Screen Test: Cadillac’s Tech-Rich 2021 Escalade

It has a dashboard screen that could double as your home TV.

Remember those heady days when you thought a 36-inch TV was the pinnacle of big-screen viewing pleasure? You know, the one that made those Mork & Mindy re-runs look so enticing.

Climb up – way up – behind the wheel of Cadillac’s latest and greatest 2021 Escalade and feast your peepers on its jaw-descending, industry-first, 38-inch, curved OLED dashboard screen.

Here is over three feet of wafer-thin, high-definition glass with twice the pixel density of a 4K TV. It’s so wide, so pin-point precise, so crystal-clear, it’s like driving from the front row of your local cineplex.

As you’d expect, it has the easy, pinch, swipe and tap operation of an iPhone, plus maps so defined you can almost see house numbers on a mailbox.

The night vision display is so clear you can check whether that pedestrian stepping off the sidewalk is wearing an N95 covid mask, or one of those cheap disposables.

With this super-technically-advanced Escalade, it certainly feels as if Cadillac engineers have taken a Sharper Image catalog and said “OK, we’ll take the lot”.

My favorite piece of tech? That would be the mind-blowing AKG Studio Reference 3D surround sound system. This thing comes with 36 speakers, a trio of amps, 28 channels, and 360-degree sound projection.

At long last, this new-from-its-wheels-up Escalade, feels as if Cadillac has finally moved away from the SUV’s glorified GMC Yukon/Chevy Tahoe roots.

The astonishing quality, fit and finish, and true luxury attire now puts it head-to-head with the likes of Mercedes’ GLS, BMW’s X7 and Range Rover.

As it should for a truck with a base sticker of $77,490, or in the case of our blacked-out, fully-loaded, Sport Platinum 4WD tester, a non-trivial $112,095.

Naturally, for 2021 the three-row Escalade got super-sized. As if it wasn’t already big enough, it’s now seven inches longer, a couple of inches taller and half an inch wider. This is truly the new Colossus of Roads.

More important is the five inches that have been added between the wheels. This means 40 per cent more third-row legroom and a whopping 68 per cent more cargo space behind that third row.

Fundamental to this is the ‘Slade’s all-new, and more compact, independent rear suspension with pillowy air springing and automatic load-leveling.

The air suspension lets you lower the truck by two inches, though trust me, you’re going to want the $1,750 power-retractable running boards. Either that, or carry a step-ladder.

See this new Escalade in the metal and yes, the new design is more evolutionary than revolutionary. But the super-sized grille, new mail-slot headlights, honking 22-inch wheels and vertical slivers of LED lights front and rear, leave you in no doubt this a different version.

As before there’s a cool Sport-trim package – in the past, 45 per cent of Escalades have been Sport models. This blacks-out all the shiny-chrome on the grille, tailgate and trim for a more stealthy, bad-boy look.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that using Sport and Escalade in the same sentence is wishful thinking. But you’d be surprised. With GM’s remarkable Magnetic Ride Control dampers at each corner coupled with adaptive air suspension, the Escalade no longer rolls around like a freighter in a Force 5.

Throw in huge brakes, precise, nicely-weighted steering and Velcro-on-velvet grip, and this new Escalade is a delight to drive. You just have to get used to those supertanker dimensions.

Power, and plenty of it. comes from GM’s tried-and-tested 6.2-liter V8 cranking out 420 horsepower. Coupled to a quick-shifting 10-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, it scoots off the line with gusto and cruises serenely.

Caddy’s XXL-sized Escalade has come a long way since it debuted way back in 1999 as a re-badged GMC Yukon. This latest version is finally the luxury flagship the storied brand deserves.

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