Review: The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Is A Massive, Rocket-Powered SUV

The Saturn V was the king of all rocketry, a towering, 363-foot monument to escaping Earth’s surly tires, its 7.6 million pounds of thrust defies not only gravity but its own 3,100 tons of mass en route to pushing manned spaceflight further into the solar system than ever before.

Back on the surface of our planet, Cadillac has just unveiled its own ultra-heavy rocket: the Escalade-V, a surprising fusion of the brand’s largest sport-utility vehicle and its most powerful supercharged V8 engine. All things considered, the Cadillac Escalade-V rearranges the space race on America’s own highways with its own terrifying tandem of over-the-top acceleration and unruly curb weight.

Detroit’s hyperballistic powerhouse serves as the swan song for an entire era of heavy iron, an uber truck that trades trick footwork for the unstoppable momentum of a football forward line. With the Escalade-V, the realm of bigger, faster, louder (and more expensive) has reached its logical conclusion in a display of almost cosmic conflagration in the pursuit of pure speed. What’s it like to strap in and prepare for the launch? Glad you asked.

The Cadillac Escalade-V (pictured) is 17.66 feet tall, while the ESV is just 19 feet tall.


V8 engine meets ESV body

The Escalade-V-as-land rocket analogy holds up when the technical details of the Cadillac SUV are taken up close. Like its NASA predecessor, the Escalade-V is a hulking metal shell built entirely around an explosive powerplant, in this case a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 whose open-pipe exhaust reads 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque.

Those numbers eclipse any production Cadillac in history and indeed position the Escalade-V at the top of General Motors’ entire lineup when it comes to output. With an additional 262 horsepower over the standard Escalade, it cuts nearly two seconds off the giant people mover’s 0 to 60 mph trajectory, occurring in the four-second low range, depending in part on whether the vehicle is found in body styles with a normal or extended wheelbase.

I drove the latter, the Escalade-V ESV, whose nomenclature includes a double dose of Cadillac’s most powerful consonant. Except heavy at the best of times, the dimensions of the SUV’s megayacht (just 3 meters long) take on a whole new level of urgency as it hurtles forward with the relentless confidence of its standard four-wheel drive and the safety of enough mass to hole the size of a Caddy by hitting a potential obstacle.

Going down a straight stretch of highway, you get hastily take-off conditions in a truly awe-inspiring view of the pinnacle of the pushrod engine, and I was pleased to see six-piston Brembo brakes up front to handle the three tons of the Escalade from low track. Engaging the vehicle’s one-button V mode adds a louder rumble (and accelerator crackle) to the procedure, along with more aggressive interactions with its 10-speed automatic transmission and a lower position of its adaptive air springs.

The generous interior of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V, showing the two front seats and dashboard

With all that girth, the inside better be roomy.


Dumbo doesn’t dance

Don’t be fooled into thinking that V mode in any way lifts the staggering weight of the Escalade-V when it comes time to pray for cornering prowess. The latest version of Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control dampers can’t help but be overwhelmed by extremes, and it doesn’t help that the 22-inch rims are shod in all-season rubber. Eager to leap forward at the slightest provocation, the Escalade-V protests almost immediately when asked to engage in a directional maneuver that could be described as “spiritual.”

This is an important area of ​​distinction between the Escalade-V and its eponymous siblings, sedans such as the CT5-V and CT4-V that balance their progress with exceptional handling. Cadillac’s tacit acknowledgment of the Escalade platform’s inherent impossibilities in terms of soft shoes sets it apart from comparable fast three-row luxury machines like the Alpina XB7, which have much better mechanical grip and premium rubber on all four corners.

The back of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V SUV in red

Normally not known for leaving people in the dust, this Escalade is a different story.


Cadillac’s last space shot

It’s clear that the automaker is focused on the shocking aspects of the Cadillac Escalade-V, as evidenced by slogans like “luxury that roars,” as well as the mammoth proportions of its plate grille and slightly punchy V-specific styling cues. It’s a vehicle that’s hard to ignore, whether it’s car alarms on a cold start or heading towards you, duelstyle, on a lonely ribbon of road.

However, with prices hovering around $150,000, both the standard and ESV editions of the Escalade-V will struggle to convince traditional SUV buyers to earn nearly double the suggested retail price. with its entry-level 420 hp models. After a few full throttles, the pursuit of dragstrip glory quickly turns into a trembling arm’s length respect for the overwhelming firepower lurking in the V’s arsenal. Combine that with combined fuel economy that barely hits double digits. , and equally luxurious, but much more affordable (and less thirsty) versions of the Escalade make a more compelling case for those inclined to plus-size plush.

As a goodbye, the Escalade-V makes sense, a fitting multi-ton megalith standing one last time high in a cloud of tire smoke before EVs launch ICE performance trucks straight into the sun. Whether you’re interested in buying your own ticket for a seat next to the fiery pyre depends entirely on how much rocket you personally need to pilot en route from one gas station to another.

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