PHOENIX – The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V wasn’t always in the cards. According to designer Robert Hunwick Jr. During the development of that truck, his team created a rendering of a more performance-oriented version of the next-generation Escalade. Focus groups loved it and noted that it should be part of the lineup from the start. It clearly wasn’t—the current Escalade debuted for ’21 without a V. But two years later, that performance-oriented Escalade is here, complete with a 682-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8. Just in time for gasoline prices to hit $5 a gallon.
Cadillac handily made the Escalade-V available for press drives before official EPA gas mileage estimates are available, but considering the regular 4×4 Escalade and its naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 combined deliver 26 miles per gallon, one can assume it adding 262 extra horses is going to make it a little more thirsty. Maybe 13 mpg combined? The on-board computer indicated 14.5 after 240 km motorway the driving. So yeah, that’s terrible. Just like Cadillac timing. Or luck. Anyway, the buyer of an Escalade-V will have to be OK with paying a lot of excess money to Shell.
Now we often hear the argument that people who like to shell out huge sums of money for giant SUVs don’t care if their gas tank costs more to fill up than someone else’s more efficient giant SUV. Gasoline consumption? Who cares! Area? haha, good one. Very good then. Let’s just accept that those with enough financial generosity to afford the Escalade-V’s starting price of $149,990 don’t bother with such things.
Maybe they care instead about the 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque pouring out of the hand-built V8 to the tune of four fat tailpipes that blare, chatter, crackle and pop enough to completely recreate the Escalade soundtrack. come up with. When it comes to the V, the tunes on the outside are just as important as the ones on the inside – although we’ll discuss the powerful AKG sound system later. There are actually three levels of exhaust noise, including a not-exactly accurate Stealth mode that you’ll need the foresight to engage before your early morning start-up. Incidentally, the ignition bark is so loud, almost startling and some would say absurd, that you’re bound to make enemies among neighbors and relatives alike.
“You woke the baby up again with your goddamn Escalade,” seems a likely refrain among the Escalade’s surprisingly young, 40-year-old average buyer.
The Escalade-V’s engine shares architectural similarities with the CT5-V Blackwing V8. The biggest change is the larger supercharger, which blows 2.65 liters of air per rev in that little block. The Escalade’s higher intake pressure and higher exhaust pressure necessitated the larger fan. There are also larger charge coolers, an additional electronic fan for a total of three, and a swap to an electronic throttle body. The end result is an engine that can catapult 6,217 pounds of full-size SUV from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. You can add a tick or two for the Suburban-sized 6,407-pound Escalade-V ESV we drove, but dude. This is seriously fast family transport.
And indeed, that’s what the Escalade-V is meant for. There was no ridiculous talk of canyon carving, nor were we taken anywhere to the dusty confines of a track to fully test the fat six-piston Brembo brakes and magnetically controlled adaptive air suspension with exclusive V-components. It’s a much faster and louder Escalade, and it’s definitely more responsive to drive, but it’s still authentically an Escalade. It has three rows of seats that can be occupied by even tall adults (unlike the even faster Mercedes-AMG GLS 63) and a class-leading amount of load space. The latter swells even further with the ESV.
Escalade Sport on the left, Escalade-V on the right
The design team also graciously restrained itself, forgoing silly carbon fiber appliqués and the kind of extravagances of questionable taste that adorned Cadillac V models.
“Our goal was to make a sleeper,” Hunwick said. “We wanted it to be subdued, dialed back. Subtle. Look at (Jaguar-Land Rover’s) SVR or AMG. They don’t go crazy.”
At least the Escalade-V is even sleepier (in a good way) than an AMG GLS. Those quad pipes are the biggest giveaway, along with the V badging, and though there are additional “grillettes” in addition to the vertical DRLs and a small additional air intake on the underside of the dash. It takes a connoisseur to differentiate between the V and an Escalade with the existing Sport Line appearance package.
Even the interior gets this sleep treatment. Escalade global product manager David Schiavone said they didn’t want a “boy racer interior” with red accents, carbon fiber and other trims you’d find on other Cadillac V cars. Customers get a choice of Jet Black or Dark Auburn interior colors using the same Zebra wood found in the Escalade Sport. Frankly, this approach is more like the glory days of BMW M than anything currently served by BMW M. AMG too, by the way.
Our ride from the Escalade-V was mostly winding highways northeast of Phoenix, with lots of elevation changes to ascend and descend. The seemingly unavoidable body-on-frame shake is still present on several imperfect pavement types, meaning you’re paying for its truck roots compared to a GLS or high-performance BMW X7. The handling is certainly worse than that too, but caring about that seems even less likely than worrying about the gas bill. The important takeaway is that the V does indeed tighten things up against the base Escalade or other GM full-sizers.
There’s a dedicated V-mode, which is basically a customizable ride setting easily accessed with a button north of the electronic shifter. As I found the sport controls to be unnecessarily heavy, the perfectly adequate Tour setting was left on. The difference between the Tour and Sport suspension is very subtle, but on rubbish pavement the body shake on the frame is clearly more noticeable as the suspension gets lower and the mag dampers firmer – we alternated between the two depending on off the road. Brake pedal force can also be changed (it’s just as subtle), along with engine response, AWD power distribution and three-piece exhaust. There are also preset riding modes, including towing and inclement weather, selectable from a button to the left of the steering wheel, alongside headlight controls and suspension raise/lower buttons.
Oh, and there’s launch control. Select V mode, hold down the brake pedal, fully depress the accelerator pedal, wait for the traction control light to flash, then release the brake pedal. Bam. The exhaust blares, your head pops back and there’s suddenly a lot more air in the windshield as the Escalade-V crouches rather hilariously at the rear as it launches toward the horizon. It’s more of a race boat than a race car. Many dives also when braking.
If you prefer not to drive the Escalade-V at all, Super Cruise is available. We didn’t get a chance to test it out while trailering, as it can, but it had plenty of opportunity to pass slower vehicles on its own accord. It’s really well executed and ticking the Super Cruise options box should be a no-brainer. Lean back, put your hands in your lap and enjoy the view ahead while the 36 speakers of the standard AKG Studio Reference sound system do their job. Anything with bass seems to be its forte, and we can all agree it’s probably in an Escalade should be his strong point. Still, we listened to a variety of music, and the AKG was damn impressive for it all.
So from a sonic perspective, not many SUVs can top the 2022 Cadillac Escalade-V – if any. It also has plenty of breathtaking technology, plus luxury features and materials to match. Family-friendly space? acres of it. And yes, it blows the doors off a Navigator while putting up a good fight against those smug Germans. It’s hard not to like until you remember that price tag – both to buy and to fuel. But again, remembering is not the same as worrying.