The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Is A Musclebound Luxury SUV

Cadillac’s most powerful Escalade yet pairs luxury with a serious racing pedigree.

(Cadillac)

Cadillac’s potent new Escalade-V brings the racing pedigree from Cadillac’s successful motorsports program under the hood of its most luxurious SUV.

You may think of an Escalade as a plush ride where comfort and cubic feet take precedence over speed and agility, but the new V begs to differ. All the luxury is there, but it’s in a sportier form. Inside, the perforated leather bucket seats emblazoned with V branding make it clear this is not your typical Escalade.

(Cadillac)

Under the hood, a 6.2-liter turbo V8 with 682 horsepower, 653 pound-feet of torque, and zero-to-60-mph time of 4.4 seconds makes this behave more like a sportscar than a full-sized SUV. The Escalade-V is overkill on all fronts, which is clearly the point, and it also comes with an MSRP of $151,000, as tested.

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I took the new high-performance SUV down to the coastal Georgia enclave of St. Simon’s Island for Christmas, and the Radiant Red color gave it a Bad Santa vibe. On I-95, it felt like the king of the road. And in the resort community of St. Simon’s, where the median car is an X5, even the Bentley Bentayga drivers turned their heads for the V. 

Design & Interior

(Cadillac)

From the outside, the V badges, bright red brake calipers, blacked-out grille, matte graphite-colored 22-inch alloy wheels, and the four wide exhaust pipes make it very clear that this is no ordinary Escalade. It makes a visual statement without going so far as to be gaudy. Tastefully over-the-top. 

Climb up the auto-deploying running boards and into the cockpit to find a very spacious interior that could easily accommodate a long road trip for six or seven adults. The suede-like interior is luxe to the touch, and the panoramic moon roof keeps the dark interior from ever feeling gloomy. 

The cabin’s appointments build on the Escalade’s Platinum trim interior.

A few details that stood out either for being particularly useful or just particularly cool were the night vision cameras that give you an alternate view of the dark road ahead; the temperature-controlled compartment in the console that works for storage or as a fridge/freezer; and the heating and cooling massaging seats.

The rear passenger entertainment screens are visually stunning, but in practice the interface was tricky. The video streaming app doesn’t hold your place when you turn off the engine, so even if you only make a quick pit stop, you have to reconnect to your streaming platform and find where you left off. (If there’s a solution for this, I couldn’t find it.)

The Escalade-V features an AKG Studio Reference 36-speaker audio system.

Also, given how large and luxurious the Escalade V’s interior is, the primary infotainment screen for the driver felt a tad small relative to the size of everything else. This was particularly noticeable when using Apple CarPlay, where the actual map displayed seemed small for a vehicle this size.  

Apart from a few minor tech quibbles, the overall experience of spending several hours on the road in the Escalade V is that it feels like a full-throttled luxury base camp on wheels. And there’s comfort in knowing that worse comes to worst, it would probably offer a better night’s sleep than many hotel chains. 

Driving Experience & Performance

(Cadillac)

Cadillac has a serious motorsports program, and their racing pedigree is brought to bear brilliantly in the performance of the V. The engine noise of the V starting up is not for the faint of heart, to the point that I pity the bystander mulling around when the V is started in the echoing confines of a parking garage.

(Cadillac)

It settles down to normal decibel levels after that first blast, but while in Sport mode, the exhaust growls like a dragster whenever you take your foot off the gas. The engine noise can be adjusted, however, among the many driver preferences. 

It’s one thing to have a high top-speed in a large vehicle, but the Escalade-V gives you so much torque at early RPMs that it moves all of its 6,200 pounds off a dead stop with terrifying ease. I was wary of how the V would do on gas mileage. (It gets an average of 13 mpg: 11 city and 16 highway.)

But in practice, especially considering what fury was emitting from under the hood and out the exhausts, I was pleasantly surprised by the single tank refill needed for the 360-mile round trip, not counting a week of city driving. 

Final Thoughts

(Cadillac)

Sometimes the easiest way to understand whom a specific car is meant for is to see who responds to it the most.

A Bentley will get serious attention from a wealthy friend in Palm Springs, while a new Bronco or a Defender will get me locked in conversation with every cool dad at my kid’s school. A Corvette Stingray or a BMW M-Series will bring out my father-in-law’s inner teenager. But the Escalade-V pulls an old friend out of the woodwork.

(Cadillac)

He’s a man of his own breed. A New Orleans native, when I first met him in the late 1980s, he was barreling around the French Quarter in a Cadillac convertible as long as a yacht. A well-muscled six-foot-four, one night in the 90s when a group of rednecks tried to jump him and his friends leaving a gay bar, he sent them running home to their mothers.

These days he runs a restaurant supply business in New Orleans and drives an Escalade that he’s been known to use to plow through the hurricane flood zones with water up to the wheel wells. One pic of the V appeared in my social media feed, and he sniffed it out like a bloodhound. He knew exactly what it was without having to see the V badge on the door, and he reached out to tell me how much he wanted one.

And with that, I knew I’d found my answer of who this car is for. A badass. 

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