I recently had the opportunity to drive a Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum thanks to Turo, which is a company that lets you rent cool cars instead of normal, boring rental cars. This is an Escalade in its highest trim level, in its extended-wheelbase body style — and the one I drove had all the options you can get. As Cadillac Escalades go, this is the mack daddy, and it came with a correspondingly high price tag: upward of $97,000.
Yes, that’s right: You can now spend a hundred grand on a Cadillac Escalade.
So, you might be wondering exactly what you get when you drop six figures on a Cadillac SUV. The answer is: a lot of good stuff, some unfortunate bad stuff and more leather and chrome than Sturgis in August.
I’ll start with the good stuff. Under the hood, the Escalade uses a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, which is a massive engine with massive numbers that propels the Escalade from 0 to 60 in something like six seconds. This is in spite of the fact that the Escalade weighs about as much as a container ship. About as much as a zeppelin. About as much as Connecticut. About as much as a fire station, complete with fire trucks, and at least one regulation Dalmatian. About as much as the Milky Way. About as much as the polar ice caps. (EDITOR’S NOTE: He’s broken. It weighs 5,985 pounds.)
The Escalade also has acres of interior space, which is important if you’re the kind of person who needs acres of interior space. When you drive this vehicle for the first time, you will have a moment when you glance into your mirror and you ask: Is that … all … ME?! I totaled up the square footage of the Escalade’s footprint, and it turns out the thing is 130 square feet of automobile — approximately half the size of the average hotel room in New York City. And you’re just driving it down the street!
Of course, it’s also loaded with just about all the modern luxury features you’d expect — and some you wouldn’t. For example: It has a refrigerated glovebox. It has cooled cupholders. The infotainment system hides its menu options until you reach for it, at which point it senses your hand and displays them (I’m serious). The volume adjustment is an addicting slider, instead of a boring, old-fashioned knob. There’s a button with a one-eyed child on it. There’s a button with a pool noodle on it. There’s a button to open the glovebox.
So you’ve got a big family, and you’ve got some money, and you’re starting to think: Maybe this is the vehicle for me. After all, it’s massive, it can carry anything and you can drop the rear seats with the push of a button, ensuring you never really need to do any work when you’re operating your Escalade, except possibly securing OVERSIZE LOAD signage for whenever you want to back up.
But there are some issues.
The biggest issue I’ve discovered is that the Escalade is still a Chevy Tahoe underneath — and if I’m honest, it still shows in too many places. The gear lever is the best example: while every other luxury SUV uses some gear lever that’s finely crafted, or hand-stitched, or aluminum-lined, or high-tech, the Escalade’s gear shifter is on the column, and it flops around to an embarrassing degree. Annoyingly, the Escalade also skips any modicum of second-row-seat cupholders, which are a nice item to have in a family SUV. It’s also disappointing that the Escalade doesn’t offer a panoramic sunroof, unlike every one of its competitors.
But all these concerns melt away when you get behind the wheel. You wanted a massive people-hauler with a huge engine, capable of carrying you around in a luxury cocoon? You got it. This thing is tremendously smooth, hilariously insulated from the road, and wildly comfortable. The steering is a bit vague, and ground clearance is surprisingly mediocre, but you sit higher than everyone else on the road, you feel more comforted and you can’t help but relax and enjoy the Escalade removing you from your environment. When you climb out of the Escalade, you’re almost disappointed that you’ve reached your destination, because few things in life can separate you from the normal, everyday commoners quite like a Cadillac Escalade.
So there are benefits and drawbacks to the Escalade, but my final conclusion is this: I would never buy one. Not today, not in a million years — and remember, this is coming from someone who drives a Range Rover every day. The Escalade is simply too big, too showy, too aggressively styled, too bulky, too … chrome. However, after driving this Escalade around Salt Lake City for a few days, I have to admit I’m starting to understand why people buy them: The days of Cadillacs with tail fins and grandiose styling and bright colors may be long gone — but in the modern era, this thing, with its massive headlights and taillights, its huge size and its excessive chrome — is about as close as you can get. Find a Cadillac Escalade for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.