Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s bold Escalade-V is an end-of-age statement

Yes, that was me and the new Cadillac Escalade-V hiding in Keystone a few weekends ago. It’s a whole SUV.
Andy Stonehouse/Mountain Wheels

Can a car change you? And if so, will you take on the personality of a $150,000, 682-horsepower, fire-breathing box, a Texas-built, end-of-era Cadillac monster that makes Corvette sounds and meets almost no standard societal standards? ?

Yeah right. For the price of two Hellcat Widebodies, two Camaro ZL1s, or a stack of Ford GT something, Cadillac has produced the complete antithesis of its emerging family of electric vehicles.

The 2023 Escalade-V is a striking and rather noticeably over-the-top car designed to outdo other brash statements, such as the 577-horsepower Mercedes AMG G63 (although the Benz is still $30,000 more expensive), yet seven carries passengers.

If you’ve been longing for a full-sized American SUV capable of running at 100 km/h for 4.4 seconds, making screaming and crackling exhaust noises, parked on 22-inch wheels, this is it.

Yes, with such a vehicle many questions arise. Is it really and incredibly different from the basic Chevy Suburban you can get for about $89,000 less – a vehicle of the same size and overall capacity? Well yes and no.

At this price, I would have expected Escalade-V to at least come with the new Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system, or maybe a bubble bath or diamond-covered controls. Even a refrigerated console box would have been cool. No dice.

The interior finishes are indeed first class, with lots of polished wood, an Alcantara headlining and a beautiful perforated dashboard. The extra chiseled look of the Escalade-V sets it apart from its Suburban/Yukon/standard Escalade siblings, but it’s still basically the same big box as them.

As mentioned in previous reviews of the newer General Motors full-sized SUV platform, the advantage is rear seat access and headroom that may allow adults to sit in the third row more than temporarily. The captain’s seats in the second row can sort of fall and squat out of the way; you just have to navigate around slightly oversized TV monitors attached to the back of the front seats.

The shell is also gigantic in the front, with a super-wide and high console that’s so big you just can’t reach over it and try to pick up something in the passenger seat. You also get powerful footboards, handy for access, as well as darkened bugle-style exhaust tips and ultra-bright vertical brake lights and rear lights, and very nice 18-spoke alloy wheels.

But none of that is as important (or costly) as the hand-assembled 6.2-liter supercharged V8, with 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque. It’s quite a technological feat, and when rowdy acceleration is required, the Escalade-V delivers.

As I found out on my first outing, it will (thankfully) hit a rev limiter at about double the standard US highway speed limit, which will help you destroy the vehicle, perhaps, because high-speed handling was strictly a straight-line sort of deal. .

In the end, the old Viper-powered Ram SRT truck would generally go faster, but it wasn’t a Cadillac. You’ve always had the option of spending a lot of aftermarket money on Hennessey’s up to 1000 horsepower modifications of the Escalade platform, but again this is a factory issued project complete with the engineer’s name at the top of the commercial engine block the size of a washing machine.

I appreciated the fact that the Escalade-V handled in a relatively bourgeois and even big-sporty way when slowing down, cornering capably and riding briskly on its adaptive air-sprung suspension—which seemed to correct itself at every stop sign.

Like the Corvette, almost every aspect of the Escalade-V’s handling can be adjusted — braking, shifting, chassis control, even exhaust noises — and hitting the slightly hidden V-switch for the oversized 10-speed automatic shifter makes everything set to maximum mode.

That results in some stiff braking, but those banquet dish-sized front discs and red Brembo calipers up front are fully capable of taking Escalade-V out of the track, so that’s reassuring.

Fuel economy is as expected, ranging between about 11 mpg and an improbable 28 mpg I got when I got back to Denver; the EPA sticker suggests you’ll spend $13,000 more on gas over a five-year period than an average car.

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