In the world of full-size SUVs, the Cadillac Escalade has a special place: it’s the Roman emperor of luxury.
It’s big, powerful, and more than a bit decadent. That’s especially true of the range-topping Cadillac Escalade V-Series, which sports GM’s best 6.2-liter V-8 engine equipped with a supercharger just in case you weren’t sure it was a hot rod.
Everything else is there, too. Literally everything that Cadillac can possibly put into a vehicle is here.
The Cadillac Escalade was introduced in 1999 as a competitor to the Lincoln Navigator. Both were based on the platforms of their more prosaic sister brands. The Navigator was a luxury version of the Ford Expedition, and the Escalade was based on the same platform that gives us the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and the GMC Yukon.
Current competitors still include the Navigator, but also the newly introduced Jeep Grand Wagoneer as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lexus LX, Infiniti QX80, and the Range Rover.
The Escalade-V looks a bit different from a standard Escalade. Where the basic (if that term can be applied to any Cadillac) Escalade opts for a bit of chrome bling in the trim, the Escalade-V goes for body color over a non-glossy black. The Escalade-V is a cleaner, meaner look that tells anyone that this SUV means business.
If you take a peek through the 22-inch wheels, you’ll notice the Corvette-sized 6-pot Brembo front calipers over huge brake discs the size of Thanksgiving serving platters. The Escalade-V simply looks fast, and much more imposing than a regular Escalade.
What defines interior luxury to you? Is it very fine leather over every seat, with front seats that are both heated and ventilated, with a power massage function for both driver and passenger? Is it the second-row entertainment system or the 38-inch OLED dash display, including 16.8 inches for the infotainment? Is it the console refrigerator with its own little freezer section, or possibly the real Zebra wood trim?
You know where this is going. The Escalade-V comes with all that stuff and more. Lovers of Cadillac-level luxury appointments will not be disappointed, but you can get all that stuff in the regular Escalade, and that’s not what the V badge means.
The V badge on the side of the Escalade is all about the stuff you don’t touch. It starts with the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine, rated at 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque, passed through a 10-speed automatic transmission to Cadillac’s full-time all-wheel drive system. That driveline, by the way, will rocket the 6,217-pound Escalade to 60 mph in under 4.4 seconds. You’ll believe it from the moment you hit the start button and hear the engine literally roar to life.
But that’s not all. We mentioned the huge Brembo brakes, and the Escalade-V rides on an adjustable air suspension with magnetic dampers. From the driver’s seat, you can set the drive mode with a bunch of personalized settings to get the Escalade just the way you want it, and of course Cadillac includes GM’s Super Cruise driver assistance system. Oh, one last thing: if you need to pull something, towing is rated at 7,000 pounds.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the 2023 Escalade with AWD as having a four-star overall crash test rating. That’s because the passenger side frontal crash test got four stars and the rollover test got just three. Every other test got five stars. If you’re worried about the rollover test, NHTSA rated the risk of rollover at 0.00% with “no tip” on the dynamic tipping test. So you’d really have to work at it to roll this SUV over.
Cadillac provides the Escalade-V with the Cadillac Smart System as standard equipment. That includes all the collision mitigation and automatic braking features, plus an HD rear vision camera system, camera-based rearview mirror and more. You also get enhanced parking assist, a surround-view backup camera, haptic alerts through the seat cushion, and Super Cruise, which includes adaptive cruise control.
As we mentioned, the full curved glass dashboard is 38 inches, with a 16.9-inch ultra-wide infotainment screen. That also displays the augmented reality navigation system, which gives you visual cues about where to turn and what you’re looking for. It works in conjunction with the head-up display. Audio comes from a 36-speaker AKG studio reference system, which sounds great.
On the road, the Cadillac Escalade-V is a medieval war horse. It’s big, well-armored, fast and definitely intimidating to the peasants. The engine is powerful, and the 10-speed always seems to be in the right gear. I didn’t pay any attention to the AWD system, but that’s because those work so seamlessly now that you never need to pay attention.
The Escalade-V corners flat and the magnetic ride control is a perfect balance of firm and compliant, because it’s evaluating the road surface as fast as you can drive and adjusting itself all the time. The air ride is smooth and allows you to raise up or lower down as you prefer, though it always lowers at highway speeds.
Basically, there’s no getting around the size and weight of the Escalade, but that’s why you bought it. If you want something small and nimble, get a Miata. The Escalade-V is an in-your-face statement that cannot be ignored. It’s not humble, it’s not quiet, except inside. You have to embrace the Escalade way — or buy something else.
2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series Specifications
|L: 211.9 inches/W: 81.1 inches/H: 76.7 inches/Wheelbase: 120.9 inches
|6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine; 10-speed automatic transmission w/AWD
|11 mpg city/16 mpg highway/13 mpg combined
|682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $149,195; As tested: $154,765 including $1,795 destination charge
The Escalade-V is available at Cadillac dealers now, and as the V-Series model of the Escalade, the trim walk is easy. You can choose the basic Escalade (think Tahoe size) or the Escalade ESV (think Suburban size). You get to choose your paint color and interior tone. Then you can select from a few accessories. Almost all the options are already in the Escalade V, so it’s easy.
Ours came with the $700 console fridge with freezer and a $2,500 upcharge for Super Cruise. We also had $625 for the silver paint color, but really you want the red.
So, sit down, because here’s the price: $154,765. If you want the snarling blown V-8 and all the goodies, that’s the ticket price. Put up or shut up.
2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series — Frequently Asked Questions
How many Escalade V-Series will be made?
About 2,750 per year.
How fast is the Escalade-V?
It races from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, doing the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 110 mph.
What’s the fuel economy in the Escalade-V?
If you care, this is not the SUV for you. 11 mpg city, 16 mpg highway.