous industries as a luxurious-yet-anonymous transport.
Let’s focus on that luxury part for a moment, because it’s where the Escalade steps into a completely different realm from even the highest-spec GMC Yukon. As promised, the Caddy has its own interior that features over 38 inches of diagonal digital display space on the dash. It’s not a single screen, but rather, three screens that span from the far left of the dash to nearly in front of the passenger.
A 7.2-inch touch screen left of the steering wheel is the driver information center. Behind the wheel is a 14.2-inch display for instruments and other vital driving information. Moving to the right is the big 16.9-inch infotainment screen. All utilize OLED technology with twice the pixel density of a 4K television that Cadillac says is an industry first for clarity as well as curvature of the screens. And yes, it’s standard-issue for all Escalade models.
The tech definitely doesn’t stop there. The Escalade features navigation enhanced with augmented reality similar to what’s available on some Mercedes-Benz models, using cameras to display real-time images of streets on the screen with various directional overlays to show the driver exactly where to go. The Escalade is actually packed with cameras for the back, sides, and front, and it can produce a two-megapixel “surround vision” birds-eye view outside the SUV. There are more displays, too – rear-seat passengers get a new entertainment system with a pair of 12.6-inch screens that can connect with the on-board systems or various media through HDMI and USB connections.
Super Cruise also comes to the Escalade for the first time, new and improved with over 200,000 miles of compatible highways where hands-free operation is available. That’s all monitored by LiDAR data, GPS, cameras, and radar systems, and it also allows the Escalade to execute a hands-free lane change by engaging the turn signal. A driver attention system monitors the person behind the wheel very closely, kicking in with alerts when the Escalade determines more involvement is needed.
If the new Escalade is impressive from a visual and technological perspective, the automaker worked with AKG to create an optional 36-speaker sound system that Cadillac also says is an industry-first. It’s powered by three amplifiers to create sound in 28 channels, and it’s not just used for pumping up the bass. It can adjust volume settings independently in the front and rear, and it can also work with the navigation system to provide direction-specific audio prompts. If you’re approaching a left turn, you’ll hear the prompt just on the left side. If all this is overwhelming, the Escalade’s standard-issue AKG sound system only has 19 speakers.
Speaking of hearing, embedded microphones in the Escalade’s cabin can pick up voices and pump them through the sound system, helping passengers at opposite ends of the Caddy’s greenhouse hear each other.
And that greenhouse is bigger than ever. The switch to the new chassis with independent rear suspension gives the Escalade the same size bump as found with the Suburban and Yukon. For Cadillac, that means 40 percent more third-row legroom (34.9 inches) and 68 percent more cargo space (25.5 cubic feet) behind the back row. Those stats are for the standard-length Escalade – the extended ESV bumps rear cargo space to 42.9 cubic feet and legroom to 36.6 inches.
Styling is obviously Caddy specific with the big grille and thin headlights up front. At the rear you’ll find Cadillac’s trademark thin vertical taillights, and 22-inch wheels are standard for all trim levels. Under the hood are two engine choices – GM’s 6.2-liter V8 producing 420 horsepower (313 kilowatts) or in an Escalade-first, you can get the new 3.0-liter I6 turbodiesel good for 277 hp (207 kW) and a mountain of torque that equals the bigger V8. Both engines use the same 10-speed auto found on the Suburban and Yukon, as well as the same rear-wheel-drive powertrain with standard four-wheel-drive capability.
Cadillac says the 2021 Escalade is coming this summer, but a specific on-sale date hasn’t been announced. Pricing will also be announced closer to that on-sale date.
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