REVISED 8/11/22: Test results have been added to this review.
Giving its full-size SUV the V treatment is something Cadillac has done to the Escalade that it ought to have done nearly twenty years ago. Given that the V portfolio is currently divided between milder V-badged models and fully-fledged V Blackwing high-performance variations, such the 10Best-winning CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing, the performance brand’s concept has, admittedly, become a little confusing in recent years. But the new 2023 Escalade-V is not at all unclear. Its goal is to be powerful and prestigious.
The supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 in the Escalade-V produces 682-hp, making it anything but mild. This hand-built engine is closely related to the CT5-V Blackwing’s 668-hp supercharged V-8, though the SUV’s engine substitutes a larger 2.7-liter blower for the sedan’s smaller 1.7-liter Roots-type blower. This blasted V-8 accelerates the standard-wheelbase Escalade-V to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, 1.7 seconds faster than a 420-hp 2022 Escalade Sport Platinum we tested, with the assistance of standard all-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
But unlike an EV, the Escalade-straight-line V’s acceleration has a symphonic quality thanks to the quiet whine of its supercharger and the loud shriek of its active exhaust system. The V’s quad pipes generate a frightening burble even when it is at rest (Stealth mode does let you quiet things down for the school pickup lane). When you abruptly take off the accelerator while traveling at a high speed, the system exhales with loud crackles and pops. This 6290-pound SUV’s cabin is subjected to 85 decibels of noise, primarily exhaust. That sounds about twice as loud as an Escalade Sport Platinum and is 10 decibels louder. But at 70 mph, the V only generates 66 dB of sound, the same as the aforementioned Sport Platinum.
For V duty, Cadillac additionally modified the Escalade’s suspension and braking systems. This enormous SUV’s body motions are reduced with minimal compromise to the ride quality thanks to adjustments to its air springs and adaptive dampers. Additionally, the V has a harder and more sensitive brake pedal thanks to six-piston Brembo front brake calipers. The short-wheelbase model Cadillac that Cadillac delivered to our Ann Arbor, Michigan, office for testing didn’t have this problem, despite the fact that the brake pedal of an Escalade-V ESV we drove around Arizona seemed a little too grabby.
Our Escalade-V test vehicle’s 178-foot stopping distance from 70 mph is four feet more than that of an Escalade Sport Platinum despite having updated, fade-free brakes. Blame the V’s 22-inch Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02 all-season tires and added bulk of 192 pounds. The only arrangement available on the Escalade-V is the same rubber that Cadillac installs on all Escalades. The brakes on the V, however, performed more consistently throughout our testing, with less fade and no brake-overheating alerts appearing, unlike when we tested cheaper Escalades.
Even if the Escalade, in regular form, is already one of the more athletic examples of its class, the V treatment does improve its handling, the thrill of operating this body-on-frame Cadillac is still inferior to that of unibody rivals like the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 and the BMW Alpina XB7. Both of those more agile and speedy German cars reach the mile-per-hour mark in less than four seconds and come standard with gripping summer tires. Unsurprisingly, the Escalade-0.69 V’s g of cornering stick around our skidpad was far less than the 0.92-g runs of the two German SUVs. Similar to all of General Motors’ full-size SUVs, the V is constrained by an excessively intrusive stability-control system that aggravates the Caddy’s lateral performance issues.
However, Cadillac is not promoting the Escalade-V as a substitute for its sports sedans in the SUV market. The brand’s decision to moderate the Escalade-peak V’s handling abilities with a comfortable ride and three-season tires seems like a wise move for the real world given that most high-performance SUVs spend considerably more time cruising through town than blasting up winding roads.
This tactic does, however, reduce the appeal of the $151,490 Escalade-V (plus $3000 for the ESV model), given that a less potent but otherwise identically equipped Escalade Sport Platinum is around $40K cheaper. The Escalade-V features three years of GM’s OnStar and Connected Services Premium Plan, a required item that raises the base price by $1500, much like all new Cadillacs (as well as Buicks and GMCs). Niceties like the car’s Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM 360L satellite radio, and digital streaming service are made possible by the service. Access to the OnStar Guardian app for mobile devices is also made available.
Sure, the Sport Platinum lacks the V’s supercharged thrust and sound, but when you use GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driving assistance, which is available on both Escalade-V models, to control the steering, brakes, and accelerator on some divided highways, those shortcomings become largely insignificant. The 11 mpg we averaged over a few hundred miles of testing is another drawback of the V.
As a result of its model-specific bumpers, wheels, badges, and red-painted brake calipers, the Escalade-appearance V’s also fails to distinguish it from other Escalade models, which makes it difficult to convey its greater power. In reality, the V model is a sleeper, which is, to be perfectly honest, a little out of character for a car whose commercial success has been largely attributed to its ability to stand out. Cadillac finally gave the Escalade the V treatment after nearly 20 years. We can only hope that the manufacturer won’t take as long to create a second (or second) model that feels and looks as extravagant as the 682-hp V-8 powering the Escalade-V.
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