Competes with: Mercedes-AMG G63, BMW Alpina XB7, Land Rover Range Rover SV
Looks like: An Escalade Sport Platinum with different wheels
Drivetrain: 682-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8; 10-speed automatic transmission; full-time all-wheel drive
Hit dealerships: Late summer 2022
For just a few moments, Cadillac would like you to forget everything it’s been saying for the last year or two regarding the brand’s push for electrified vehicles. Right now, Cadillac is a strange mix of two brands with two very different missions, with a little devil sitting on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The angel is pushing hard for a responsible, environmentally friendly, fully electric future with models like the new 2023 Lyriq SUV EV, while the devil keeps tempting buyers with a slew of late-to-the-party high-performance, gasoline-gulping cars like the stunningly good, fire-breathing CT5-V Blackwing sport sedan. The latest model to arrive in the Cadillac showroom is repping the indulgent, hedonistic side of the brand: the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V, the brand’s first-ever V-branded SUV and, according to Cadillac, the most powerful full-size performance SUV you can buy, period.
All About Power
The highlight of the new Escalade-V, and the SUV’s basic reason for existing, is under the hood where Cadillac has implanted a hand-assembled supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine very similar to what’s in the CT5-V Blackwing. Featuring some slightly different tuning for the SUV’s different airflow, it makes 682 horsepower and 653 pounds-feet of torque, and shunts it all through a 10-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. A limited slip differential is employed, but all-wheel drive is a full-time feature, with at least some torque always being applied to the front wheels, according to Cadillac.
The power should be good for an estimated 0-60 mph time of less than 4.4 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 12.7 seconds at 110 mph. Cadillac claims this is the most powerful full-size SUV you can buy, outdoing the 2022 Mercedes-AMG G63 (577 hp, 627 pounds-feet of torque), the 2022 BMW Alpina XB7 (612 hp, 590 pounds-feet of torque) and anything else out there. Of course, this is a bit problematic, as really the only other true full-size SUVs are from Ford and Stellantis these days, and neither offer high-performance versions of the Lincoln Navigator or Jeep Wagoneer (yet).
Other mechanical changes are limited to special tuning for the standard Magnetic Ride Control and air suspension; the addition of standard Brembo six-piston front calipers (an option on other, lesser Escalades); a standard performance exhaust; and the addition of V-Mode, which allows the driver to create a special mode tailored to exactly how they want to set up the Escalade-V. With just the push of a button, V-Mode can adjust the suspension, steering feedback, brake pedal feel, AWD, engine performance and exhaust.
What all this does not do is try to turn the big Escalade into a track-ready SUV; that is not the Escalade-V’s mission, according to Cadillac representatives. Track-monster Cadillacs wear the Blackwing badge, while street-oriented performance cars wear the V badge. V’s are for driving to the track, while V Blackwings are for driving on the track, brand reps said during a conference call with the media. This is why the Escalade-V instead emphasizes straightline performance instead of handling improvements, and given the SUV’s very high center of gravity, track use would just be silly. This strategy differentiates the Cadillac Escalade-V’s approach compared with rivals like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG brand, in which everything has to have a track-capable mode, even when these vehicles are rarely taken to racetracks.
Flying Under the Radar?
Where the new Escalade-V falls a little short might be in the cosmetic changes that turn it from Sport Platinum (which also has blacked-out trim) to V. On the outside, there are new front and rear bumpers, with a dedicated four-outlet rear exhaust that’s distinct from the bumper itself (no fake tips here). There are also special dark 22-inch wheels designed to help improve brake cooling and distinct V badging. All in all, it doesn’t look that much different from a standard Sport Platinum trim.
Inside, there are even fewer differentiation points. The only changes from a loaded Sport Platinum trim are a specific look to the digital gauge cluster and a “V” badge on the steering wheel. The rest of the cabin is straight-up Sport Platinum trim, with standard Zebra wood trim and your choice of either black or Dark Auburn semi-aniline leather throughout.
The 38-inch curved OLED screen seen in all Escalades is present, and the 36-speaker AKG premium audio system is also standard. The only curious bit: Cadillac wants to include the latest and greatest version of the Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system when the Escalade-V goes on sale late this summer, but the automaker fully admits that this is going to depend on the status of the microchip shortage that’s impacted automakers around the world. If the system does appear, it will be added late in the year.
2023 Cadillac Escalade-V | Manufacturer image
The Most Expensive Escalade Yet
How much will it cost you to get this special engine and extra tuning? The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V starts at $149,990, including destination, or nearly $25,000 more than a totally loaded 2022 Sport Platinum model. A long-wheelbase Escalade-V ESV will also be available, but pricing was not given for that model; Cadillac said that it had not been finalized, but given that the standard price add for going from a regular to long-wheelbase Escalade is about $3,000, the company said to figure on that price difference transferring to the V model.
Cadillac also said that production of the Escalade-V will be limited; the automaker wouldn’t give a set number but said that the brand wants to maintain exclusivity for the V. And while no preorder system is being set up, distribution of the Escalade-V will follow the pattern of normal Escalade sales, with more units going to areas that sell more of the model. So if you want to get on the list of preorders, you need to get chummy with your local Cadillac dealer so they’ll give you a call when the order books open for deliveries.