Prices for the 2023 Escalade-V start at $178,898 in Canada and $149,695 in the US.
It is Cadillac’s first V-series SUV.
Even now I can’t figure it out. Is the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V the most unpretentious ultra-understated Q-ship of all time or has GM simply decided to cut costs by leaving the SUV’s appearance unchanged, despite how special it is?
I’m guessing the latter. In another setting where General Motors planned to stop Ford and harass Dodge with a super-powered SUV, they would have chosen to upgrade a Tahoe, flip up an SS badge, and challenge everyone to various duals. The thing is, they would have had a hard time charging anywhere north of $125,000 for the truck. However, with a Cadillac badge up front, the SUV can easily fetch well over $50,000 more.
I resent the decision because the Escalade-V’s hand-built 6.2-liter supercharged, intercooled V8 engine and its accompanying 10-speed automatic transmission are, well, bad. Not only is this combo insanely efficient, but it’s also eerily sophisticated. Despite a monstrous 682 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 653 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm, the V8’s docility is remarkable, even under heavy loads.
This heavy load will cause the nearly 6000-pound behemoth to be catapulted to 60 mph from a standstill in less than 4.4 seconds. This is fast, but because of the truck’s mass, the sense of speed comes from the ever-increasing engine noise. Oh, and the front lifts slightly at launch.
Wild sound, tame looks
While this finesse can be very Cadillac, the sounds created by the active-valve performance exhaust sting the powertrain velvetiness with an incomprehensible roar. On a cold start, I’ve concluded that the V is louder than any Hellcat in a Stellantis vehicle. And this is what doesn’t fit.
Visually, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V looks identical to a “lesser” Sport Platinum (starts at $125,298), except for the darker front and rear and unique but very similar 22-inch multi-spoke wheels. In fact, only the badging and rear quad black exhaust tips set it apart and set it up as a serious Q ship. That is until it boots up. Does this make any sense? In short, it doesn’t stand out enough or makes too much noise. A Tahoe SS would get all the cool bells and whistles plus the sound in my opinion.
The cabin also continues largely unchanged with the Platinum versions. That does mean, however, that the still unique massive 38-inch curved OLED screen precedes the driver with all and more required driving and infotainment screens. The dashboard and center console are identical to those of the other Escalades with the only real difference: the V Drive mode button.
Seating in the tall boy along with the accompanying spaciousness is great, welcoming and comfortable. Even at the very third row, adults can realistically sit comfortably for more than 30 minutes. Features include 16-way massaging heated and cooled power front seats, an insane 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference audio system, a rear-seat entertainment system with two independent 12.6-inch screens, and almost everything is upholstered in semi-aniline leather.
Back to the ride
Also fitted to the Escalade-V are Magnetic Ride Control dampers along with an Air Ride Adaptive suspension. The Escalade I drove was, and I quote “smooth and refined quiet,” but I added that it wasn’t as delightful as the Grand Wagoneer. In a slightly unexpected twist, the ride quality of the V is unchanged. In fact, if I remember correctly, when set to Normal, the chassis is softer than the non-V Slade.
One element that can play a role here are the tires. The 22-inch Bridgestone Alenza tires fitted are the same as on other versions of the large Cadillac and on a Chevrolet Silverado. They are clearly not destined for an ultra-powerful performance SUV. They do play a role in keeping the comfort level high.
With comfort comes sound. Amazingly, noise levels below 4,000 rpm, and despite shattered windows nearby, are minimal. The Escalade-V’s active noise cancellation is arguably the best I’ve ever experienced. But above 4,001 rpm, unless you’re in a cave 5km below the surface or in space, you’ll feel the rumble of the V pierce your eardrums.
Another point is the driving modes. As noted earlier, the Escalade-V includes a V Drive mode that can be configured as you see fit. Configurable elements include steering, ride, drivetrain and brakes. The latter is a mistake, as the pedal feel already does not exist. In other words, the driver knows that the truck is going to stop because it is slowing down. Regulating pedal response in the sportier setting further turns the pedal into a switch, making it difficult to control braking power. The included Brembo 6-piston front calipers get the job done.
There are a few other elements included with the Escalade-V, such as an electronic rear-locking differential and a specially tuned full-time active four-wheel drive, but even after all this, I can only manage about half the $53,000 difference between the V and the platinums.
It’s special but not special enough
If there had been a quick way to “weaken” the exhaust rumble for a quieter cold start, nicer 23″ (or 24s) wheels, and maybe a few extra touches indoors, I probably would have been less harsh with the truck. .
The narrow, large premium performance SUV segment has few players, but the Escalade V doesn’t stand out, simple and straightforward. For $182,500 (as tested), I’d get a BMW Alpina XB7 right away in a crazy shade of green or classic Alpina Blue, full Merino leather and an option pack, and have a few bucks left to fill it up a few times. There is also the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 and the new Range Rover. The Escalade-V may be the most powerful, but unfortunately that’s where the benefits stop.
Should you buy a 2021 BMW Alpina XB7?
I think I’ve made a decision…