2021 Cadillac Escalade official: Legendary SUV gets more space and tech

Chris Davies - Feb 4, 2020, 8:00 pm CST
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2021 Cadillac Escalade official: Legendary SUV gets more space and tech

Cadillac has revealed the 2021 Escalade, the latest generation of its best-selling SUV, with a tech-packed cabin and a more eye-catching exterior. Perennially popular in Caddy’s line-up, the Escalade now grabs some of the automaker’s newest features like the second-generation Super Cruise system.

A bolder, crisper exterior with two different themes

Sheer scale has always meant the Escalade wasn’t exactly easy to miss, and the 2021 SUV doesn’t dilute that. A new grille inspired by the Escala concept graces the front, tying the new model to other recent Cadillac cars like the CT4 and CT5. It’s flanked with sleeker horizontal headlamps.

At the rear, there’s the familiar horizontal tail-lamps as before. They’re now enhanced with what Cadillac describes as “deep three-dimensional layers and finishes with detailed etching,” to make them more visually complex. The 2021 Escalade rides on 22-inch wheels as standard.

As with other models in Cadillac’s range, there’ll be two distinct trim paths. After the entry-level 2021 Escalade Luxury, the SUV will split: you’ll have an Escalade Sport and Platinum Sport, with features like a black mesh grille and black exterior trim, and a Premium Luxury and Platinum Luxury track, with brighter chrome.

Engines and suspension

As standard, the 2021 Escalade will have a new 6.2-liter V8 gas engine. That will feature variable valve timing, auto stop/start, and Dynamic Fuel Management. Cadillac says to expect 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’ll be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

New, though, for the 2021 model year is a Duramax 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel. That will deliver 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, though the latter will arrive far sooner than in the gas V8: 1,500 rpm versus 4,100 rpm. It’ll use the same transmission, and both engines will come with a trailering package as standard.

Either way, independent coil-over-shocks front and multilink rear suspension is standard. Cadillac will offer Air Ride Adaptive Suspension and Magnetic Ride Control as an option; they promise features like adjustable ride-height and auto-leveling. An electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) is also available, pushing torque between the rear wheels depending on which offers the best traction, while four-wheel drive is also available across all trims and engines.

All 2021 Escalade models have front automatic braking, front and rear parking assistance, and lane keep assist. They also have automatic emergency braking, front and rear pedestrian detection, safety alert seat, and forward collision alert. Get above the Luxury trim, and you get adaptive park assist, a head-up display, rear camera mirror, lane departure warnings with assistance, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change alert.

Inside, a big display and more space

Cadillac promised us a dramatic display atop the 2021 Escalade’s dashboard, and the SUV delivers. It’s the auto industry’s first production implementation of a curved OLED, over 38-inches in size, and with twice the pixel density of a 4k display.

It’s actually three screens combined. There’s a 14.2-inch cluster display for the driver’s gages, with a 7.2-inch touch control panel to the left of that. In the center, a 16.9-inch infotainment screen sits atop the center stack. Cadillac says that, because it used OLED, it can avoid the deep shrouding you’d typically expect.

Cabin space is up, with a massive 10-inches more legroom in the third row courtesy of the new platform, and a 68-percent increase in maximum cargo space in the standard-length Escalade. That now clocks in at 25.5 cubic feet. Thanks to the new independent rear suspension the interior floor can be lower, too.

Eight different interior color and trim options are being offered, including a new Gideon Whisper Beige combination. There are stainless-steel speaker grilles and new piping on the door panels, while the ambient lighting offers more color choices. Soft-close doors are optional.

2021 Escalade Luxury models get leatherette trim, with Mulan leather on the Premium Luxury and Sport, and Opus semi-aniline leather on the Premium Luxury and Platinum Sport. Heated first and second row seats are standard, as is tri-zone climate control and a hands-free lift gate. The Platinum Luxury and Platinum Sport trims get front massage seats.

More tech, more convenience

Beyond the curved OLED, there’s no shortage of technology. Augmented Reality-enabled navigation is available, overlying directions on the live street views, while the rear camera mirror is optional too. Night vision can be added, with an infrared camera feeding its view to the dashboard display.

Surround Vision is standard, while a Trailering Integration Package – with up to nine camera views – optional. A rear seat entertainment system adds two 12.6-inch touchscreens, with navigation, HDMI and USB inputs, and Android screen mirroring.

Announced earlier this month, the new version of Super Cruise adds automatic lane-changing to the hands-free adaptive cruise control system. It supports over 200,000 miles of divided highways in the US and Canada. The Escalade will automatically shift over slighting in its lane when other vehicles are passing in close proximity, too, so that it feels more comfortable for passengers.

An AKG Studio Reference system marks AKG’s entrance into the automotive audio space. It has 36 speakers powered by three amplifiers with a total of 28 channels, and supports Studio 3D Surround sound, along with conversation enhancement that uses microphones for the different rows to subtly amplify voices through the car. The front seat passenger can independently control their music volume, too.

A second AKG Studio system is standard, with 19 speakers and a 14-channel amp. It has a separate subwoofer, too. Both systems use a new audio rendering system for navigation, with left/right prompts coming from the appropriate side of the driver’s head, and then moving “nearer” to them as the turn approaches.

While the center display is a touchscreen, there are also physical controls. That includes a rotary dial controller and steering wheel buttons. All trims have NFC phone pairing and wireless charging, together with two USB-A and five USB-C ports. A panoramic sunroof is standard on all but the Luxury trim, and a power second-row bench is optional on all trims.

2021 Escalade pricing and availability

Cadillac will begin production of the new Escalade at its Arlington, Texas facility. That will kick off in time for the SUV to go on sale in late-2020. There’ll be five packages, starting out with Luxury, then splitting into two tracks: Premium Luxury and Platinum Luxury, or Sport and then Platinum Sport.

Cadillac will also offer both Escalade and Escalade ESV versions, the latter with an extended wheelbase. The former will be 211-inches in length and offer up to 109.1 cubic feet of cargo volume, while the latter will be 226.9-inches long and offer up to 126.6 cubic feet of cargo volume. Pricing will be confirmed closer to the on-sale date.

[Update: Cadillac tells SlashGear that it expects the new Escalade to begin at roughly the same price as the existing model. That begins at $75,195.]


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