Drive Time – 2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV

Drive Time – 2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV

The Cadillac Escalade has enjoyed ultimate domestic SUV status since first arriving in 1999. Their audience is younger, wealthier and better educated than buyers of any other Cadillac model and the choice for athletes, movie stars and just about everyone else desiring their bling in abundance. It’s truly a tough crowd to impress. 

The fully redesigned 2021 Escalade ESV (Escalade Stretch Vehicle) is a welcome upgrade to satisfy those high-toned buyers wanting some good ‘ol American-made magnificence. In fact, if this vessel floats your boat, better order early as it’s already in high demand. 

So, what exactly should the Caddy badge-loving buyers anticipate? Smiles. Lots of smiles. The latest 3-row edition continues the tradition of tooling around in a gorgeous, powerful, ultra-luxurious and tech-laden land yacht with room for a small army. Caviar for everyone! 


The 2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV Premium Luxury edition Satin Steel Metallic is a feast for the eyes. Its striking boxy silhouette with pronounced angles and balanced proportions provide a substantial, bold shape to the eye. Sightlines are attractive from any angle and the front end is a showstopper with a diamond cut grille, remarkable crystalline vertical “light blade” LED running lights. The squarish rear houses two large vertical LED taillights bracketing an LED illuminated badge. It definitely makes a statement. The 600 numbered emblem on the rear tailgate signifies the newer neutron meter measurement for torque. Yes, it’s a bit confusing but will be the standard measurement when cars go mostly electric powered. 


The reward for remotely unlocking it at night is a veritable light show party flashing from all sides, including the cool door handles. It’s an instant WOW factor as my passengers asked me to repeat it more than a few times. You could almost charge admission for the show. 

Optional 22” Ultra-Bright aluminum rims look fantastic (yes, get them). In the Satin Steel paint looks classy and slightly mysterious with tinted glass.. Throw on your darkest shades to complete the celebrity mystique. 


Cadillac engineers placed a robust engine to power the 6,000 lbs. How about a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horses and 460 lb-ft of torque? It can motor 0-60 in 6.1 seconds. A terrific 10-speed tranny shifts effortlessly and includes the optional and peerless and sophisticated Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) to smoothes out asphalt imperfections—even with the 22” rims. You can select Tour, Sport, Off-Road or Towing modes. Handling is good for this quintessential cruiser  turning radius is decent for a 226” long ride. It also drives more nimbly and smaller than you’d expect.

You can opt for four-wheel-drive ($3,000) for cruising confidently in rough weather. The robust brake calipers and rotors stop the heavy ride in short fashion.  

The heated steering wheel (awesome in frigid weather) is responsive and light, and the leather wrapping feels just right in your mitts. 

Gas mileage (14/19, 400+ range) is decent for this humongous luxury class category and the engine can drop to four-cylinders when cruising, lowering the top door seams and shrinking the side mirrors to lessen wind resistance. The Escalade’s thirst isn’t finicky and drinks premium or regular fuel – hey, even the wealthy like to save dough. Plus, there’s no gas cap to fiddle with. 


The exceptional Parchment/Jet Black interior is sumptuous, surrounding you in tasteful contrast stitched leather, chrome and real wood accents that’ll impress anyone. Fit and finish are outstanding. The stunning three display 38 diagonal inches of OLED screen is gorgeous. Leg and headroom are of course plentiful. The Premium Luxury 12 or upgraded 16-way power-adjusted heated/cooled seats (massaging optional) in front are supportive and buttery comfy. It’s the ultimate captain’s chair. Even the 2nd row bucket seats are heated. A button on the console adjusts both accelerator and brake pedal heights. Triple-layered windows insulate outdoor noise.

There’s plenty of knickknack storage and you can keep your drinks cool under the center armrest’s refrigerated compartment. A welcoming step bar is helpful entering or exiting. My sainted Mom sure appreciated it. I could seriously live in this opulent mobile presidential suite. The handy camera-powered rear view mirror extends the rear sightlines by a lane on each side without fighting with tall passengers or cargo. 

The center console infotainment is a vast improvement over the older CUE technology. Clean and happily intuitive. The tester included backup camera, keyless remote start, Bi-climate control, and adaptive LED headlights. A comprehensive list of safety measures including ample blind spot warnings and vibrating seat alert you from harm’s way. In addition, 

I’m addicted to the adjustable and dimmable head up display showing speed, traffic warnings, direction and even posted speed limits in the windshield. Anything that keeps your eyes on the road is a plus and should be standard in all vehicles. Terrific 360-degree cameras help safely moor your ride into tight spaces. 

Back seat room is ample and the third row seats (comfortably housing full-sized adults conveniently power fold up and down with a flip of a switch. You can opt for multimedia screens behind the front seats – although in this age of iPads and smart phones, it’s a nice bonus but not necessarily essential. 

The ESV’s ample cargo area is a category-leading 142 cu.ft. with both rows folded, but there’s decent room with even the 3rd row engaged. Plus, waving your foot underneath the bumper opens an adjustable-height power tailgate. Perfect. 

Tech check

Like its other Cadillac siblings, there’s no shortage of stupendous technology. The aforementioned OLED touch screens are easy to comprehend with zero sun glare. It includes 3-D Navigation maps, Doppler radar and natural voice activated prompts work instantaneously to any voice. The infotainment screens will even read aloud your text messages (via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto). Yeah, this is hardly your daddy’s Caddy.

Under the massive screen are handy one-touch buttons for the most commonly used features.  You can Bluetooth up to 10 devices. And there’s a wireless charging slot imbedded in front of the center armrest to juice up your phone without having to deal with those nagging charge cords—plus it reminds you to take it upon exiting the vehicle. 

The 16-speaker AKG Surround System is impeccably crystal clear and near perfect in audio acoustics with four distinct cabin sound settings. Or option it up to the mind-blowing 36 speaker Studio Reference System that is astonishing in its clarity and performance (sure, why not!?). It even provides speakers in the back so rear seat passengers can converse with the front without shouting. Genius!

In addition, safety ratings are excellent and there are enough nanny features to keep you out of harms way. 

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade ESV is the big kahuna of American luxury, ramping up nearly every aspect its discerning buying audience wants and expects. The quintessential American luxury cruise ship sails in some very competitive waters, but much of the competition is now left in its substantial wake. My SUV-loving friends gave it 10-thumbs up. Enough said. 


Golf Bags: 4+

Curb Appeal: I wonder who drove up?

0-60: 6.1 seconds

Gas Mileage: 14/21. Observed 18 overall

Must-Haves: Everything. It’s an Escalade

Warranty & Free Maintenance: 48 months/50,000 miles. Premium Care Maint. 3/36.

Base price: $88,995

Price as tested: $93,045

Who buys it?: Luxury SUV owners desiring American brawn and luxury

Finish line: Sumptuous blend of high-toned excellence

Test-drive the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Luxury at Crest Cadillac in Frisco.