As Cadillac continues its seemingly ever-long restructuring and repositioning process, there has been a consistent and steady product that has kept things grounded during the uncertainty. And has done so for over 20 years. It’s arguably the brand’s flagship, it’s undeniably iconic, and it’s quintessentially American luxury. We’re talking of course of the Cadillac Escalade, and it’s all-new for the 2021 model year. The segment hasn’t seen anything like this before.
Featuring the absolute limit to what’s possible, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade pioneers some of the industries most impressive technologies to date. Specifically, there’s an industry-first curved OLED infotainment screen that delivers some of the sharpest, the most color range, and most contrasting resolutions found in the industry. And in perfect Escalade fashion, it’s also the biggest OLED screen you can find in any automobile on the planet.
The Escalade’s OLED system actually comes in three screens: a 7.2-inch-diagonal touch control panel driver information center to the driver’s left, a massive 14.2-inch-diagonal cluster display behind the steering wheel and a 16.9-inch-diagonal Infotainment screen to the driver’s right. In total, the screens measures an incredible 38 inches diagonally. The center screen is touch-friendly, while the others utilize a rotary dial and steering wheel controls. The system is also wildly configurable, allowing customers to move around apps and icons, create unique driver profiles, and control a full-spectrum of ambient lighting.
Of course, that’s not enough to separate the 2021 Cadillac Escalade from its Chevrolet and GMC platform mates, so the list of exclusive features goes on.
Launching in the all-new Escalade is the latest iteration of the Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system. Despite what the Tesla bros say, Super Cruise is the most sophisticated and validated driving system on the market, and the Escalade is now the biggest SUV in the world with a semi autonomous system such as this. The latest version features 200,000 miles of mapping data, and is also capable of performing lane changes all on its own. This was expected to debut on the Escalade for several years now, so the Super Cruise feature itself isn’t that big of a surprise.
What *is* a surprise, however, is Augmented Reality-enabled navigation, which uses live street views with directional overlays and more to enhance driving directions. This is all projected onto the driver’s display, with turn indicators and other directional information overlaid on the image fed from a front camera. Even more trick is that the audio prompts will project sound from the direction that the navigation system says to turn. For example, a “turn left” audio prompt comes through the left speakers to further emphasize the navigation instruction – with the volume increasing as the turn approaches.
Next up is the audio system. This is the Escalade, after all. So Cadillac partnered with AKG to bring a 36-speaker, three-amplifier audio system for top trim Platinum models. A standard AKG Studio system includes 19 speakers and a large enclosed subwoofer, powered by a 14-channel amplifier. AKG has been around since 1947, and has been known as some of the most high-end audio equipment used by recording professionals. This is the first time AKG has done a vehicle audio system. And yes, there are speakers in the headrests.
Ironically, however, AKG is a division of Harman Audio (owned by Samsung), which also owns Revel, which has an audio system in the Lincoln Navigator.
Aside from next-level sound quality, the AKG audio system comes with several features and settings. There’s Studio 3D Surround, which is an immersive listening experience, Conversation Enhancement, where passenger communication is enhanced via microphones that project voices through the 36-speaker system, the previously mentioned augmented reality navigation audio, as well as Front Passenger Volume Control. This allows the front-seat passenger to adjust the volume of the audio around their seat.
Finally, the interior offers eight color and trim choices depending on the trim level, which include unique seat designs, with custom perforation and quilting patterns.
Stepping outside, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum offers soft-close doors and touch-sensitive electronic door handles. Kind of like a Rolls-Royce. Very classy. In the rear, the wiper blade is hidden, and the trunk is opened by pressing the Cadillac crest. No handle. The front, obviously different, is more squared off than before. Proportionally, the 2021 Escalade is the biggest yet, but thanks to the integration of independent rear suspension, promises to drive like something much smaller.
Yes, like the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban and 2021 GMC Yukon family, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade incorporates IRS, and in turn creates absolutely massive improvements of cabin space, storage space, and ride quality. The Escalade is otherwise mechanically identical to its T1 SUV cousins, including magnetic ride control and optional adaptive air suspension. Under the hood is the 6.2L L87 V8 as standard, producing 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. And, as expected, the new Cadillac Escalade will be the only vehicle in the entirety of the segment to offer a diesel engine via its 3.0L Duramax straight-six with 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
You may be wondering where the supercharged Cadillac Escalade-V might be, or the electric one. Don’t worry, they’re coming. Just not at the beginning. Look for the 2021 Cadillac Escalade to roll out of the GM Arlington Assembly plant starting in the second half of 2020, with pricing, fuel economy, and full options to be announced at a later date.