- Well-appointed interior with many amenities.
- Smooth power from 6.2-liter V8 engine.
- Excellent cargo space and towing capacity.
- Firm ride over certain surfaces.
- Poor fuel economy.
- Base trim lacks driver-assistance tech.
Vehicle Type: Four-door, seven- or eight-passenger full-size luxury SUV.
Price Range: From $76,490 to $93,590, before options.
Powertrain: The Escalade is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
It has direct fuel injection and GM's Active Fuel Management to maximize fuel economy to maximize fuel efficiency.
All models have a ten-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, while four-wheel-drive is optional.
The Cadillac Escalade has been a staple on dealership lots for the better part of 20 years. It has always been the plushest SUV in GM's lineup, with all its Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon cousins' power and capacity, but with more luxury and amenities. 2020 marks the end of its fourth generation, which began in 2015. As of this article's publishing, the new 2021 model has been announced, with more tech and a significantly redesigned body.
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade comes in rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drivetrains and standard and ESV, or Escalade Stretch Vehicle (for more occupant capacity) shells. It comes in four different trims: the standard Escalade, then the Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum. All share the same engine and 10-speed automatic transmission.
Its competitors are mostly of the European variety -- the Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne, and Mercedes-Benz GLS -- though it also has stiff competition from Japan, notably the full-size Lexus LX, and Ford's Lincoln Navigator.
Overall Score: 8/10
Safety Features: 8/10
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade has not yet been rated by the NHTSA nor the IIHS.
Conventional safety equipment is comprehensive, with frontal airbags for driver and front passenger, side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger, curtain airbags for all rows and seating positions, and GM's Passenger Sensing System for the front passenger airbag.
In terms of having the latest and greatest in driver assistance safety tech, the Escalade is well-outfitted, with standard Automatic Parking Assist, Front and Rear Park Assist, and Surround Vision, which is Cadillac's 360-degree camera. A rear camera mirror is standard on the Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum trims.
Cadillac offers various packages in this department as well. The Driver Awareness Package, which is standard on Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum trims, includes Safety Alert Seat (it rumbles to alert drivers to potential hazards!) Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Spot Zone Alert, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Automatic Emergency Braking, and IntelliBeam automatic high-beam control. The Driver Assist Package is standard on Premium, Luxury, and Platinum trims as well. It includes Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Seat Belt Tightening, Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking, and Reverse Automatic Braking.
Justifying the big Caddy's luxury-level pricing is no small task, as it not only competes with well-established Japanese and European brands but lower-priced platform-mates like the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe.
Is the Escalade truly a cut above these other full-size GMs? We'd say only when it comes to the higher trims, and if a consumer is after some of the available packages that greatly spruce up its exterior. Escalade shoppers can choose from a host of pleasant paint codes, including Dark Adriatic Blue, Dark Mocha metallic. There's also an exterior package called the Sport Edition, which is available with either Red Passion, Satin Steel, and Black Raven paint colors. It swaps out some of the glitzy chrome bits some more understated, gloss-black trim for a more understated, less-showy look.
One mild disappointment: A sunroof is standard on all but the base trim, which starts at a not-cheap $76,490.
Compared to the competition, its showpiece is tow capacity. The mighty Escalade can tow as much as 8300 pounds, which is more than the Porsche Cayenne's 7700 pounds, and the Lexus LX's 7,000 pounds. Consumers looking to pull a sailboat, race car, or a small cabin in total comfort can look no further.
Tech Features: 9/10
To stay relevant, especially in any category of car that's referred to as luxury, the amount of tech offered is crucial. The 2020 Escalade delivers in this category. Every trim level possesses a 12.3-inch digital dash, voice recognition, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration, as well as a 4G LTE hotspot available via subscription in its center console.
Reviewers noted that Cadillac's CUE infotainment system was intuitive and easy to navigate, albeit a bit too touch-sensitive and inaccurate to the touch at times as well. A Bose 16-speaker audio system with active noise cancellation is also standard across all trims.
Hinted at above with the 2020 Escalade's impressive towing capacity of around 8300 lbs, its large, boxy shape lends itself to great practicality.
Like its huge front grille, the interior specs are massive as well. Cargo room is substantial: as much as 94.2 cubic feet of cargo room in the back with the second and third-row seats folded down. It still has around 15 cubic feet with all seats folded up, which is more than a few subcompact hatchbacks' cargo room on sale today.
By contrast, the 2020 Porsche Cayenne doesn't hold a candle to the Escalade's cargo space, as it only has a maximum of 60.3 cubic feet available. Dual-zone climate control is on-hand to keep this massive interior comfortable.
Head- and legroom are great as well: between the front seats, second row, and third row, the average headroom is 39 inches, and the legroom comes in at 36.4 inches. With the Escalade ESV model, which expands the wheelbase by 14 inches and overall length by 20 inches, leg, head, and shoulder room in the third row are almost identical to these measurements in the second row, making this one heck of a great family hauler and road trip dominator. Plus, the cargo room behind this roomy third row is expanded by as much as 24 cubic feet.
Styling & Design: 8/10
When one thinks of a big, flashy, American-made luxury SUV in the North American car market, the Cadillac Escalade is most likely the first thing that comes to mind. Its large size, gigantic front grille, and eye-catching headlights that follow Cadillac design language possess a "bigger and flashier is better" type of vibe, which is quite appealing to US consumers.
With chrome accents, high door sills, angular exterior lights, and sharp body lines, the fourth-generation 2020 Escalade's styling looks elegant and refined, rather than bulbous like previous generations. Despite this, a refresh is much-needed; some critics find Cadillac's design language a bit tired. Rest assured, though, a redesign of the Escalade is coming in 2021.
The clean, sharp lines continue inside, as well as extensive luxury features. Its substantial leather surfaces and wood trim cover a massive amount of its cavernous space, and the way the front dashboard is designed makes it even more spacious than the numbers reveal.
For those who find it necessary to match the massive proportions with huge wheels, 22-inch, 12-spoke dark silver alloys are available as an optional upgrade.
Driving Experience: 8/10
When it comes to driving the 2020 Cadillac Escalade, it can accelerate to 60 mph in just 6.0 seconds, which is very good for the segment.
When it comes to the ride quality and handling, the Escalade trades leaf springs for an independent suspension in addition to its adaptive, magnetic ride control dampers. Reviewers noted that its standard adaptive dampers did an excellent job of generally ironing out imperfections. Such high-tech suspension also meant that the big SUV had reasonable body control under cornering and maneuvering around in tight spaces. Yet they didn't help it reach the level of a proper luxury vehicle. There's no hiding its body-on-frame truck underpinnings, and that translates to a firm ride over uneven surfaces.
Elsewhere, steering effort was minimal and easy to operate, though reviewers found it was easy to wander in its lane while cruising on the highway due to a severe lack of steering feel and directness.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
GM has come a long way in the past twenty years with fuel economy. Despite being originally based on some pretty old school technology, their modern small-block V8s can exhibit some pretty good fuel economy when the proper technology is present.
For those in the know when it comes to GM engines, the 2020 Cadillac Escalade's engine is a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 VVT L86 V8, essentially the iron-block version of their ever-popular, ever-potent modern LT1. What makes this engine so great? It has modern direct-injection and Active Fuel Management. Direct injection ensures the fuel flows efficiently into its eight cylinders. Active Fuel Management allows the engine to operate on fewer cylinders while cruising on the highway; it can go from a V8 to a V4 to be more thrifty on fuel.
However, high curb weight is still high curb weight. The Escalade ranges from 5,578-6,088 pounds, depending on whether it's rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), and standard or ESV body styles. This nets an EPA-rated fuel economy rating of just 14/21 mpg city/hwy for 4WD models and 14/23 mpg city/hwy for RWD models. Those are better numbers than SUVs of yore, though not as good as the competition. The Audi Q8 achieves as much as 17/21 mpg, and the Porsche Cayenne can go a bit further, with 19/23 mpg.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
Starting off the Escalade's offerings at $76,490 is the Standard trim. Regardless of the trim one selects, they all at least have the following standard features: 20-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, a hands-free power liftgate, and automatic rain-sensing wipers. Its extensive tech features are as follows: active noise cancellation, Bose 16-speaker audio, an 8.0-inch touchscreen CUE infotainment system, front and rear park assist, leather upholstery throughout, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, keyless entry, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and wireless charging.
Up next, the Luxury trim gets even better for a cool $82,090. A rear camera mirror, the Driver Awareness Package, automatic high-beam LED headlights, massive 22-inch alloys, a power sunroof, a crystal-clear head-up display, The Driver Awareness Package, power-folding second-row seats, and a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-Ray/DVD player to ease those lengthy cross-country road trips.
The Premium Luxury trim adds to the Luxury trim and is just a tad more expensive at $86,490. For this price, consumers get refined and more extensive features, like Enhanced Auto Emergency Braking, reverse auto braking, cornering headlights, adaptive cruise control, auto seat belt-tightening, and a 360-degree camera system.
The Escalade's pinnacle trim, the Platinum, completes the upper echelon of GM SUV luxury at $93,590. At this level, all of the lower trims' amenities are standard, as are power-retractable side steps and bespoke twelve-spoke, 22-inch alloy wheels. A more substantial, refined grille design, better leather seats in the first and second rows, leather seating in the third row, an instrument panel, console, and doors covered in leather, massaging front seats, and gorgeous wood trim help justify this premium price even more.
The 2020 Cadillac Escalade represents nearly twenty years of GM luxury SUV engineering. As the years go by and generations fill the automotive history books, each generation gets more and well-appointed to keep up with the incredibly-stiff competition from Europe and Japan. Luckily for GM, Americans aren't requesting they make it smaller, which only gives them more room to cram amenities in and stay very competitive.