The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V may be the perfect Cadillac.
Not the best — don’t ask me to compare it to the pioneering engineering of Caddies from a century ago, trailblazing midcentury modern design statements, or the V-series sport sedans that helped restore the brand to relevance 20 years ago. Each era is unique. I can’t rank those any more than my father vs. grandfather vs. great-grandfather, but the Escalade-V is the embodiment of everything Cadillac should stand for: design, power, substance.
It’s an ideal prelude to the brand’s switch to electric power, which begins in earnest with the Lyriq SUV this summer and the ultra-luxury Celestiq coming later this year.
The Escalade-V drives a stake in the ground. Powerful, fast, luxurious, technically superlative, it’s a challenge to the next generation:
Hey, EVs. You think you’re good enough to be a Cadillac? Beat this.
Prices for the 2023 Escalade-V start at $141,195 for a short-wheelbase model. “Short” is a relative term, as it probably should be for all Cadillacs. The base model is still 211.9 inches long, with three rows of seats — space for adults in back — and a useful cargo compartment. The long-wheelbase model — called the Escalade-V ESV; can we discuss your naming system, Cadillac? — checks in at 226.9 inches long, with even more luggage room. ESV prices start at $151,195. All prices exclude $1,795 in destination charges.
Both models should be in dealerships late this summer.
A supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that produces 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque is standard. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and performance-tuned all-wheel drive. There’s no rear-drive model, perhaps because the pittance owners would save on fuel would be dwarfed by the price of replacing 22-inch rear tires that shredded themselves weekly trying to put that much power on the ground.
The Escalade-V competes with the biggest, most powerful and outrageous luxury SUVs, models like the Mercedes GLX AMG S 63 ($132,100, 603 hp, 627 pound-feet), BMW X7 Alpina ($141,300 , 612 hp, 590 pound-feet) or the Range Rover Autobiography P530 LWB — Cadillac isn’t the only one with a naming issue — ($159,600, 523 hp, 553 pound-feet).
I shouldn’t need to say this, but all three competitors are smaller than the Escalade ESV. Size, and with it lavish interior room and comfort, is to Cadillac what peanut butter is to a Reese’s cup.
What makes the Escalade-V special?
The Escalade-V is the most powerful full-size SUV on the market. Its supercharged 6.2L V8 is similar to the engine in Cadillac’s CT5-V Blackwing sedan, tuned to produce a few more horsepower and loaded with extra equipment for cooling, because propelling the Escalade like a sport sedan is hard work.
The engine accelerates a regular-wheelbase Escalade to 60 mph in less than 4.4 seconds, according to GM’s preliminary figures. That puts the 6,217-pound SUV in the same neighborhood as a Mustang GT. The bigger ESV is about a tenth of a second slower.
The engine is hand-built in GM’s Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant. Each V8 is signed by the person who built it.
Other equipment on the Escalade-V:
- Sport tuned air suspension and magnetic ride shocks
- Six-piston, red caliper Brembo brakes
- Quad exhaust pipes
- Active exhaust to modify sound and boost performance
- Larger supercharger
- A third electric fan for engine cooling
- Titanium intake valves
- 22-inch wheels
- “Mail slot” opening below main grille for more cooling
- V-series badges on the front doors and tailgate
2023 Cadillac-V prices and trim levels
Escalade-V ESV: $151,195
Super Cruise is a $2,500 option
Prices exclude $1,795 destination charge
I drove an Escalade in the suburbs and desert around Phoenix.
The engine produces 90% of peak torque from 2,000 rpm. Combined with a quick and precise 10-speed automatic transmission, the result is acceleration that takes your breath away.
The standard adaptive air suspension and magnetic ride shocks keep the Escalade-V stable and level in fast maneuvers and absorb bumps for a comfortable ride.
The latest generation of GM’s industry-leading Super Cruise hands-free highway driving assistant adds a welcome feature: the ability to pass slower vehicles and return to the Escalade’s original lane with no driver intervention. The system worked flawlessly for me on a stretch of mountainous state highway. In addition to executing passes and keeping the vehicle centered in its lane hands-free, the system adjusted speed to accommodate steep grades and sharp bends.
Well-tuned steering and the sophisticated suspension make the Escalade ESV feel like a smaller vehicle, at ease in traffic and easy to place in the right spot on country curves.
The controls are easy to use, including three curved OLED screens stretching 38 inches from the driver’s door to the middle of the SUV. Cadillac says the screens have twice as many pixels as a 4K TV, and it’s easy to believe that looking at the street view that’s part of the augmented reality navigation system, which superimposes arrows and other instructions over the landscape ahead.
Cadillac Escalade-V interior features
- Zebra wood
- Semianiline leather
- 36-speaker AKG audio
- Navigation with augmented reality
- High-res screens for instruments, controls and infotainment
- Heated, ventilated and massaging front seats
The V’s active exhaust delivers a throaty, satisfying growl when you accelerate hard, but keeps the cabin commendably quiet in steady state driving. A stealth mode hushes the exhaust so early morning departures won’t wake the neighbors.
A V-mode button on the center console activates launch control for jack rabbit starts and modifies:
- Throttle response
2023 Cadillac Escalade-V at a glance
Base price: $148,195 (all prices exclude $1,795 destination charge)
All-wheel-drive large luxury SUV
On sale late summer 2023
Specifications as tested
Model tested: Escalade-V ESV
Price as tested: $153,695
Engine: 6.2L supercharged V8
Output: 682 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 653 pound-feet of torque @ 4,400
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy estimate: TBA
EPA estimated annual fuel cost: TBA
0-60 time: Under 4.5 seconds (est.) (short wheelbase under 4.4)
Wheelbase: 134.1 inches, (SWB 120.9)
Length: 211.9 inches (SWB 226.9)
Width: 81.1 inches
Height: 76.7 inches (SWB 76.4)
EPA passenger volume: ESV 170.4 cubic feet (SWB 168.4)
Cargo volume: ESV – 41.5 cubic feet behind rear seat; 94.1 behind second row; 142.8 behind front seat (SWB 25.5/72.9/121.0)
Curb weight: ESV 6,407 pounds (SWB 6,217).
Payload: ESV 1,330 pounds (SWB 1,140)
Towing capacity: 7,000 pounds
Assembled in Arlington, Texas