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2020 Cadillac Escalade Review

For Escalade fans, the fact virtually nothing is changed for the 2020 Cadillac Escalade should be reassuring. Even pricing remains at 2019 levels. Don’t, however, think the 2020 story is over. A fifth-generation Escalade is in the works and is expected to hit showrooms later in 2020 as a 2021 model.

Escalade is as much about its honking-big size and beefy looks as it is about its utility. There is even the longer-wheelbase ESV version to add to this monster’s length. To its looks Cadillac adds a gutsy V8 and a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension. The ride is relatively smooth and the handling surprisingly solid.

On the negative side, though, are a barely usable third-row seat and an extremely high-loading height. Escalade does have competitors easier to live with, such as the Lincoln Navigator. Although there aren’t a huge number of Escalade alternatives, there are some. They are worth a look-see.

What’s New for 2020?

Cadillac made no notable changes to Escalade for 2020. See the 2020 Cadillac Escalade models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Brawny styling
  • Muscular V8
  • Strong towing capacity
  • Abundant standard feature content

What We Don’t

  • Barely usable third-row seat in regular model
  • Extremely high load height
  • Thirsty engine
  • Relatively cumbersome driving experience
  • Interior is no match for those of some similarly priced competitors

How Much?

$76,490-$96,590

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Cadillac Escalade is offered with only one engine, a 6.2-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a standard 10-speed automatic and it returns 14 miles per gallon in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in combined driving with rear-wheel drive.

Those numbers are the same with optional 4-wheel drive, apart from a 21 mpg hwy estimate. There are no fuel economy estimates for the Escalade ESV due to its extra weight and heavy-duty truck classification but no doubt they would be lower.

Standard Features & Options

The Escalade comes in two body styles, a regular-length model simply called the Escalade and a long-wheelbase version dubbed the Escalade ESV. Both are available in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum. Prices basically remain the same from 2019 and include the $1,295 factory destination charge.

The Escalade base trim ($76,490 regular; $79,490 ESV) comes standard with 20-in wheels, a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, LED headlights, automatic wipers, power-folding mirrors, a hands-free power lift gate, side-assist steps, keyless start, parking sensors, a surround-view parking camera, a self-parking system, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated and cooled power front seats with driver-memory settings and power-adjustable pedals, heated second-row seats, a power-folding third-row seat, the 8-in CUE tech interface, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, five USB ports and a 16-speaker Bose audio system.

The Luxury trim ($82,090 regular; $85,090 ESV) adds 22-in wheels, adaptive headlights, a sunroof, power-adjustable second-row seats, Cadillac’s rear camera mirror and a variety of accident-avoidance technologies (forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and lane-departure warning as well as automatic braking and lane-keeping assist).

The Premium Luxury ($86,490 regular; $89,490 ESV) gains adaptive cruise control, an enhanced automatic braking system and a single-screen rear-seat entertainment system.

The Platinum ($93,590 regular; $96,590 ESV) adds power-retractable side steps, special styling elements inside and out, upgraded leather upholstery, more-adjustable front seats with massage function and a dual-screen rear entertainment system.

Safety

The 2020 Cadillac Escalade comes with a long list of standard safety features, including dual-front airbags, front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, traction control, stability control, front and rear parking sensors, a self-parking system and a surround-view parking camera. Available safety features include forward-collision warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and lane-departure warning systems as well as automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, a collision-preparation system and the Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates in response to these various safety systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Escalade a 4-star overall crash score along with 4-star frontal, 5-star side and 3-star rollover scores. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested either Escalade model.

Behind the Wheel

The Escalade may have changed a lot over the years but the basic concept remains: big power, a muscular sound and a driving position that looks down on virtually every other vehicle on the road. If that rings your bell, the Escalade gets the job done. The interior is a vast improvement over that of prior models, which themselves were vast improvements over their predecessors. We’re impressed with how much tech and feature content is included but the Escalade still can’t touch similarly priced rivals such as the Land Rover Range Rover or the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class for overall quality. The new Lincoln Navigator arguably puts it to shame on the exterior styling front.

Its American rival also greatly outpaces the Escalade’s interior space, especially in the third row. Despite this huge Cadillac’s size, space back there is actually an issue, as the regular-wheelbase model’s aft-most seat is basically mounted to the floor with occupants’ knees shoved toward the roof and scarce room between it and row number two. That high floor also reduces cargo capacity and raises the load height uncomfortably. This is the result of the Escalade’s old-school rear suspension, something the Lincoln Navigator has moved on from. Even the longer Escalade ESV can’t match the Lincoln’s third-row comfort, though its cargo capacity is comparable.

On the road, the Escalade drives much as you’d expect: like a big, bulky truck. Now, at least, Cadillac’s impressive Magnetic Ride Control suspension system irons out some of the uncouth body motions and jiggling of GM‘s other full-size SUVs. The ride is much better. The Escalade may be quick thanks to its 420-hp V8 but it still can’t match the Navigator’s turbocharged V6 that pumps out 30 extra horses and 50 more lb-ft of torque.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Lincoln Navigator — Objectively, the new Navigator is just a superior full-size SUV compared to the Escalade. Performance, fuel economy and interior space are all considerably greater. Subjectively, its high-fashion interior blows away most competitors. It’s worth the attention it’s getting.

2020 GMC Yukon DenaliGMC‘s range-topping Yukon Denali is nearly mechanically identical to the Escalade. It also uses many of the same chrome accents and bold styling cues. If you can’t find an Escalade at the price you want, consider visiting your local GMC dealer to find out if they’ll give you a good deal on a Yukon Denali.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class — The GLS can’t match the Escalade’s towing capability or extended-length version but it boasts superior driving manners, more third-row space and better interior trappings, plus a price tag that isn’t actually that different from the big Cadillac’s.

Used Land Rover Range Rover — A new Range Rover’s starting price of around $86,000 may be comparable to the Escalade’s but it comes with considerably less standard equipment. As such, used models are worth a look if you’re interested in another luxury SUV offering a king-of-the-road driving experience.

Autotrader’s Advice

Keep it simple. The base-model Escalade is so incredibly well-equipped that all the upper trim levels seem a bit superfluous. Their elevated price tags also put them uncomfortably close to vehicles like the Range Rover and the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, which in turn make the Escalade seem like the antiquated truck behemoth it is. Find a Cadillac Escalade for sale

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