The Escalade is the largest vehicle Cadillac makes, and has positioned itself as the vehicle of choice for celebrities and politicians. It’s easy to see why - it’s American luxury at its best, coupled with an exceptionally roomy interior and a very comfortable drive.
For 2021, Cadillac has given the Escalade a big makeover, making it extremely tech-heavy. Though it's not an electric vehicle, it has all sorts of connectivity and entertainment options that would make any car manufacturer jealous.
With a starting price of AED 325,000, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is more affordable than you’d expect. The model we tested was the Premium Luxury Platinum that costs AED 417,200 and features an incredible sound system along with rear screen entertainment.
The best way to describe the design of the 2021 Escalade is that if you see it approaching in your rear-view mirror, you’re likely to get out of the way. The large and aggressive grill on the front demands attention while the LED lighting, including the signature droop, unmistakably makes it a Cadillac.
The boxy back with long vertical LED lights aren’t a huge departure from the previous model and neither is the size. The Escalade 2021 is a behemoth, and will make the most experienced driver nervous while entering or exiting the winding narrow underground parking lots in Dubai.
That large design does serve a purpose; an incredibly spacious interior. The model we received was equipped with pilot seats for the second row and a bench on the third. These middle row seats are extremely wide and offer plenty of legroom. You could also recline them to get super comfortable or fold them flat to get more room in the back.
With the middle and third row folded, the 2021 Escalade offers a ridiculous amount of cargo space. Needless to say that a trip to Ikea will be nothing to worry about.There are also tons of USB ports all over the vehicle that will happily keep the phones and tablets of all family members charged, no matter which row they’re seated in.
Tech and entertainment
The first thing you notice when stepping into the 2021 Cadillac Escalade is the mesmerising 38-inch wide curved OLED screen that stretches from the driver's side door to the inside edge of the passenger seat. It’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous with a high resolution and super responsive touch controls - Cadillac went all out with it.
The screen is split between three parts - a smaller sized gauge control and the much larger instrument cluster and infotainment screens. The instrument cluster can show your usual set of gauges, display the map, or use the front camera with AR showing the road ahead. You can also toggle night vision to more easily detect objects in the front during low-lit conditions.
There are cameras all around the 2021 Escalade that let you view the front, rear, and a top-down 360 view that helps with tight spaces. Sensors are present on the front and the rear to help you with parking.along with assist for parallel parking. The rear-view mirror can also switch between a mirror or a screen- something we've seen in previous Cadillacs.
The screen with the front camera view looks better than what you can see from the windshield, though you should definitely keep your eyes on the road. Keep one thing in mind though - if first-person games with fast motion make you dizzy, then then you’ll likely experience that on the Escalade as well. For that reason, we mostly used the instrument cluster as exactly that.
Coming to the infotainment screen, you can set it to display navigation, audio, or phone controls. Map data isn’t real-time but, as per the company, it will be providing updates over the air every six to twelve months. One feature that caught our attention was how quickly the speed limits got updated between roads and showed up on the instrument cluster screen. It was as though the front camera was looking for speed signs and updating them as soon as it found them. But these limits are actually from the mapping data.
As expected, the Escalade supports wireless CarPlay and Android Auto and you can have either of those displayed on the center screen. Since the 2021 Escalade features a wireless charger on the center console that can take phones of varying sizes, you can connect and charge your phone completely wirelessly.
There’s also a sizable fridge in the center console that can hold six bottles of water. Cup holders are also present for the front and middle rows and they’re large enough to hold most drinks. The back seats have two large displays that can show map data or anything from one of the two HDMI ports. Your choice of Bluetooth headsets can also be connected to these displays and USB ports will make sure to keep them charged.
However, if you really want to enjoy the sound, you should skip those headphones and fire off the AKG powered sound system with 36 speakers (yes, you read that right). All those speakers allow you to create a highly immersive surround system that can be targeted towards the front or second row. Cadillac could certainly create a Dolby Atmos experience that’ll sound better than almost any home theatre system.
The 2021 Escalade also comes with hotspot capabilities and 3GB of data valid for 90 days from when you purchase the vehicle. Cadillac is working out a plan with Etisalat in the UAE to subscribe to monthly data packages for the vehicle. To put this to test, we connected an Apple TV to one of the HDMI ports and watched Netflix as well as YouTube videos on the back screens using the car’s phenomenal speaker system. It worked great, though a word of warning - do not test this feature with kids as you’ll have a hard time getting them out of the Escalade.
Safety and performance
Besides information and entertainment, Cadillac puts the tech on the Escalade for safety purposes as well. It has most safety features you’d expect from a high-tech vehicle in the 2020s such as pedestrian detection, lane safety, adaptive cruise control and collision detection.
Considering how far back the last row is, there is a safety notice that comes up on the screen if weight is detected on the last row when you’re exiting the car. You can also set an option to use the microphones in the car to better hear sounds from the third row. That’s handy if you don’t want kids screaming for something.
The engine packs quite a punch as well - all models are equipped with a 6.2L V8 with 420HP engine. Off-roading capabilities are good too - we took the Escalade to UAQ Mangroves beach, the entrance for which isn’t quite ready for non SUVs. Even though it’s a bumpy road to the beach, the suspension of the car kept the ride smooth
Overall, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade offers a great tech makeover to what was already a large and comfortable vehicle. The starting price of AED 325,000 isn’t overly expensive for this luxury vehicle but it does start to add up when you equip it with a better sound system or rear screen entertainment. Still, if you’re looking for comfort, styling and tech, the Escalade checks all the boxes.