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2021 Cadillac Escalade First Look

Luxury, Technology, Power, and Sophistication

When Cadillac first introduced the Escalade in 1999 it was little more than a rebadged GMC Yukon Denali. The original Escalade was available in one trim (base) with one drivetrain (four-wheel drive) and was loaded with nearly every option available to the Yukon as standard. Pricing started at an expensive for the time $46,255. Built as a response to Lincoln's Navigator (launched in 1998) and the Mercedes ML-class the first-generation Escalade was fast-tracked from design to production in less than a year.

Thankfully, a lot has changed in the two decades since Escalade burst onto the scene. Now entering its fifth generation for the 2021 model year the Escalade is more stylish, luxurious, and technologically advanced than ever before. The 2021 Escalade still shares its chassis, drivetrain, and cab structure with its Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon cousins and is assembled alongside them at GM's plant in Arlington, Texas.

An All-New Suspension

Similar to Tahoe and Yukon, the 2021 Escalade is equipped with a new independent rear suspension. Standard are Magnetic Ride Control dampers and Escalade will also be available with GM's new four-corner air suspension. An electronic limited slip differential is optional and four-wheel drive is available across the lineup. Combining all of these features should produce an incredibly agile vehicle, despite its size, as was demonstrated to us at the Chevrolet Tahoe unveiling in Detroit.

Gas And Diesel Power

Powering the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is the choice of two engine options, either the stalwart 6.2L gasoline V-8 or GM's new 3.0L Duramax I-6 diesel. The 6.2L V-8 features the company's new Dynamic Fuel Management system, which was first introduced on the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, and produces 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. The new diesel engine, the first new oil-burner for Cadillac in almost 40 years, churns out 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The real story here, however, will be fuel economy. Based on our experience with this engine in the Silverado and Sierra pickups, we'd expect EPA fuel economy numbers in the mid to high 20s for Escalade. Backing both of these engines is the 10L80 10-speed automatic transmission.

Technologically Advanced

Design and technology are what sets the Escalade apart from its Chevrolet and GMC cousins. The new interior is derived largely from Cadillac's Escala concept vehicle and features a massive curved OLED display. A 36-speaker AKG Studio Reference audio system is powered by three amplifier that deliver 28 channels of audio. Which, in theory, produces a sound so near to the studio experience it'll be like you're there with the artist while recording. Rear seat passengers will also be entertained by a pair of optional 12.6-inch screens.

For 2021 Escalade receives the company's enhanced Super Cruise. Cadillac's advanced autonomous driving system has also been updated to enable automated lane change ability. Super Cruise uses a data suite comprised of LiDAR, GPS, radar, cameras, and an advanced driver attention system to give the Escalade the ability to be driven hands-free on more than 200,000 miles of compatible highways.

Also available is augmented reality navigation, which uses live street views with directional overlays to help guide the driver. Surround Vision is standard and uses four cameras to create a 2-megapixel bird's eye view around the Escalade. A rear camera mirror is optional as is Night Vision, a feature that uses infrared cameras to detect pedestrians and large animals in the dark.

High Fashion Design

From the outside Cadillac designers wanted to ensure that the Escalade was immediately recognizable at first glance. While everything has been updated in one form or another, all of the design elements remain true to classic Escalade style. A Sport trim is added to the lineup for the first time and joins Luxury, Premium, and Platinum.

Power To Tow

While we don't know much capability wise currently, we do know that the 2021 Escalade will still be able to tow your toys. To aid in this Cadillac is offering an optional Trailering Integration Package, which provides up to nine different camera views, an integrated trailer brake controller, and GM's fantastic trailering app. Also, part of the package is extended side blind zone alert.

What We Think

Cadillac's Escalade has always fallen in somewhat of a weird spot for us. At best it's a high-end luxury SUV, at its worst it's a Tahoe with lipstick, and the reality has mostly fallen in the middle. Until now. At first glance, while it still shares its bones with its GM cousins, the Escalade finally has a soul all its own. The interior is elegant and unique, its exterior is fitting of the Cadillac badging, and it's packed with enough unique technology that there's finally a good reason to buy an Escalade over a Yukon Denali. We'll need to save full judgement for after all the specs are revealed, and we get our own chance behind the wheel. But for now it seems Cadillac has hit a homerun and is really set to bring the heat to the competition.