You need to drive at least six people around once in a while, maybe seven. Do you choose a minivan, or something with more power, panache, and luxury? What if you want to tow a car or camper? In this case, the choice is the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum. A large, well-equipped people-hauler that has a significant upgrade for the 2021 model year: It now features a rear independent suspension that provides a better riding experience than the previous solid rear axle. It also allows for more interior space including a lower floor for third-row occupants. This particular example has an MSRP of $112,465.
It is also a “numbers car” which is an odd thing to claim for a 5,635 lbs. vehicle. Which immediately implies a different set of numbers as opposed to performance figures. It is equipped with a 6.2 liter, 420 horsepower V-8 with 460 lb-ft of torque. That torque figure converts to 623-newton meters and Cadillac put a silly “600” on the right rear. It must be for the torque rating despite being 16.96 ft lbs. off because it sure isn’t a Mercedes 6-liter V-12 under the hood.
Besides people hauling, it is suitable for moderate towing duty such as a camping trailer or a car. The highest tow rating configuration is 8200 lbs. for the V-8, two-wheel-drive model. The lowest tow rating is 7,400 lbs. for the longer ESV model in four-wheel drive. The ESV extends the overall length by nearly 17” thanks to a 13.1” wheelbase increase to a very long 134”. Besides more room in the third row, it also increases the cargo space behind by 17.4 cubic feet to 42.9. But tow ratings compared to the previous generation solid-rear axle models were essentially unaffected which was a concern when the independent rear suspension was announced.
The interior features some impressive numbers as well. How do 36 speakers for the AKG Studio Reference sound system, um, sound? That includes three amplifiers and six woofers and it is as good as you would imagine with that many speakers.
The three OLED display screens on the dashboard have a total of 38 inches of diagonal display. The left side for selecting and customizing the HUD display, the trip computer, and the Augmented Reality camera view. The AR view in the driver’s center screen offers a high-definition display of what is in front of the vehicle. Sitting in traffic, the driver can read the license plate of the car in front, on the screen, if it can’t be seen over the tall hood from being physically too close. The main purpose of the center camera display is to indicate navigation directions with arrows on the screen.
The center screen to the right of the driver is the usual high-end user interface for the navigation, sound system, camera views, apps and configuration settings. The highlight effect of the selected icon is a little too subtle as are the page indicators.
Beautifully appointed, refinement is noticed in the switchgear, an example is the window switch feel and the sound the windows make when being lowered is perfection. All the physical controls looked and felt first-rate. The center console area features a padded phone slot keeps it from rattling and is also an inductive charger. The storage under the armrest is refrigerated which was a treat on a hot day for drinks and oddly sunglasses.
The beautiful wood inlays combined with the linen coverings on the doors, lower dash and glovebox look great, but the linen is easily soiled. Of course, the left side touchscreen showed fingerprints. Other minor complaints are too many controls for the sunroof and sunshade, the steering wheel button function icons are too small for easy visual discernment, and the seat controls are too far back on the lower seat base.
Once getting past the oohs and aahs of the surface designs, the technology, the materials, the coddling of the massaging and ventilated seats, the non-human cargo is easily accommodated since the second and third rows can be raised and lowered with controls in the rear cargo area.
During its stay, the big grocery getter was given some various names. Caddy is too common. ‘Slade was easier to type, but Cadzilla was most fitting. It is a huge vehicle that took some getting used to. The tall hood and tall dashboard that sloped up towards the windshield made parking a challenge. A physical button to activate the parking cameras would be appreciated versus a touch screen selection.
Once underway, it is a peaceful cruise. Thanks to the air ride springs and magnetic shocks, the ride is luxury car comfortable except slight head toss. Power is adequate from the V8, but despite the 600 badge, this is not a performance SUV. You get the luxury, refinement and space but not eye-widening acceleration of smaller SUVs in the price segment. Brake pedal resistance is higher than one would expect from such a comfortable and quiet driver and the pedal feel is spongey, almost bouncy.
If you do not want to deal with driving, there is the Super Cruise feature. Using LiDAR technology not used by an infamous competing system nor until very recently, driver attention monitoring, Super Cruise allows for hands-free driving. The Cadillac must be on a system-recognized divided highway with clear markings to engage. Claiming 200,000 miles of roads in North America and Canada, a check of the map shows major interstates as approved roads. New for 2021 is lane changeability and the functionality is included for three years. After that, looking at current managed-by-OnStar rates, $24.99 per month is the lowest priced package or $49.99 for all the features, to maintain connected vehicle status.
If you are dealing with the driving, the engine auto-shutoff is not very noticeable and the restart is rapid, the event isn’t objectionable but a noticeable rise in the air conditioning temperature was the reason the function was disabled during its time in hot weather.
If you do not want to deal with parking and have the time to select it, the space to utilize it, the Automatic Parking Assist does a great job, albeit a slow one for reversing into spaces, a slower process than just manually pulling in front first. For parallel parking, it is even better since the space it takes up to maneuver is no different than when a human does it.
The park assist cameras offer various perspectives such as the sides and a virtual 360 view outward from the vehicle and toward the vehicle which is especially trick. But when looking in the 478 page owner’s manual, there was no listing for “Cameras” in the index. Regardless, it needs to be played with in order to fully grasp the advantages to know where the vehicle and the tires are in relation to the surroundings. A feature also quite handy when towing.
Exterior styling generated mixed responses. The front has the familiar vertical Cadillac lighting pattern, but the huge grill emblem is ditched for a smaller crest. The side styling is understated, a challenge to appeal to everyone with the very standardized shape of a flat top SUV. The brake calipers should be a finished color like black or body-colored along with painted center wheel caps to convey the high-end market positioning. From the rear, the hatch surface angles give it a futuristic appearance vibe.
Long distance travel comfort, advanced vehicle technology and finely appointed, the Escalade offers a refined experience of people hauling with the utility enabled by the size.
Author BIO: Rob Eckaus
Rob is a long-time auto enthusiast and a graduate of AMG, Audi, BMW M, Bondurant, Exotics Racing, GT500 Track Tour, KTM X-Bow and SRT driving schools/events as well as a participant in hot lap sessions, drag racing, car events, and motorcycling. Rob is a member of the Western Automotive Journalists and the Motor Press Guild.
Besides a contributor to The Truth About Cars and prior to that, The Auto Channel, his blog is Barely Streetable at Blogspot and his social media handle is Barely Streetable on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube