When the revamped Lincoln Navigator appeared a few years ago, It sent reverberations through the full-size luxury SUV market. Once the proverbial and literal punching bag of the segment, the big Lincoln’s newfound mojo caused it to rise above many of its foreign rivals, and even threaten the sales superiority enjoyed by its domestic rival the Cadillac Escalade. With the Navigator posing a revived threat to the Escalades benchmark status, Cadillac engineers knew they had to do something drastic to help stave off this challenge, and have unveiled the fruits of their labor, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade.
Controversial Styling Sets The Tone:
With all the things that the Escalade has riding on it, arguably the most controversial aspect of the SUV is its exterior styling, the front fascia in particular undergoes a major revamp, with the grille and headlights adopting very distinctive XT6 styling cues. While the overall look does indeed take some getting used to, the side profile is very bold, and it leads out to the revised rear end which features tweaked vertical LED taillights and more distinction between the standard luxury variants, and the Sport Edition. No sightings of the rumored high performance variant of the Escalade were recorded here in L.A. but rumors are still swirling about a spicier model that will feature a supercharged V8, and revisions that would allow it to compete with entries like the Navigator Black Label, and perhaps the Range Rover SVR. While Cadillac chose to remain quiet about this alleged variant, the company instead highlighted how Escalade’s design is a strong sign of strength and poise.
Technology and Sound Revive Interior.
A key area where the Navigator outright pummeled the Escalade was in interior appointments, with the big Cadillac starting to show its age in interior plastics, and an annoyingly frustrating CUE system. Cadillac designers aimed to fix that, and have radically transformed the space in the process. Unlike the old model, higher quality plastic is used throughout, while improved leather trim and wood accents impart a far more upscale motif to the cabin. A big change that many buyers will notice is the all new OLED screen. The Escalade is the first such SUV to use this screen, and it brings 38 inches of display space to the game. The screen also has twice the image quality of a 4K HD television for improved color clarity (let that thought sink in for a moment.) The area itself is split into three screens with a 7.2 inch unit to the left of the steering wheel serving as an information hub while the 14.2 inch display behind the steering wheel houses the digital instrument cluster. The 16.9 inch infotainment screen is where the bulk of the features can be accessed, and is also home to a revised infotainment system that finally adds a control knob to the Escalade. The curvature of the screens is also a segment exclusive, and Cadillac claims that all Escalade models will benefit from this handy feature.
Meanwhile, the navigation system comes equipped with an all new augmented reality infotainment system that can project turn arrows and other details ahead of the driver in a fashion that is very similar to some Mercedes Benz models. The sound system even gets in on the act, and the speakers are synced to whichever direction the navigation tells you to go. For example, going left causes the message to come from the left speaker, while a right turn causes the information to sound from the right speaker. The sound system also indicates how close or far away you are from a turn, with the navigation system actually moving the messages either towards or away from the front seats (a very clever idea.) The big Cadillac also comes with camera for the front, sides, and rear, with the surround view camera capable of producing a two megapixel quality image. Like the Chevrolet Suburban and the GMC Yukon, a pair of 12.6 inch screens reside on the back of the front back rests, and can send information wirelessly to the main screen or via various USB and HDMI connections.
Super Cruise also appears on the Escalade for the first time ever, with the system now capable of fully automated lane changes to go along with its prior list of automated driving tools. The system has over 200,000 miles of mapped roads at its disposal. All of this is monitored by LiDAR, radar, cameras, and stored GPS data. A driver attention monitor is still part of the package, and it monitors a drivers eye movement, if the Escalade senses that one is either not paying attention or falling asleep at the wheel, then Super Cruise will disengage forcing the driver to get involved after a warning sequence. And all those prompts come courtesy of an all new sound system from AKG. Replacing the long running Bose units that were once a Escalade trademark, AKG aimed to revamp the audio experience, and has introduced two versions of the system with the default system only having 19 speakers but still a solid amount of vibe factor. Those wanting more sound (like our absent sound system tester Emily) will love the optional 36 speaker unit that brings even more dynamic potency, and includes headliner mounted speakers to fully immerse buyers in opulent levels of sound that even best the mighty Bose PanRay system that we experienced in the CT6. When the system is not enhancing music quality, it is also enhancing everyday usability, with both systems featuring conversation enhancement technology that use microphones scattered in key areas to amplify voices, thus eliminating the need to turn ones head towards the rear of the vehicle while driving.
Performance for the 2021 Escalade is shared with its siblings, but unlike the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban, the Escalade pitches the base 5.3 liter V8, and uses the 6.2 liter V8 as its sole gasoline engine. With 420 horsepower on hand, this is a noticeable leg up on performance especially when paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission. In addition to the 6.2 liter, the Escalade also offers the 3.0 liter turbocharged inline diesel engine that brings 277 horsepower and better fuel economy to the foray. While the Slade still does not have a formal contender for the 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 found in the Lincoln Navigator, we suspect that the combination of higher cylinder count and a throatier exhaust note will ultimately win people over.
Cadillac claims that the first examples of the 2021 Escalade will arrive in summer, though it is unknown when the new Escalade will go formally on sale. Pricing is also expected to be released closer to this time, but we suspect that a small bump in price will indeed be happening especially for a fully optioned out model. In the meantime we have included a pair of clips from the unveiling which can be seen below.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.