2023 Cadillac Escalade V Initial Trip Review: Pure, Unpolluted extra

Cadillac’s 682-horsepower supercharged Escalade proudly wears its V badge.

The Escalade V is available in popular and long-wheelbase frame styles. Dave Burnett / Cadillac

You feel pretty guilty when driving a full-size SUV with a 682-horsepower supercharged V8, at a time when fuel prices are off the freakin โ€™roof.  But this kind of outrageous overdose is exactly what the new Cadillac Escalade V is all about.

So, “Why now?”  Perhaps the better question to ask is, “How long did it take?”  The Escalade is more synonymous with Cadillac than any other CT-sedan, but is now invited to the Hi-Po V-Series Club.  Chief Engineer Mike Symons chokes the old Escalades back to a time when stock relies heavily on full-size pickup truck platforms, but the new SUV has more advanced underpinnings such as air suspension, magnetic ride control dampers and independent rear axles.  This is the truth;  Those properties pay dividends to make the Escalade V better to drive.  Of course, having an engine bazooka certainly helps.

I’m definitely talking about Cadillac’s 6.2-liter supercharged V8, which you’ll find on the amazing CT5-V Blackwing.  With 682 hp, this V8 emits 653 pound-feet of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission.  This is enough motivation to move this approximately 6,000-pound behemoth to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, or 4.5 seconds if you choose the Long-wheelbase Escalade V ESV tested here.


Yes, it is the same supercharged V8 as the CT5-V Blackwing.  Dave Burnett / Cadillac

Cadillac spent quite a few time tuning the Escalade V’s exhaust.  Equal-length pipes exit through the quad tips, and the quality of the audio is completely unsound.  There is almost too much burble on the overlap you can hear across the cabin, and the engine or exhaust is not artificially ‘enhanced’ by the speakers.  If something is good enough, there is no need for enhancement.

The 10-speed automatic transmission is fully tuned to make the most of the Escalade V’s power.  Taddle around town in Tour mode and the gearbox fits into a full-size luxury SUV with ease and quiet.  Put the Escalade in its most aggressive V mode, and you’ll enjoy rapid-fire upshifts and downshifts that are delightfully violent, kicking you out of the back of that kind of seat.  Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are also fun to use.  That’s something I don’t say very often, and I certainly didn’t expect it in Escalade.

I didn’t expect this thing to handle like that, though I really shouldn’t be surprised.  Cadillac’s fourth-generation magnetic ride control system is as good as modern suspension technology and combined with a standard air setup, it works wonders.  The Body Roll has been cooled to keep the Escalade V mostly flat while cornering, but don’t forget that you’re driving an absolutely enormous SUV.  The steering is suitably heavy with plenty of feedback from the road, and the standard Brembo six-piston front brakes do a commendable job of handling the stopping force.

A large OLED display highlights the Escalade’s cabin. Dave Burnett / Cadillac

These improved road manners do not kill everyday comfort.  There is a wealth of energy beneath your right foot, but it is easy to manage and does not lift your head unexpectedly.

My one complaint with the ride quality is actually not unique to the V, which is something I’ve experienced in other Escalades.  On standard 22-inch wheels, despite the excellent suspension tuning and dense sidewall 275/50 all-season tires, the ride is quite chatty on small pedestrian bugs.  The smaller wheel / tire package may mitigate this a bit, but the Cadillac does not deliver one from the factory, although the engineer says the 20-inch wheels still clear the brake rotors.

The Escalade V is so awesome to drive, it is so beautiful when you allow driver-assist technology to be lifted.  Although not available at launch, Cadillac offers the Escalade V with its best Super Cruise system, allowing legit hands-free operation on a whole bunch of pre-mapped highways across North America.  Even in the steep and windy section of a two-lane highway through Arizona, the Super Cruise Escalade V can bend smoothly, enabling automatic lane changes when it is safe to do so.

Those quad exhaust tips don’t lie.  Dave Burnett / Cadillac

The Escalade is packed with a ton of great technology, and the V. Cadillac’s curved OLED dashboard display delivers up to 38 inches of diagonal digital real estate, with plenty of colours and crisp graphics to mirror the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone, both of which connect wirelessly.

The V builds the Escalade’s highest platinum trim level, so the interior will be loaded as much.  The cushioned front seats are trimmed in soft leather and have heating, cooling and massage functions.  Second and third-row passengers have plenty of head and legroom, and charge ports and storage QBs for days.  And don’t forget, Escalade V is big;  Long-wheelbase ESV front chairs can accommodate up to 142.8 cubic feet of cargo.

This gives the Escalade V more space than its nearest competitors, the new Land Rover Range Rover and Mercedes-AMG GLS63.  This makes Escalade’s $ 149,990 base price (including the destination) a relative bargain.   Add on  $ 3,000 for the Lengthy-Wheelbase ESV and $ 2,500 for the Super Cruise, and you’re looking at $ 155,490 for the Escalade V, as my test car.  No one has ever said that bhakti is cheap.


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