Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It

We have to review this car, but we don't really remember it well. So here goes nothing.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Image: David Tracy

A classic car-journalist mistake is driving a car and waiting too long to review it. Both my boss Rory and I made this error, and because of it, you, dear readers, will have to slog through this review made up of faint memories of some fancy Cadillac we drove a while ago. Good luck.

“Man, I gotta drive down there and pick up a press car,” my boss messaged me in February. “What? You’re gonna drive nearly four hours to Detroit just to pick up a car?” I responded. “Yes David,” he told me. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got do. It’s for the blogs.”

As someone who has made a living doing dumb things “for the blogs,” I respected Rory’s response, but still found it foolish. To suck up to the boss-man, I hatched a plan that I communicated as me “taking one for the team,” though really I had absolutely nothing going on and just wanted to hang out with Rory and his family. “That’s eight hours of driving to pick it up and then eight hours to drop it off. Look, how about this. If I can somehow fit it into my packed schedule, I guess I’ll pick the Cadillac up and drive up there. But I’m only doing this for you and for the environment. Eight hours of highway driving in that big SUV and its 16 MPG-combined-6.2-liter V8 means lots of CO2, you know. Just know that I’ve got lots of things I’d rather do. I’m busy. Busy I tell you!”

Advertisement

He responded: “Why are you so weird about your schedu?”—“Never mind that. I’ve already left. See you in two and a half hours” I answered. I’d snagged the huge gray-ish, blue-ish truck from the press fleet company near my house in Troy, and headed up north on interstate 75 to Traverse City, Michigan.

As this was extremely long ago, I barely remember the car, which is unfortunate because you’re reading this to learn something about it. Bummer! One thing I can tell you is that, immediately upon entering the Cadillac, my eyes grew, and I stared at the dash, steering wheel, and gauge cluster. The interior was absolutely phenomenal. Just look at this other classic car journalist mistake of not having the steering wheel straight during an interior photo, and you’ll understand:

Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Image: David Tracy
Advertisement

Everything about this truck confirmed my view that the Escalade is the only true modern Cadillac. It’s the only car in the brand’s lineup that exudes the same swagger as the DeVilles, ElDorados, and Fleetwoods of yore. And in many ways, it follows the same formula. Like those old classy machines from the late 1960s, the Escalade matches its ornate interior with a massive grille that has real presence, elegant but not overstated wheels, lots of chrome trim, and a confident stance.

Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Image: David Tracy
Advertisement

The truck’s size (I fit a big Jeep Grand Cherokee rear liftgate between the rear wheel arches as you can see above) also plays a big role in giving it a tough, confident, but elegant look that has eluded far too many Caddies since the glory days.

Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Image: David Tracy
Advertisement

The light-colored interior blew me away. It wasn’t just the comfort, it was the sharpness of the screens, the fit and finish, and just how beautifully everything was laid out. Nothing was uncomfortable about the Escalade; not the feel of the materials to your hands, not the design of the cabin to your eyes, and not the seats or suspension to your butt.

The Escalade is the only true Cadillac because it looks the part, feels the part, and honestly — it rides the part. The thing glides.

Advertisement
Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Image: David Tracy

Of course, it does more than just glide. It also does donuts like a boss:

Advertisement

Speaking of boss, I’ll let mine take it away with his likely-faded recollection of what it was like to drive the Escalade. Before he continues, I have to mention one thing that remains in my memory from my time in the Escalade. The brakes sucked. Not in that they couldn’t stop the vehicle, but in that they required too much effort and felt spongey. I’m all for giving this Escalade qualities of the classic machines that gave Cadillac its name, but brake feel is probably one I’d leave in the ’60s.

Rory Tries Remembering Something, Anything

Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Photo: Rory Carroll
Advertisement

I asked to borrow this Escalade so I could check out Super Cruise. The plan was to drive down and scoop the Cadillac, drive it for a week, then drop it back off in Detroit. But David was coming up for Sno*Drift, so he brought it with him. Also, the car did not have Super Cruise.

I still haven’t come all the way around to the way these new T1XX-platform trucks look. The actual styling, especially on the Escalade is exactly what it needs to be. But somehow the new fully-independent suspension makes them looked a little perched, like they’re standing on their toes. The Escalades handle it better than the more off-road focused trucks, but where the previous generation Cadillacs and GMCs had an almost Rolls-Royce presence on the street, these look more upright and a little too tall for their width. Still, up close our test car was impressive—excellent paint, a bunch of thoughtful details and an overall sense of preciseness. Cadillac seems to be rounding into a post-Art & Science visual identity that’s interesting, and more importantly, recognizably “Cadillac.”

Advertisement

The interior made good, creative use of materials and felt like a $100k interior, except for the shift lever, which I hate. The big screens are well integrated and thoughtfully utilized; there’s a real harmony between the display and what’s being displayed.

Cadillac and a lot of other automakers once used a type of leather with a really heavy pebbling (that’s the raised texture on the leather). It felt like it was meant to wear hard, but it wasn’t any nicer to touch than plastic. It’s all gone now, replaced with the soft, supple stuff you’ll find in a lot of other luxury cars now. There was also a heavy linen-like cloth covering areas that you’re likely to look at but less-likely to touch. That stood out as a great material choice—it looks and feels fancy and provides interesting texture.

Advertisement
Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Photo: Rory Carroll

There are things you could complain about, little material choices here and there—shift lever, the control dial and buttons for the infotainment system feel a little light—but if you look around in the interiors of other luxury cars, you’ll find that this isn’t uncommon. Even Rolls-Royce uses deeply unsatisfying plastic parts on their dash. The question is whether the interior, in a hundred subtle ways, feels like the interior of a car that starts around $80K. And it does.

Advertisement

We drove the car almost exclusively on snow-covered roads, so I don’t have a ton to offer as far as driving impressions beyond the fact that it’s pretty quick and it whips top-tier shitties that will impress your kids.

Image for article titled Here's What We Think Of The 2021 Cadillac Escalade Four Months After Driving It
Photo: David Tracy
Advertisement

Note from David: I don’t know how the hell Rory remembers any of this stuff about material feel. Consider me impressed, but also a little skeptical.

Note from Rory: I take pictures to help me remember everything. This isn’t my first overdue review rodeo.

Advertisement