buying: 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Tested: Power and Money

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UPDATE 8/11/22: This review has been updated with test results.

Cadillac has done to the Escalade something it should have done nearly two decades ago: give its full-size SUV the V treatment. Admittedly, the ethos of the American luxury brand's performance arm has become somewhat muddled in recent years, what with the V lineup now split between tamer V-badged models and full-on V Blackwing high-performance variants, such as the 10Best-winning CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing. But there's nothing confusing about the new 2023 Escalade-V. Its mission is one of power and prestige.

We certainly won't call the Escalade-V tame, as it packs a 682-hp wallop from a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8—a hand-built mill that's closely related to the 668-hp supercharged V-8 found in the CT5-V Blackwing, though the engine in the SUV trades the sedan's 1.7-liter Roots-type blower for a larger 2.7-liter unit. With the help of standard all-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission, this blown V-8 propels the standard-wheelbase Escalade-V to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds—1.7 seconds quicker than a 420-hp 2022 Escalade Sport Platinum we tested.

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2023 Cadillac Escalade-V © Michael Simari - Car and Driver 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Set aside the stopwatch and the Escalade-V feels properly quick from the driver's seat. A tap of the model's V mode button in front of the shift lever activates this brute's highest dynamic settings and engages its launch-control feature, which holds the engine's revs at around 1500 rpm when the driver has both pedals mashed to the floor. Lift off the left pedal and the immediate acceleration provided by the torque-rich V-8—Cadillac claims 80 percent of the Escalade-V's 653 pound-feet of torque is available from 2000 rpm—is akin to the initial surge of a moderately powerful electric vehicle.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V © Michael Simari - Car and Driver 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Unlike an EV, though, the subtle whine of the Escalade-V's supercharger and the raucous wail of its active exhaust system bring a symphonic quality to its straight-line acceleration. Even at idle, the V's quad pipes emit a menacing burble (Stealth mode does let you quiet things down for the school pickup lane). At speed, the system exhales with loud crackles and pops when you abruptly lift off the accelerator. Flat-footing this 6290-pound SUV results in 85 decibels of mostly exhaust noise entering the cabin. That's 10 more decibels than an Escalade Sport Platinum, which sounds roughly twice as loud. Yet, like the aforementioned Sport Platinum, just 66 dB of sound finds its way inside the V at 70 mph.

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Cadillac also altered the Escalade's suspension and braking systems for V duty. Tweaks to its air springs and adaptive dampers lessen this elephantine SUV's body motions with little sacrifice to its ride quality. And six-piston Brembo front brake calipers endow the V with a firmer and more responsive brake pedal. Though the brake pedal of an Escalade-V ESV we drove around Arizona struck us as a tad too grabby, the short-wheelbase model Cadillac sent to our Ann Arbor, Michigan, office for testing exhibited no such issue.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V © Michael Simari - Car and Driver 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Despite its upgraded—and fade-free—binders, our Escalade-V test vehicle's 178-foot stopping distance from 70 mph is four feet worse than that of an Escalade Sport Platinum. Blame the V's 192 pounds of additional mass and its 22-inch Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02 all-season tires. It's the same rubber Cadillac fits to all Escalades, and the sole setup offered on the Escalade-V. But the V's brakes remained more consistent during our testing, resisting fade, and with no brake-overheating warnings popping up as has happened when testing lesser Escalades.

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While the V treatment does make for a better-handling Escalade—which in standard form we'll grant is already one of the more athletic examples of its kind—the enjoyment that comes from being behind the wheel of this body-on-frame Cadillac still falls short of that offered by unibody competitors such as the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 and the BMW Alpina XB7. Both of those quicker and nimbler Germans hit the mile-a-minute mark in under four seconds and are available with sticky summer tires from the factory. No surprise, the Escalade-V's 0.69 g of cornering stick around our skidpad fell far short of the two German SUVs' 0.92-g runs. The V is held back by an overly intrusive stability-control system that pours salt into the Caddy's lateral-performance wound, just like all of General Motors' full-size SUVs.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V © Michael Simari - Car and Driver 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Then again, Cadillac is not pushing the Escalade-V as an SUV alternative to its sports sedans. Given that most high-performance SUVs spend far more time driving around town than tearing up twisty roads, the brand's decision to temper the Escalade-V's peak handling prowess with a comfortable ride and three-season tires seems like a smart move for the real world.

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However, this approach does limit the appeal of the $151,490 Escalade-V (add $3000 for the ESV model) when a less powerful yet similarly equipped Escalade Sport Platinum is some $40K less. Like all new Cadillacs (as well as Buicks and GMCs), the Escalade-V includes three years of GM's OnStar and Connected Services Premium Plan, a forced feature that adds $1500 to the base price. The service enables niceties such as the vehicle's Wi-Fi hotspot and SiriusXM 360L satellite radio and digital streaming service. It also provides access to the OnStar Guardian app for mobile devices.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V © Michael Simari - Car and Driver 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Sure, the Sport Platinum lacks the V's supercharged thrust and sound, but those qualities are largely irrelevant when you let GM's Super Cruise hands-free driving assist, which is available on both Escalade-V models, take control of the steering, brakes, and accelerator on certain divided highways. Another V downside is the 11 mpg we averaged over a few hundred miles of evaluation.

Nor does the Escalade-V's styling relay its greater potency, as its model-specific bumpers, wheels, badges, and red-painted brake calipers fail to make it look notably different from other Escalade models. In practice, the V model is a sleeper, which frankly is a bit out of character for a vehicle whose commercial success has come in large part from its ability to make a statement. It's taken Cadillac nearly 20 years to give the Escalade the V treatment. Let's hope the brand doesn't need as much time to produce an additional variant (or two) that both looks and feels as over the top as the 682-hp V-8 under the Escalade-V's hood.

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