2021 Cadillac Escalade

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$76,195

starting MSRP

2021 Cadillac Escalade
2021 Cadillac Escalade

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Eye-popping standard digital dashboard
  • Comfortable in any row
  • Powerful, quiet engine performance
  • Smooth but not floaty ride quality
  • Slick, responsive multimedia system
  • Up to 10 inches more third-row legroom than 2020

The bad:

  • Headache-inducing price tag
  • Options make it even more expensive
  • Powertrains shared with Chevrolet and GMC
  • Massive size tempers athletic handling7- or 8-seat full-size luxury SUV

6 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2021 Cadillac Escalade trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Seven- or right-seat full-size luxury SUV
  • Gasoline V-8 or turbo-diesel I-6 engines
  • 10-speed automatic transmission, rear- or four-wheel drive
  • Revised multimedia system
  • Available 36-speaker AKG premium audio
  • Available Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving (late availability)

2021 Cadillac Escalade review: Our expert's take

By Aaron Bragman

The verdict: The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is a technological showcase, a coddling limousine and a worthy claimant of the flagship American luxury vehicle title.

Versus the competition: The new Escalade easily challenges the Lincoln Navigator for American luxury supremacy, and it even provides a legitimately refined, technologically advanced rival for BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz.

Behold, ladies and gentlemen, the absolute pinnacle of the modern American luxury vehicle: the all-new 2021 Cadillac Escalade. Gone is the garish, cringeworthy styling, the oversized features, the questionable chrome. Gone are the cheap plastics, the laughable switches and the cramped third row. In its place, we have style. Poise. Actual honest-to-God refinement. Technology and power and equipment that makes the Escalade a fully competitive, modern luxury vehicle. At first glance, it seems the Cadillac team has reinvented the Escalade, leaving behind the rebodied badge job of past models and creating something fresh and impressive. But have they? Or is this new Escalade’s beauty only skin deep?

Related: 2021 Cadillac Escalade: Very Good, But Good Enough?

Newfound Style, Outside and In

The new ’21 Escalade is the last of GM’s three big SUVs to get a redesign, joining the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon, sitting on an all-new platform that’s bigger in almost every dimension, inside and out. The Escalade has received all-new styling to go with it, and it’s a refreshingly clean and modern take on what traditionally has been something of a garish hot mess. Yes, there’s still plenty of chrome on the new Escalade, especially on the top-of-the-line Platinum trim, but it’s been added in tasteful strips and accents, not slathered on in sheets. And if you’d rather not have any chrome, you can opt for the blacked-out Sport trim, which brings a truly menacing, murdered-out look to the Escalade. The front end swaps the old Escalade’s vertical headlight orientation for a more horizontal look, making it seem wider and lower. Out back, the signature super-tall, slim LED taillights carry over from the old model, stretching up from the bumper to the roof. The overall look is fully in keeping with the latest Cadillac design aesthetic, which has taken most of its inspiration from the 2016 Cadillac Escala concept car. It looked good on that concept and it looks good here, too.

Inside is where the new Escalade really sets itself apart from the old one and makes you start to wonder if Cadillac has finally produced a luxury SUV that can be compared with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover without a bunch of “yeah, buts.” The centerpiece of the cabin is the massive new curved organic light-emitting diode touchscreen and gauge display that extends from in front of the driver to mid-dashboard. It’s 38 inches (diagonally) of some of the clearest, sharpest digital display I’ve ever experienced regardless of venue — automotive, personal electronics, flatscreen TV, anything. It’s not just that the icons are big, but they’re easy to read and pop off the impossibly deep-black background even in bright, direct sunlight.

On your left is a digital touch panel that controls aspects of the trip computer, head-up display and central gauge cluster. The instrument-panel area is reconfigurable to show traditional gauges, a full-width navigation map, an optional night-vision display or a new augmented reality camera navigation system that overlays virtual signs and prompts over a live view forward. It’s all easy to use, positioned high enough not to be distracting, and low enough not to block your view outward. The screen to your right is a full multimedia touchscreen that allows a level of control and customization to the Escalade that is new to the brand, and it finally delivers on the promise of a unique, Cadillac-oriented multimedia system to set it apart from GM’s lesser brands. Simply put, the display technology in the Escalade goes a long way toward justifying the price premium the Escalade commands over a loaded GMC Yukon Denali. It is gorgeous, remarkable and beautifully executed.

The rest of the interior is finally representative of a proper luxury SUV. High-quality leather wraps the seats, dash, doors, even that curved digital display. But it’s not all touch-sensitive panels; Cadillac tried that route already and understands now that luxury is conveyed through precision mechanical movement of switches and buttons, not just nice-to-touch but immobile materials. The climate control display panel looks and feels as good as anything you’d find in a Mercedes-Benz, which I personally hold up as today’s benchmark for a luxury interior.

The stunning technology extends to the audio system, as well, with a standard 19-speaker AKG Studio audio system or what this model has — the optional 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference premium audio system. Yes, that’s right: 36 speakers. They’re everywhere. The roof, the pillars, the doors, the cargo area, even in the head restraints just inches from your ears. It sounds amazing — easily a rival for the equally stellar top Revel system that you’ll find in the latest Lincoln Navigator. And it sounds amazing from every seat in the Escalade, even in the surprisingly comfortable third row.

There’s a bunch of other impressive technology, too, like an electronic conversation aid that broadcasts people’s voices using microphones and the Escalade’s speakers, and illuminated USB ports at every seat. Eventually, Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system will return to the showroom in the Escalade (it wasn’t quite ready at the time of our test drive). And it’s not just the technology that’s impressive: The extra 10 inches of legroom for the third row and sliding second-row seats mean there isn’t an uncomfortable seat anywhere. Between the massive influx of flagship technology and the vastly improved interior packaging and comfort, Cadillac’s starting to back up the Escalade’s lofty price with some true justification.

The Engine Is Irrelevant

The driving experience only reinforces that idea. To start, all Escalades will be powered by a standard 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 that’s the top optional engine in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon (a turbo-diesel 3.0-liter six-cylinder is a no-cost option). Rear-wheel drive is standard; four-wheel drive is optional. The big V-8 comes mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, and it’s silky smooth in its always-ready power delivery. The transmission is perfectly tuned to this engine, never hunting for a gear, always ready to launch the Escalade without drama or fuss. It’s kind of a shame that there’s no more power here than you’ll find in the Chevy, but honestly, the changes to the Escalade have largely made what’s under the hood … sort of unimportant.

The idea seems to be that the engine shouldn’t matter much if you can’t hear or see it, and as long as there are no complaints about its performance, why give it more power just to give it more power? Cadillac is counting on buyers not really giving the engine much attention — between the noise cancellation efforts, the astonishingly quiet cabin’s lack of wind or road noise, and the whisper quiet exhaust when cruising along at highway speeds, the engine just isn’t what you focus on when driving the Escalade.

Instead, the new Escalade’s luxuriously serene, silent cruising operation makes piloting this massive land yacht an experience in nostalgic American luxury. Driving the Escalade is effortless, relaxing and coddling in ways that luxury cars haven’t felt in years. The ride quality is exceptional thanks to an air suspension and GM’s magical Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers, and while you’ll feel some of the road’s surface imperfections transmitted into the cabin because of the enormous wheels, they’re by no means going to disturb your zen. The steering is nicely weighted, not floaty, and the body control is flat in corners. You’re not going to attack a twisty stretch of road with gusto in this Escalade — it’s much too heavy and isolating for that — but neither are you going to make yourself or your passengers sick when transitioning from your home high in the Hollywood hills down to lunch with your agent in Malibu. The Escalade feels well controlled and just nimble enough to further feed that sensation of effortless, luxurious serenity that Cadillac engineers have successfully created.

It’s Still Expensive but Finally Feels Worth It

None of this newfound serenity and sophistication comes cheap in the Escalade. The entry price for a base model Escalade Luxury trim is $77,490 (prices include destination), but if you start ticking the options off with a heavy finger, you’ll quickly arrive at this Platinum 4WD’s as-tested price of $109,965. That’s not even where it tops out; choose a long-wheelbase Escalade ESV Platinum 4WD with every possible option and your new flagship Cadillac SUV will easily top $122,000.

I drove the new 2021 GMC Yukon Denali a few weeks prior to driving this latest Escalade and came away mightily impressed with the GMC. I said then that Cadillac had better come up with something truly dynamite to justify the extra cost of the Escalade over the already high price of the outstanding Yukon Denali. After experiencing what Cadillac has created in the new Escalade — an exceptionally refined, technology-packed, outstanding American flagship luxury vehicle — I can finally, finally say that the Escalade feels like it’s worth the kind of money Cadillac wants you to pay for one.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron Bragman

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 3.5
  • Interior design 4.1
  • Performance 2.6
  • Value for the money 2.2
  • Exterior styling 3.8
  • Reliability 2.1

Most recent consumer reviews

2.7

2021 Escalade issues

Was so excited to get the newly designed 2021 Escalade. Just over 4000 miles and that engine knocking sound that everyone seems to be having issues with happens to me. Took to local dealership. First issue, no courtesy cars available. One of the perks suppose to be able to rely on when the vehicle goes into service. Disappointed!!! After about a week, they say replacing a bank of lifters. Another week goes by, lifter bank replaced, but the knocking noise still there. Another week goes by… We are at week 3 of them having my truck. Now they are replacing entire engine. Finally a courtesy car available. Not thrilled with the courtesy car though. Not close to comparison to my Escalade. Will be another week before new engine here. Say it is coming from Michigan? Not thrilled at all about having to get the engine replaced at 4000 miles. When I pay over 100K for a vehicle, sure don’t expect these kind of issues so soon. And when I ask to get something out of my truck, go into shop and it is sitting in there with windows down? Why? Not happy at all about that either. Have been a loyal Cadillac customer since 2002. Very disappointed this time for sure!!!

2.9

Not the best redesign

The biggest disappointment in this car as a short woman would be the lack of adjustable pedals. It was very uncomfortable to drive right on top of the steering wheel, but I had no choice as that was the only way to reach the accelerator. This impacted my feeling of safety as I do not wish to have my face mauled by the airbag should it go off. It is a family car, thank goodness not my personal vehicle, and because of this feature missing alone I will stick to Ford and Lincoln for my SUV choices. The door handles seem very sleek and cool but I can easily see how they will break as people will try to pull on them like a normal vehicle. The ride is not nearly as smooth as I would expect of a luxury car either, Lincoln Navigator still has the Cadillac Escalade beat, by far, in my opinion. The only thing I liked better about the Escalade versus the Navigator are the lack of contouring in the seats, as those can be uncomfortable and force a person to slouch.

2.1

Very bad experience

Less then 3000 miles and the car broke down on the highway with wife and children. Wife will never drive again. We have had 4 Escalades and this one is terrible. Sad we were loyal customers.

See all 19 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Cadillac
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
48 months/50,000 miles
Corrosion
48 months/50,000 miles
Powertrain
72 months/70,000 miles
Roadside assistance
72 months/70,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 years/less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
New: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper; CPO: One year/unlimited miles bumper-to-bumper
Powertrain
6 years/100,000 miles (2012-2017 models)
Dealer certification required
172-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

2021

GMC Yukon

$51,000

starting MSRP

2021

Lincoln Navigator

$76,705

starting MSRP

2022

Cadillac Escalade ESV

$80,795

starting MSRP

See all 2021 Cadillac Escalade articles