When a person thinks of Cadillac, old timers think of the tail-finned luxury convertibles of the 1950s, while Gen Z probably thinks of Escalade. That nameplate has become the pinnacle of the brand, and its biggest moneymaker. I recall attending a previous-generation Escalade release with a not-yet-President Donald Trump speaking about the vehicle. If you’re a wealthy businessperson who wants something large and comfortable to spread out in, the Escalade delivers. It has become the familiar new limousine of the 1%. However, it does it in an understated way, while extended Lincoln Town Cars of yore would scream that Van Halen was in town. My tester in its Sport guise wore a beautiful color called Radiant Red Tintcoat. It fell somewhere between red and candy apple and garnered lots of compliments.
Choose Your Luxury
There will eventually be four versions of the Escalade: The “normal” Escalade, the extended ESV, the V with its rip-snortin’ V-8, and finally the upcoming iQ fully electric Escalade. Cadillac wanted us to have a go at the normal Escalade with the Sport package. Although it isn’t a sporty vehicle, this Escalade carries all the amenities and looks worthy of a captain of industry or lottery winner, right down to some unexpected luxuries such as a console refrigerator/freezer that gets super cold! Hey, someone has to keep the Perrier and champagne chilled…. If you need to tow a luxury boat or horse trailer on the weekend, the Escalade can tow up to 8,200 pounds. Plus, you get GM’s towing features that make hooking up easy.
It’s the Infotainment
Hopping into the Escalade on its slick-performing automatic running board steps reveals the beautiful interior. The dashboard display is a work of art, curving across the dash from the A pillar to passenger airbag. It offers 38 inches of total diagonal display.
The 16.9-inch infotainment touchscreen is nice, but the additional touchscreen to the left of the instrument cluster is where it’s at! So many vehicles feature a multitude of buttons in this area where the headlight controls typically are. Unfortunately, this area is usually laden with acronyms that are hard to decipher. The Cadillac uses a small touchscreen to turn on amazing features written out in plain English. One example is Augmented Reality, which gives a crystal-clear image of the road ahead on the center screen. Using the heads-up display, it can show you exactly where to turn, or if the windshield gets occluded, it can assist in getting you to safety. You can also choose night vision, which can really help save you from wandering pedestrians or animal strikes on unlit country roads.
All the safety features you would expect in an Escalade are on board, including GM’s amazing Smart Cruise that can help you relax in traffic. I had to take someone to LaGuardia Airport at rush hour, and the ride was almost pleasant using Super Cruise. It makes you wonder if chauffeurs will become obsolete for the 1%ers.
Hearing Is Everything
When I was using the Bluetooth connectivity to call a friend, he said there was an echo in background that was terrible and called me back. He said the call still had the reverb of a stadium. I figured it was the cellular carrier but then discovered the Conversation Enhancement feature. When this feature is engaged, the front-row microphones pick up whatever the driver is saying to the passengers and broadcast it through the audio system to the second and third rows. The third-row passengers can also speak at a reasonable level, and their part of the conversation gets broadcast back to the driver. The technology is really cool, but you need to remember to turn it off when making a phone call.
Sometimes more is not better, but the 36-speaker AKG audio system in the Escalade is next level. The AKG company is mostly known for its advancements in microphone and headphone technology. So it’s unusual to see it in a luxury car audio system. The system is standard on the Sport Platinum model. To create good surround sound, the system includes drivers in the headliner that AKG calls immersive sound. The front sound stage is provided by a trio of 3.5-inch midrange drivers with an integrated lens tweeter. The speakers run on 28 discrete amplifier channels. That’s quite a feat in itself! The bass is provided by a 10-inch subwoofer located in a side panel by the third row. The sound quality is rich and immersive. If it were my vehicle, I would add another subwoofer driver to the immense trunk for it to really slam.
The Escalade is big. It is expensive. And it fills a market niche for those who have the means. My Escalade Sport tester came in just under $120K. But for all the money, you get all of today’s technology and then some. Until the electric Escalade iQ arrives, this is the tech leader of the large SUV class.