When it comes to the large SUV class, especially the luxury players, bigger, faster, more luxurious is the goal to stand out among some very pricey competition. I recently tested the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V, an incredibly fast, luxo-cruiser of the “baddest” kind.
By “baddest” I do not mean of poor quality. I mean buckle up tightly and clench your teeth as you fire up the engine with a NASCAR growl that lets the neighbors know you’re heading out for coffee at 6:30 a.m. and the local authorities will likely give you a width berth as you pass through town.
All kidding aside, this Escalade-V is not for the faint of heart. Starting with the base price tag of $149,195 and landing north of $155k, it ain’t cheap. Then take into account the near-700-horsepower engine and the thrill it brings from the moment it growls to life to the few seconds it takes to get to 60 mph.
There was really nothing to dislike about this Escalade-V, nothing uncomfortable, nothing lacking the goal of being as over-the-top and luxurious as possible. Sure, I had a tweak or two of guilt creep in when I considered this 3-ton SUV (and the 15 mpg I managed the week I had it) was going in a bit of the opposite direction of GM’s all-EV mantra on the horizon.
So, let’s say you are still interested. I sure the heck was, even though a large SUV seating seven would never be on my personal radar, experiencing a week living how the other half does was fun and impressive.
The exterior of the Escalade-V has challenges in dealing with its extreme bulk. What’s impressive is the 22-inch 18-spoke alloy wheels, which would normally be big for just about anything that’s not a pickup, felt perfect. Not too small, not too aggressive, the wheels say speed and refinement without desecrating the Escalade and Cadillac’s brand of sophistication.
The low-slung front end presents a massive nose, grille and air intake, while the raked windshield starts the long climb up and across the elongated rooftop. The rear is a sheer drop-down across the glass and hatch, with a classy wrap at the bottom. The four squared-off exhaust tips leave you thinking there’s a bit of attitude under the hood – and there’s plenty.
My tester featured the $2,500 option called Super Cruise. It’s the latest update to what many believe is the top of the heap in driver assistance systems. With Super Cruise, you can not only drive hands-free but completely change lanes. At first, it will make you a little nervous to relinquish control, but you soon see everything is going to be just fine.
The previous version I tested was darn near flawless. It required the driver to either prompt the system or take control to do so. Even with that effort, I was sold on it. This new Super Cruise variant is incredible.
The Escalade-V wraps you in heated and cooled leather comfort in both rows of oversized seats. Whether it’s the massaging setting for the seats, the 36-speaker, blow-your-mind audio system, or the massive moonroof stretching almost the entire length of the vehicle, this Escalade lacks nothing.
I really appreciated the curved OLED displaying all the bells and whistles. It’s clear, colorful, and responsive.
Under the hood is a fire-breathing dragon (sipping tea) in the 6.2-liter V8 supercharged DI VVT. The 682-horsepower engine delivers 653 lb.-ft, torque and prefers Premium fuel. Cadillac says the same 2.65-liter blower from the C7 ZR1 Corvette is in it, which adds to the overall fun factor.
A 10-speed automatic transmission is paired with the V8. While the Escalade-V prioritizes smooth shifts, it can jump to attention on demand. As I mentioned earlier, you have customizable V-spec drive modes that allowed me to change transmission shifts, the suspension ride, and the volume of the exhaust note.
The Escalade-V can tow up to 7,000 pounds. When you consider you can seat seven adults and the three-ton curb weight, you would have to have something big and powerful under the hood to move it all.
There’s just not enough space to allow for all of the notables in this Escalade-V. It really lacks nothing it was intended to do. Despite its sheer size, it is effortless to handle around town and a pleasure to take out on the open road.
Technology provides top-end safety features, intuitive interfacing with the climate and audio systems, and one of the most adaptable and comfortable driver’s seats out there. If you can afford to get it in your stable and keep it fed – enjoy life as it was intended – comfortably.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing, and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations, and vehicles.