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2020 Cadillac Escalade Review


LIKES
  • In-your-face design
  • V-8 thrust
  • Comfortable interior
  • Good towing ability
DISLIKES
  • Ride not as composed as rivals
  • Curiously cramped for passengers
  • So, so thirsty
  • Too in-your-face for most
BUYING TIP
  • The base Escalade lacks safety features that should be standard at half its price.


The 2020 Cadillac Escalade is ripe for a redesign, so check out rivals before making a call.

The 2020 Cadillac Escalade is a king of bling, and it isn’t ready to abdicate the throne just yet. But its crown could use a good shining. 

This big bruiser of a luxury SUV boasts strong V-8 engines and a plush interior, yet its stiff ride and trucky demeanor make it feel like yesterday’s news up against the fresh Lincoln Navigator. 

Overall, we peg the 2020 Escalade at 6.2 out of 10.

The Escalade comes in standard (which is to say enormous) and extended-length (which is to say ginormous) ESV configurations available in base, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum trim levels. 

A 6.2-liter V-8 pegged at 420 horsepower shuttles power to either the rear or all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. It’s big, but it’s fast — and it’s thirsty. Don’t look for much better than 17 mpg on the required premium fuel. The ride can get choppy, though most harsh impacts are quelled better in the ‘Slade than in its Chevy and GMC siblings thanks to the standard driver-adjustable dampers. Properly equipped, the Escalade can lug up to 8,300 pounds worth of trailer. 

The Escalade shares its bones and much of its body with the less-tony Chevrolet Suburban. Even the base Escalade is flashy and decadent, though it takes stepping up to the megabuck Escalade Platinum to net real wood trim and softer leather. Interior space for passengers isn’t as voluminous as the 204-inch overall length for the standard model might suggest, and the 224-inch ESV’s only real improvements are in third-row leg room and cargo space. The ESV is micro apartment-sized inside, however. 
The 8.0-inch touchscreen that sits high on the dash uses the latest version of Cadillac’s infotainment software, which means standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility help out. Base Escalades lack collision-avoidance tech that absolutely should be standard for their nearly $76,500 base price. 

With a redesigned model on the horizon for 2021, the Escalade isn’t the strong choice it once was.

Styling
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade marries classic Caddy glitz with a posh interior.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but there’s no denying that the 2020 Cadillac Escalade has presence. Its big, bold grille, swept-back headlights, and vertical, Eldorado-inspired taillights earn it an exterior point, while the car-like interior with its backlit buttons that fade away when the truck is turned off scores another point. 

That brings the 2020 Escalade to 7 out of 10 on our scale.

The Escalade may look best in black, but maybe that’s because we’re so used to seeing them lined up in front of the airport or a fancy hotel. Its big-box shape starts as a Tahoe or Suburban but is loaded up with chrome to good effect. 

Standard 20-inch wheels look huge in the wheel well because they are, but the optional 22-inchers fitted to Luxury and higher trim levels are even more outlandish. Power-retractable running boards come on the range-topping Platinum.

An optional Sport Edition package blacks out the chrome, but we’re not sure why you’d bother. You’re here for the old-school bling, right? 

Inside, the Escalade shares little with its Chevy and GMC siblings. Its dash looks as though it’s been plucked from a car, and the judicious use of fake wood (real on Platinums, thankfully) is just the right side of gaudy—the right side depending on your definition, that is. Stitched surfaces give every Escalade a classy look, though only the Platinum’s semi-aniline leather and open-pore wood trim truly impresses.

Performance
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade can hustle with sports cars, so long as the road is straight.

A strong V-8 gives the 2020 Cadillac Escalade acceleration once reserved for sports cars, which along with a well-composed ride earns this big SUV a 7 out of 10 for its performance.

The only engine choice is a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8. It’s shared with other GM trucks, but more sound deadening here keeps its V-8-ness away, at least until the throttle is mashed. Then, the V-8 wakes up and delivers believable 0-60 mph sprints of around 6 seconds. The standard 10-speed automatic can occasionally fumble downshifts but largely works well with this big engine.

Power goes to the rear wheels on base Escalades, while a permanently engaged all-wheel-drive system costs about $3,000 more. Though there’s plenty of ground clearance, the tall wheels with their narrow sidewalls and the low-hanging front bumper should serve as reminders that the Escalade would rather pound pavement than rocks. 

Base models with their 20-inch wheels ride the best, but the standard magnetic ride control shocks take the edge off of bumps even with the 22-inchers standard on Luxury and higher trims. There’s no high-tech air suspension to raise the truck up and down like on the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, however. Steering is firm, with good assist, even if there’s no overcoming the Escalade’s heft. 

Trailer towing ratings hover around 8,000 pounds, though they vary by body style and driven wheels. In our testing, the Escalade has proven a confident, if thirsty lugger. 

Comfort & Quality
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade is as spacious for cargo as its big footprint suggests, though passengers may not agree.

Stretching the better part of a city block in ESV form, the 2020 Cadillac Escalade should have a spacious interior. It mostly does, so we give it points for its plush first-row thrones, its classy interior furnishings, and for its massive cargo area. 

That brings the 2020 Escalade to 8 out of 10 points on our scale.

Front-seat riders are treated to a wide range of power adjustment on the standard leather seats. Escalade Platinums toss in more adjustment up front plus massaging seats. 
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It’s the second row where the Escalade disappoints. Door openings on the standard model are relatively small for such a big SUV, and the 39 inches of leg room is just average. The seats themselves sit a little low to the ground, too. The standard third row is best for kids in standard-length Escalades but sufficiently sized for adults in Escalade ESVs.

Maximum cargo space ranges from about 94 cubic feet in the standard truck to a huge 120.9 in ESVs. Even with the third row upright, standard-length ‘Slades have about 15 cubic feet of cargo space.

Interior materials are pleasant on base models and decadent with the Platinum package that adds softer leather on the seats and dash, sueded trim on the roof, and gorgeous wood trim with inlays. 

Safety
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade hasn’t been crash tested.

We can’t rate the 2020 Cadillac Escalade for safety since neither federal nor independent testers have smacked one up against the wall. As a result, we can’t assign a safety score, though we can draw some conclusions.

For one, it takes stepping up to the Escalade Luxury for any kind of advanced safety features—the type of tech standard on many cars one-quarter the Escalade Luxury’s price. The Luxury trim includes forward-collision warnings, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, and a few other features. The Premium Luxury and Platinum add automatic emergency braking, something automakers have committed to making standard on almost every new car by the end of 2022.

Even if the Escalade hasn’t been crashed, its Chevy and GMC twins have. They earned just four stars in frontal crash tests from the NHTSA and three stars in the calculated rollover test, good for an unimpressive four-star overall rating. The IIHS has not crashed any of these big GM SUVs.

Features
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade is well-equipped, but it is very expensive.

Cadillac is awfully proud of its 2020 Escalade, and range-topping Platinum versions are appropriately dripping in luxury. 

There are some unexpected compromises with the base and Luxury trims, however, which is how we wind up at a relatively unimpressive 6 out of 10 for the high-buck 2020 Cadillac Escalade.

It gets points for its big infotainment screen and wide lineup but loses one for its underwhelming standard safety tech. 

The base trim seems aimed at livery services and Uber black. It comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment that’s Apple and Android compatible, Bose speakers, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, leather upholstery, and power-folding third-row seats. A few years ago, that was plenty. Now, for $76,500, we expect active safety tech.

You’ll spend a staggering $20,000 more for the Escalade Platinum, and yet it somehow feels worth the money. Its interior is draped in softer leather and real wood trim, its front seats are massaging, it’s well-equipped with active safety tech, and it even rides on 22-inch chrome wheels. 

Escalade ESVs cost $3,000 more. 

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade is far from thrifty.

With its blocky shape and powerful V-8, the 2020 Cadillac Escalade does not make an eco-friendly statement. Fuel consumption is high enough to earn just 3 out of 10 points on our scale.

Rear-drive 2020 Escalades come in at 14 mpg city, 23 highway, 17 combined. With four-wheel drive, the highway figure drops to just 21 mpg. Premium unleaded is required.

The Lincoln Navigator earns 1 to 2 mpg better and runs on regular unleaded. The Mercedes-Benz GLS450 comes only with four-wheel drive and checks in at a comparatively thrifty 21 mpg combined.


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