GM's big bruiser of an SUV offers huge performance with tons of luxury appointments which should make it the most appealing model in an admittedly small segment.
Cadillac’s Escalade might not have created the luxury full-size SUV segment (that was the Lincoln Navigator), but it definitely defined it and continues to do so, some 24 years after its introduction. Now, Cadillac seeks to take that a step further by creating its vision of the ultimate performance luxury full-size SUV with the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V, which it introduced on Wednesday.
By now, the V formula is fairly well-established. Take a current production model, throw the most powerful engine that’ll fit at it, and give it a mesh grille. That’s more or less what Cadillac has done here with a slightly tweaked version of the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine from the CT5-V Blackwing that, in this trim, produces a whopping 682 (GM-estimated) horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque.
That power is routed out through a specially calibrated 10-speed automatic gearbox and out to a full-time all-wheel drive system. The all-wheel drive system is tuned for performance, as expected, but won’t ever send all the power to the back axle. That makes sense, being that this is a full-size, 6,300-pound SUV with nearly 700 horsepower, and keeping it on the road with rear-wheel drive would likely require no small measure of talent behind the wheel.
As a $150,000 SUV, the interior had better be nice and based on what we’ve seen, it’s very nice indeed. Cadillac
Aside from the absolute crap-ton of power, what does going V get you? Quite a lot, actually. You also get bright red Brembo six-piston front brake calipers that clamp down onto 16.1-inch rotors. GM’s exceptionally good and very configurable Magneride suspension is present, as is a dynamic adaptive air suspension system for ride height adjustments on the fly. The V gets its own special 22-inch wheels with all-season tires (this seems like a weird choice, but when asked, GM doubled down on the Escalade V being an all-weather performance vehicle).
Aesthetically, all the usual V changes make an appearance. You get lots of blacked-out trim, the aforementioned mesh grille and a three-mode performance exhaust with four great big exhaust tips. The overall effect is muscular but not over the top, which suits the Escalade well. It was a handsome SUV to begin with, and we appreciate GM not going totally over the top with hyperaggressive styling. GM is also planning to offer the Escalade V as an extended-wheelbase ESV model.
The V’s interior is based on the Platinum Escalade, which means it gets all the best materials and tech that GM has to offer, including zebra wood trim with semi-aniline leather seating for all three rows as well as heated and ventilated and massaging front seats. There’s also a high-spec AKG audio system with a mind-boggling 36 speakers plus a massive 38-inch-wide OLED dash display. In short, it seems like a nice place to be.
Of all the tech you’ll get as standard on your Escalade V, GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driving assistant is the one notably absent feature (at least at delivery). This is a case of the ongoing global semiconductor shortage once again rearing its ugly head. Still, it seems like GM might be able to retroactively instate the system once parts become available, as we’re seeing with Ford and Lincoln’s BlueCruise.
So, if by this time you’re thinking that the Escalade V sounds pretty rad, you’re not alone. We’re very excited to get some time behind the wheel. That just leaves the elephant in the room, which is how much GM is charging for it, and friends, it’s a lot. The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V will start at a whopping $149,990, including an unspecified destination fee. That’s for the short-wheelbase model, though. Cadillac hasn’t said what the long-wheelbase ESV version will cost, but we expect it will ask somewhere around the $3,000 price premium the non-V ESV asks over the regular Escalade.
Even if you have the considerable pile of cash needed to get your hands on an Escalade V, putting one in your driveway might not be that simple. Cadillac has stated that the Escalade V will be a limited-production model, which isn’t terribly surprising. The catch is that it won’t divulge how limited it will be, saying only that “production will be limited to volume.” So, whether that means thousands or tens of thousands, we can’t say, but it gets more complicated still. Cadillac isn’t doing any kind of reservation program for the V, so if you want one, we suggest you start bugging your dealer before it goes on sale this summer.