The Cadillac Escalade is a beacon of styling and status, and the top Platinum trim makes that beacon brighter.
What is it?
Like its brethren, the Escalade comes in standard length and longer Escalade ESV length, which adds 14 inches in wheelbase and 20 inches in length.
Pricing and trims
Escalades start at just under $74K. In terms of basic configuration, you’d add $2,600 for four-wheel drive and $3,000 for the longer ESV body. Then, you’d choose between four trims – Standard, Luxury, Premium and Platinum.
The tested Escalade was the shorter length, but it was a Platinum with four-wheel drive, so its as-tested price of $94,695 was on the higher side of what you’d pay for a 2016 Escalade.
Nearly one hundred thousand dollars for a truck-based SUV could be a shock for some, but the Platinum’s upgraded appointments are undeniably rich, like the leather-wrapped instrument panel and doors.
Having such attractive materials spread across the interior’s ample real estate makes sitting in the Escalade Platinum a decadent delight.
The Platinum has a long list of standards, but the test vehicle’s power-retractable assist steps were $1,750 extra.
The Platinum’s second row has a Blu-Ray-capable player and a center nine-inch screen, along with headrest screens.
This system comes with a remote control and headphones for two. An additional set of headphones for the third-row riders is a $135 option.
Again, note the richness of materials, even on the backs of the seats. The vents are there for the front seats’ cooling function.
As of May 2016, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested an Escalade, but the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHTSA) has awarded it five stars in side impact tests and three stars in rollover prevention.
The Escalade has active safety features like Forward Collision Alert and Lane Keep Assist (new for 2016), but they’re oddly not available on the Escalade Standard – you’d have to step up to the Luxury, Premium or Platinum trims, where they’re standard equipment.
The “Surround Vision Birdseye” view afforded a clear view from which to back out the Escalade from my garage, but the tunnel to get to the relatively small opening vexed the Escalade’s sensors, to the point where the automatic braking refused to allow me to cross the threshold onto the sidewalk.
Automatic braking would engage because although we were clear on all sides, the Escalade just wasn’t happy with how close everything was. I learned to reduce my speed to a creep; this allowed the system to process our progress without going into a paralyzing panic. Though this was annoying, you could appreciate the system’s intended benefit, and one can assume that its functions weren’t benchmarked in a tight city garage.
The Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is shown in the top left quadrant, the orange triangle with the arrow indicating a vehicle incoming from the right.
Under the hood is the 6.2-liter V8 engine the Escalade has in common with the GMC Yukon Denali. In both, it cranks out 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Sounds like a lot, and it is, but the Escalade’s near-6,000-pound curb weight cuts into the engine’s might. Still, this V8 gives the Escalade a pleasantly deliberate feel.
Fuel economy is predictably consumptive, though it’s in line with similar vehicles. This Escalade’s 15-mpg city rating matches that of the Lincoln Navigator and actually does one better than the smaller and less powerful Dodge Durango R/T, which posts a 14-mpg rating.
The Escalade’s eight-speed automatic is quick to downshift, and it generally stays out of the way. You can flip up and down through the gears, and there’s a tow mode to help if you’re using any or all of the Escalade’s 8,300-pound towing capacity.
Ride and handling
The Escalade’s outsized dimensions make you aware of this SUV‘s bulk, but this truck balances its weight well on its 22-inch Platinum-spec wheels. (If you want more chrome, the Platinum offers a 22-inch wheel with even more shine for $1,900.)
Early Escalades felt soft and clumsy, but the 2016’s response is firmer. The Escalade’s sheer weight crushes most bumps, and what does filter through feels one step removed – which is logical, with the Escalade’s separate frame beneath the body.
Handling benefits from that firm feel, with Magnetic Ride Control snubbing body roll in the curves. Steering is a bit vague, and its wide center spot is not a surprise in a vehicle that’s tuned to tow heavy loads.
The Escalade’s front seats are throne-like. The lower cushion doesn’t tip up for thigh support as much as a taller driver might like, but the seat compensates with terrific shoulder support and a commanding driving position.
The second row is typically the best one in a crossover or SUV, and the individual heated buckets in our tested Escalade looked the part. But they’re mounted low to the floor, which can leave taller riders’ thighs without support, and they felt flat in general. A bench seat is a no-cost option.
As previously mentioned, the Escalade Platinum adds a nine-inch screen with Blu-Ray capability…
…and there are climate controls as well.
The third row is mounted even closer to the floor, and riding so close to the thick C-pillar makes the back row seem best suited for short jaunts. A legroom measurement of just 24.5 inches – the cramped Ford Mustang’s rear seat has 30.8 inches – drives home that point.
When all the seats are up, there’s enough room left over to line up a row of grocery bags or throw in a few gym bags. Carpeting is nice enough that I should have known better than to haul firewood without laying down a blanket first, as the fine carpet fibers grabbed every shaving it could.
Power controls for the rear seats make expanding the loading area easy.
Infotainment and controls
Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system makes its appearance in the Escalade, and it’s mid-pack among its competitors. CUE scores well with clear graphics and a logical command flow, and the steering-wheel buttons worked well…
…but the external controls for volume and such felt unresponsive and insubstantial, with the panel behind the physical controls flexing a bit as you worked to make your request heard.
The 12.3-inch screen that displays the instrument cluster is crisp, and the graphics are remarkably restrained.
The right side of the screen changes to display information and alerts.
The roomy console provides points for power and USB connectivity. Cadillac calls the trim on the sliding door “Exotic Wood.”
If your phone is wireless-charging capable, then you’ll probably like the charging tray on top of the Escalade’s console. The tray is big enough for the largest iPhone, and the pattern etched into the plastic keeps it from sliding around.
The Escalade’s less-expensive Chevrolet and GMC brethren do just about the same job done by the Escalade, but it’s likely that some Escalade buyers would not even consider the others.
That’s because beyond its functional aspects, the Escalade has its own cult of personality. Just the name alone sparks a reaction in people – tell them you’re driving one, and people mentally scroll to the image of the most unrepentantly ornate SUV they saw last.
That means the Escalade has done its job; it effectively renders Cadillac’s branding on one of the largest canvasses available to SUV buyers. The good news is that for buyers who value the statement the Escalade makes, there’s little from the truck underneath to dissuade them.
The Escalade is not without flaws – the Lincoln Navigator has better comfort in the second and third rows, and the Platinum’s upgrades are pricey – but for those who want this kind of presence, the Escalade delivers.
Shopping for a new or used Escalade? Check out BestRide.com’s local search here.
2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum
Base price: $91,950
Price as tested, including $995 destination charge: $94,695
Power-retractible assist steps: $1,750
- Unmistakable styling
- Lush Platinum interior
- Brawny hauling and towing ability
- Occasionally stubborn CUE interactions
- Active safety features not available in Escalade Standard trim