The 2017 Cadillac Escalade is classified as a full-size luxury SUV with seating for seven passengers. It is available in the base trim, then moves up to the Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum models. An even larger Escalade ESV extended-wheelbase model is covered in a separate review.
Standard Escalade trim includes 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high beams, automatic windshield wipers, power-folding and auto-dimming outside mirrors, rocker-sill passenger steps, a hands-free, power-operated liftgate, cargo rails for the roof, a trailer hitch receiver and wiring harness, cruise control, Magnetic Ride Control suspension, keyless entry and ignition, remote ignition, front and rear parking sensors, and a system for automated parking.
Within the Escalade cabin, you’ll find three-zone automatic climate control, a customizable instrument display, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, a power-operated and heated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with wood trim, heated and cooled 12-way power-adjustable front seats, driver seat memory functions, heated second-row bucket seats, a power 60/40-split folding third-row seat, and a 110-volt power outlet.
Other technology-related features include active noise cancellation, a teen-driver monitor with control over certain vehicle settings, universal garage-door opener, OnStar emergency telematics, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, surround-view outside camera system, CUE infotainment system, a navigation system with real-time traffic and voice recognition, Wi-Fi hot spot, mobile apps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, wireless charging pad, and a 16-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with CD player, satellite and HD radio, auxiliary audio input, and five USB ports.
The Luxury trim adds 22-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, sunroof, forward collision alert with low-speed crash mitigation, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, head-up instrument display, vibrating safety-alert driver seat, and power-adjustable second-row seats. A new rearview mirror system uses the rearview camera to simulate a view unobstructed by passengers or roof pillars. When the simulated view is deactivated, the mirror gives you a conventional reflection of the view to the rear.
Stepping up to the Premium Luxury trim adds adaptive cruise control, a single-screen rear-seat entertainment system with HDMI and MHL input, plus two wireless headphones. The Platinum trim includes power-retractable passenger steps, unique exterior and interior style treatments, a cooled center console bin, premium leather upholstery, 18-way power front seats with driver massage functions, dual rear entertainment screens and a faux-suede headliner.
Select features are available on supporting trims as options. A power-adjustable second-row bench seat is available for Premium and above trims, increasing seating capacity to eight.
Standard safety equipment for all trim levels of the 2017 Cadillac Escalade include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control (with trailer sway control), front-seat side airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags. An airbag between the front seats offers additional protection in side-impact crashes. Also standard is a teen-driver management system, a reminder to check the backseats for child occupants before vacating the interior, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view exterior camera, and the OnStar system with automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
Luxury and above trim levels also receive forward collision alert with automatic low-speed emergency braking, lane departure warning and intervention, a safety-alert driver seat that vibrates to warn the driver of danger, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and the new rearview mirror with its obstruction-free camera view. The adaptive cruise control system for the top trims also features automatic braking over the full range of speed, as well as automatic braking when in reverse.
In government crash tests, the Escalade was awarded five out of five stars for side-crash protection and three stars for rollover protection. In Edmunds brake testing, an Escalade with 22-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 127 feet, which is longer than competing SUVs.
As big as the Cadillac might seem on the outside, it's surprising that the interior doesn't feel extraordinarily spacious. The first two rows of seats have an abundance of head- and legroom, yet shoulder space seems oddly limited. And as with third-row seats in all SUVs in all size categories, these are meant to be used only for children on short trips.
The Escalade's cabin features attractive, high-quality materials. This is especially true of the Platinum trim level, which upgrades to a comprehensive use of premium leather. Cadillac's CUE infotainment system is visually appealing, as are the rest of the controls on the center stack of the dash. CUE offers plenty of features to keep passengers entertained, yet the system's responses to touchscreen inputs are sometimes delayed and the menus aren't always intuitive to understand. The touch-sensitive buttons for climate control are similarly problematic.
In terms of numbers, the Escalade's cargo capacity is comparable to other large SUVs: It delivers 15.2 cubic feet of space behind the third row, 51.6 cubic feet behind the second row, and 94.2 cubic feet behind the first row. These figures don't tell the whole story, though, because the high load floor in the back makes for a fairly strenuous loading process. Fortunately, the hands-free power liftgate can be triggered with a swipe of your foot under the rear bumper.
With a 6.2-liter V8 under the hood that delivers 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade has no problem accelerating to highway speeds or passing slower traffic. Throttle response is immediate, and the braking performance is reassuring and predictable.
For all this, the Escalade doesn’t deliver the luxurious ride quality that we expect from this brand. Even with a Magnetic Ride Control suspension system that allows the driver to tailor its performance to the driving situation, the occasional bump and thump remind you that the Escalade is derived from a truck chassis, not a car platform. Much of this lack of refinement can be attributed to the stylish 22-inch wheels, which must carry tires that feature narrow sidewalls that transmit vibration from the road into the passenger cabin.
The Escalade’s large size also is not only imposing to look at but also imposing to drive, especially in urban traffic. Thankfully, the cabin proves fairly quiet on the highway, insulating occupants from wind and road noise. In the end, there are full-size SUVs that are better to drive every day, but none approach the style statement that the Cadillac Escalade makes.