Electric vehicles are taking over; it's evident everywhere you look around the industry. Even General Motors, a company heralded for its small-block V8 engine, will go all-electric by 2035. But before it waves goodbye to gasoline, the company wants to give it a glorious send-off. So what's the most ridiculous thing GM could think of? How about shoving a supercharged V8 into an Escalade? Enter the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V.
Created as an ultimate ode to American excess, the Escalade-V enters the market as the most powerful full-size SUV ever built (the Durango Hellcat was mid-size). It boasts a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, spitting out 682 horsepower and 0-60 mph in under 4.4 seconds. Did we mention it weighs 6,200-6,400 pounds and can seat seven comfortably? There has never been an SUV quite like this, and in the current automotive climate, there may never be again. CarBuzz sampled this monument to internal combustion in the sunny Arizona desert.
See trim levels and configurations:
An Escalade is already an ostentatious vehicle given its size and overall bling, so the designers didn't need to go overboard with this new V model. Unique front and rear fascias plus V-specific 22-inch wheels, red brake calipers, and a few V badges (three total) designate the V from the standard Escalade. At the back, the engineers fought hard to eliminate the standard bumper with fake exhaust outlets in favor of some sweet quad tips. This is a small change that we appreciate, especially as many high-performance SUVs cheap out with faux pipes.
Cadillac already had one of the most attractive designs in the full-size segment, and the Escalade V is no exception. The V's color palette includes Radiant Red Tintcoat, Argent Silver Metallic, Black Raven, Crystal White Tricoat, and Dark Emerald Metallic. The red was by far our favorite of the examples we saw, but Emerald Green also sounds intriguing. Like the standard Escalade, the V comes in standard-wheelbase and extended ESV guises, with the latter providing more passenger and cargo space.
Under the hood, the LT4 6.2-liter V8 engine is shared with the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. However, it gets a larger 2.65-liter TVS supercharger that ups the output to 682 horsepower and 653 lb-ft of torque. No, that's not as much as the 710-hp Durango Hellcat, but the Dodge is no longer in production. The Escalade-V is plenty quick, blasting to 60 mph in under 4.4 seconds (4.5 in the ESV) thanks to launch control. In the quarter-mile, Cadillac estimates the V will run under 12.8 seconds. Cadillac hasn't quoted a top speed, but we estimate the Escalade-V will reach the limiter at 124 mph; ask us how we know. When using the Escalade V for more mundane tasks, it can tow 7,000 lbs.
All of that power goes out to a V-specific all-wheel-drive system, which varies the torque split based on driving conditions.
The V gets some other go-faster goodies including six-piston Brembo front brakes and Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 with Air Ride Adaptive Suspension. We'll talk more about those additions in a moment. As for fuel economy, the EPA hasn't posted official figures yet, but we expect them to be atrocious. Obviously.
Cadillac engineers told us the Escalade had to earn its V badge, but they didn't want to ruin what makes this model so special. Like the standard model, Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 and Air Ride Adaptive Suspension pair to provide exquisite ride comfort, eliminating imperfect road surfaces as if they were newly paved. It's no Blackwing around the corners, but so long as the road isn't too narrow, the Escalade-V feels remarkably composed. Those massive Brembo brakes do a commendable job bringing it all to a screeching halt, but stopping this much bulk is never going to happen in a hurry.
If you didn't spot the V badges getting in, one could mistake this vehicle for a standard Escalade from behind the wheel; it's that comfortable. GM's Magnetic Ride combined with a quiet exhaust mode delivers a smooth, magic carpet-like luxury for long journeys to a summer home. With available hands-free Super Cruise, that trip is even more relaxing. Super Cruise can now automatically shift lanes to pass slower traffic, meaning it no longer gets stuck behind those pesky lane hogs.
Though it feels like a comfy cloud in Tour Mode, the Escalade transforms into a different beast when you tap the V Mode button. Cadillac deleted the center resonator to produce a throatier roar, and the result is an exhaust note that blows the Corvette out of the water. Seriously. The list of SUVs that sound this good includes the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and... end of list. You can hear the V coming from miles away, its throaty bark cracking like a whip with each shift from the 10-speed automatic transmission. Speaking of that transmission, it delivers speedy upshifts that rival the best dual-clutches on the market, though the downshifts aren't quite as snappy.
V-Mode also tightens up the steering, lowers and stiffens the suspension, provides a more responsive brake pedal, and sends up to 66 percent of the power towards the rear. With one button press, the Escalade displays its V prowess, putting a big grin on every occupant's face with its outrageous engine. Then when the kids are asleep, it can quiet down and lock the beast back in its cage.
As with the exterior, Cadillac didn't want to make the cabin too gaudy with lots of red accents, carbon fiber, or Alcantara. The V gets the same interior as the Escalade Platinum, finished in either Black or Auburn. There's some special Zebra Wood and a little V badge on the dash, but other than that, it's just an Escalade. We think this was a smart move, as many Cadillac buyers wouldn't want the Escalade to be too outrageous inside. This is a top-notch cabin with semi-aniline leather in all three rows and delightful massage seats up front. Sadly, only the front seats have ventilation, while the second row is heated-only. Come on Cadillac, even a Kia Telluride has ventilated rear seats.
First-row occupants will be amazed by the 38 inches of diagonal OLED screen real estate. This includes a 14.2-inch-diagonal center cluster that can project an augmented reality camera view (or night vision camera) with navigation prompts, adding true wow factor. Cadillac says the display has twice the pixel density of a 4K television, and it certainly looks like it. The main infotainment is housed on a large 16.9-inch touchscreen connected to a stellar AKG Studio Reference 36-speaker audio system.
The second and third rows are identical to the standard Escalade and vary depending on which wheelbase you select. Opting for the longer wheelbase ESV model doesn't adjust the first- or second-row legroom, but increases third-row legroom by two inches. It also boosts the area behind the third row from 25.5 to 41.5 cubic feet, with overall cargo space rising from 121 to 142.8 cubic feet. Few SUVs on sale offer more space, with the Escalade-V (especially the ESV model) providing plenty of space for passengers and luggage at the same time.
Cadillac also improved the available rear seat entertainment system, which now boasts Hulu and YouTube built-in. Unfortunately, other streaming services are not yet available, but customers can bring their own devices (like a Fire Stick) and plug into the HDMI ports.
The Escalade-V arrives with a price tag that isn't for the faint of heart; it's $149,990 (including destination charge) for the standard model or $152,990 for the ESV. That's before any options like Super Cruise ($2,500). If you need the extra space, what's another three grand? It's worth it. Does anyone "need" a Cadillac Escalade-V? Absolutely not. A standard Escalade is plenty powerful and just as luxurious. Cadillac built this car for the discerning customer for whom enough is never enough. And in that goal, the company fulfilled its mission.
There has never been anything quite like the Escalade-V. This is a full-size family luxury SUV that goes like a Corvette (and sounds even better than one), rides like a Cadillac, and doesn't sacrifice an inch on practicality. Automakers have built crazy SUVs before and there will still be outrageous SUVs in the electrified era, but none will ever quite capture the lunacy of the Escalade-V. This is an end of an era, and what an era it was.
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