2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Quick Spin: The Space Rocketship | Expert review

In the wise words of social satirist Julie Brown in the 1988 sci-fi movie masterpiece “Earth Girls Are Easy,” “I like ’em big and stupid.” And when it comes to SUVs, well, they’re no bigger and dumber than what we’ve got here: the new 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V. We don’t know why it’s taken Cadillac so long to actually release a V-performance version of the Escalade got out the door, but they’ve finally got it – and you better enjoy it now, because it might just be the last new internal combustion-powered Cadillac you’ve ever seen Caddy’s declared strategy of going all-electric for the next few years to go. I think they’ve decided that if they’re going to make their gas offerings go away, why not go out with a bang?

Related: 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V: The New Boulevard Race Champ

And it’s hard to top the kind of bang you get from this beast, powered as it is by a 682-horsepower, supercharged V-8 engine and swaddled with an ultra-chic cabin. I spent several days driving the Escalade-V in the urban wilderness of Los Angeles on the traffic-calmed highways, but I also made sure to wind up the beautiful canyon roads through Malibu to the coast, where I just got to see how this sports truck was capable of providing an entertaining driving experience. The answer? A resounding yes.

You wouldn’t know it if you look at it, but…

The V-performance series is what Cadillac uses to denote their high-performance, track-capable models, models that only look subtly more aggressive, but often have massive power increases and tons of suspension technology meant to blow the doors off competitors ( mostly German) on roads and racetracks. I’ve had my brain melt behind the wheel of a Cadillac CTS-V, been in awe of the latest CT4-V and CT5-V Blackwings, and now I’ve experienced what Cadillac have done in their big daddy SUV, the Escalade-V.

Looking at it, there’s not much to distinguish it as anything special – it looks a lot like an Escalade in the Sport Platinum trim, with big wheels, a slightly lower stance and a blacked-out body color finish instead of chrome. The only unique features seem to be the subtle V badging on the doors and slightly different front and rear bumpers, all of which are easily overlooked. The Escalade-V is apparently intended to fly under the visual radar of passers-by, and it does so successfully…until you set foot on the ground.

OMG, that noise

Nestled under the Escalade-V’s long hood is a hand-built, supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine that’s akin to the one found in the CT5-V Blackwing sedan, though it has a larger supercharger. In the Escalade-V, it produces a whopping 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque, slightly more than the 668 horsepower the CT5-V Blackwing makes, but slightly less than the sedan’s 659 pound-feet of torque. But what accompanies the Escalade-V’s power is “the roar” – the earth-shattering bass the thing produces on start-up (especially when it’s cold) that will make you jump out of your skin when you launch it from a distance in a parking garage airport ; that’s good for a thousand laughs when the hotel clerk kicks it off at a crowded booth and detonates everyone behind the beast like a bomb in the driveway. It’s a sound you just don’t expect from an SUV like this. Your neighbors immediately start calling the local VvE the day after you bring it home. It’s big, stupid fun – and I love it.

Take that sound as fair warning of what this massively powerful engine does for the Escalade, itself a genteel boulevard cruiser that was never really intended to be a canyon-carving sport machine or a drag-strip warrior. According to Cadillac, this seven-seat truck-based SUV can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 4.4 seconds, which is an incredible time for a vehicle of this size. Press the button just before the shifter for the configurable V-Mode and you can have all the vehicle settings at their max madness, amping up the response for throttle, suspension, shifting, exhaust – everything. It transforms the Escalade-V from a staid but grumpy luxury touring SUV into one that, while not exactly what you’d call athleticis much more capable on fast and twisty two-lane tarmac.

Acceleration is fierce, as you’d expect, but it picks up a smooth momentum – there’s no underbelly like some electric vehicles, but it’s still a lifetime experience for you and your passengers. Braking is also extremely strong thanks to the six-piston Brembo front brakes that pull you down with power and speed, and they do it again and again no matter how hard you press them before you approach a corner. Steering – which is normally numb and light, allowing you to pilot the Escalade through parking garages with ease – becomes much firmer and more communicative when you press the V button; there’s actual feedback through the wheel of what the massive 22-inch wheels and tires are doing, and it’s genuinely enjoyable. You can throw the big ‘Slade into a long, flowing turn with aggressive elan, and while it tends to push and understeer rather dramatically, the throttle will help keep it turning and on course.

Is it pure driving pleasure at sports car level? Of course not; it’s still an absolutely massive SUV that weighs more than 6,200 pounds (or 6,400 pounds if you opt for the longer ESV version). You’re still tossed around in the huge, comfy seats, and the Escalade’s sheer mass can’t be completely hidden, no matter how much magic the standard Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 and Air Ride adaptive suspension can muster. These systems do a remarkable job of making the Escalade-V both a smooth-riding, beautifully dampened luxury SUV and a mostly flat corner cutter with noticeably less body, but they can’t do much. Suffice to say, if your commute involves winding mountain or fast canyon roads between your country home in the hills and Morton’s steakhouse in town, an Escalade-V is a hugely entertaining way to take that journey. You’ll still pull up to the verge to let faster motorists in real sports cars and sports bikes go by, but you’ll go fast enough to curse the mouth-breathing tourists in front of you who refuse to do so.

The art and science lives on inside

While the Escalade-V’s sporty prowess and aural assault are half, the other half is the sumptuous cabin Cadillac created. It is by far the most beautiful interior the brand has created, with excellent leather (in all three rows), beautiful “zebra wood” trim and comfort for occupants in every seating position. The 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference sound system is stunning, and the absolutely massive 38-inch curved organic light-emitting diode dashboard has super-sharp visuals and reconfigurable controls.

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