First Drive: 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Expect to hear a lot about the new Cadillac Lyriq in the coming months. It’s the luxury brand’s first long-range battery-electric vehicle and its striking design and technology are bound to draw plenty of attention.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V ESV - parked front 3-4
Who doesn’t want a big, fast Cadillac? No one, hence, the Escalade-V.

But there are still plenty of buyers happy to pump fuel into their tank, even as gas prices soar to record levels. And for those who want lots of room, an aggressively striking design and a wealth of high-line features, there are few vehicles to compare with the gargantuan Cadillac Escalade. And now, you can add another feature to the ‘Slade’s checklist.

Despite a near-record heatwave sending the mercury well above the 100 degree mark, I recently headed to Phoenix to clock some time behind the wheel of the new Cadillac Escalade-V. More precisely, the long-wheelbase ESV version. General Motors’ flagship brand is billing the V-Series line as the most powerful full-size SUV in the world, and I wanted to see if it lived up to that advanced billing.

Overview

Measuring nearly 19 feet from bumper-to-bumper, and weighing in at more than three tons, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade is an imposing beast — all the more so in largely blacked-out V-Series trim. It’s the first Caddy utility vehicle to get the V-Series treatment and shares the same supercharged engine found in the CT5-V Blackwing — albeit with a few modifications.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V - side REL
Measuring nearly 19 feet from bumper-to-bumper, and weighing in at more than three tons, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade is an imposing beast.

But this is no hot rod. The two Escalade-V models feature all the luxury details and features you’d expect from what product chief Dave Schiavone describes as the “pinnacle” of the Escalade line-up. That includes not only double-stitched semi-aniline leather and real wood accents, but also an array of technical features including high-res OLED displays covering two-thirds of the instrument panel. You also can order the Escalade-V models with the latest version of GM’s hands-free Super Cruise system.

The challenge was to come up with a limo-sized package that could be driven like a boy racer while still delivering the comfort one would expect of the Escalade while cruising. In this case, this automotive Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lived up to my expectations.

Exterior

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is offered in two versions, a standard-wheelbase model measuring 211.9 inches, nose-to-tail, and the Escalade-V ESV that stretches to 226.9 inches — while also adding 190 pounds, at a 6,407-lb curb weight. I spent my time driving the long-wheelbase SUV but, with the exception of the longer rear quarter panel and glass, they’re visually identical.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V ESV - silver parked side
Chrome has been minimized or eliminated all around the Escalade-V, including on the mesh grille and windshield surround.

That starts with a more aggressive take on the standard Escalade front end, here going with a black mesh grille and black windshield surround. Chrome has been minimized or eliminated all around the Escalade-V. (While the grille is the same size as the stock ‘Slade, Cadillac adds a third fan, along with other steps to enhance engine cooling.)

Out back, the Escalade-V models get new quad exhaust tips and a rear diffuser. Meanwhile, the performance models get unique 22-inch wheels and tires. But unlike other V-Series Cadillacs, the SUV rides on all-season rubber, rather than summer tires.

Look more closely at the wheels and you’ll spot massive, 6-piston Brembo brakes in bright red. They feature 16.1-inch rotors up front, 13.5 inchers the rear. They are, of course, painted “Edge Red.”

Interior

If you want even more room than you’ll find in an Escalade you’d have to buy yourself a limousine. The cabin is positively cavernous. Even the third row offers 34.9 inches of legroom in the standard-wheelbase model, 36.6 inches in the ESV. No penalty box here.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V - seats REL
If you want even more room than you’ll find in an Escalade you’d have to buy yourself a limousine. The cabin is positively cavernous.

And the ESV boasts 41.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 94.1 cf with the back seats folded down. The latter number is a full 21.2 cf more than with the standard-length Escalade.

The cabin is lavished in double-stitched semi-aniline leather and zebrawood accents. The front seats can be adjusted in a seemingly endless variety of ways, and are heated and cooled while offering a massage function.

Today, technology is as much the definition of luxury as are leather and wood, and the Escalade-V series doesn’t fall short. The most distinctive feature once you climb inside is the 38-inch curved OLED display atop the instrument panel. In reality, there are three distinct displays: a 7.2-inch touchscreen to the left of the steering wheel that handles numerous vehicle functions, a 14.2-inch digital gauge cluster, and a 16.9-inch infotainment touchscreen.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V - touchscreen REL
The most distinctive feature once you climb inside is the 38-inch curved OLED display atop the instrument panel.

Powertrain

The Escalade-V lifts its powertrain from the Cadillac CT5-V, though it gets some critical tweaks. That starts with a 60% larger supercharger for the 6.2-liter V-8 pushing out 2.7 liters of air. An intercooler helps maximize the charge, while Caddy engineers updated the engine’s cooling system with, among other tweaks, an additional fan, for a total of three.

The powertrain delivers 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque — 14 hp more than the CT5-V, though torque slips by 6 lb-ft. While it’s true the Escalade-V is the world’s most powerful full-size SUV, the smaller Aston Martin DBX707 punches out 25 more ponies. And the all-electric Tesla Model X Plaid makes 1,020.

Nonetheless, the short-wheelbase Escalade-V can hit 60 in just 4.4 seconds. The ESV, with another 190 pounds of mass, takes a couple more tenths to get there. To put this into perspective, the Porsche Carrera S needs 4.8 seconds to hit 60. The V will break the beam after a quarter mile in 12.74 seconds, reaching a speed of 110 mph.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V - engine REL
The 6.2-liter V-8 delivers 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque — 14 hp more than the CT5-V, though torque slips by 6 lb-ft.

Fuel economy numbers have not yet been released for either the Escalade-V or the Escalade-V ESV. The standard version of the short-wheelbase SUV delivers just 16 mpg combined, so don’t expect to be impressed by the final numbers, once revealed.

Both versions of the Caddy V can tow up to 7,000 pounds. That’s 1,000 pounds less of a trailer than the mainstream V-8 version of the Escalade.

The V-8 is paired with a 10-speed automatic and power is directed to all four wheels. No rear-drive model is offered in the Escalade V-Series. An electronically controlled limited-slip differential helps direct torque between the two back wheels to improve acceleration and cornering.

Safety and Technology

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V - gauge cluster REL
The 2023 Escalade-V has few options, but clearly the most significant is the General Motors Super Cruise system.

Today, a high-line automobile must deliver plenty of technology, as well as the standards of luxury features, like leather seats and wood trim. The 2023 Caddy SUV delivers both. The three screens atop the instrument panel are the most significant features of the new Escalade line-up, and measure a combined 38 inches. They’re visually impressive, with twice the resolution of a 4K TV. That said, the big ute doesn’t have the additional videoscreen for a front passenger now found on several vehicles, such as the new Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The V-Series models also offer a large head-up display and optional infrared night vision.

The V has all the features you’d find in any other Escalade, including such requisite technology as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging and a built-in WiFi hotspot. For audiophiles, the 36-speaker AKG premium sound system is an absolute delight, likely to let you find more detail in a favorite recording than you have ever heard before.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V ESV - silver parked side v2
There’s no question the V-Series is an impressive package, lightning fast and, for such a mammoth SUV, reasonably nimble.

The 2023 Escalade-V has few options, but clearly the most significant is the General Motors Super Cruise system. The $2,500 package relies on a high-resolution map network covering more than 200,000 miles of limited-access roads where a driver can operate hands-free — though motorists must still be ready to quickly retake control and have eyes on the road at all times. A driver monitoring system will flash a warning if you lose focus, say, to check text messages, eventually bringing the big SUV to a complete stop.

Driving Impressions

I spent the better part of a day in the Escalade-V ESV, driving through a range of road conditions in and around Phoenix. There’s no question the V-Series is an impressive package, lightning fast and, for such a mammoth SUV, reasonably nimble.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V ESV - parked rear 3-4
The Escalade-V models provide a variety of driving modes, including Stealth, which quiets down that quad exhaust.

You can’t ignore the mass, the ESV weighing in at 6,407 pounds, or 190 more than the standard-wheelbase Escalade. But it’s far easier to whip around tight turns than you might imagine. Several factors play into that, starting with the Air Ride Adaptive Suspension, as well as the Magnetic Ride Control 4.0.

The latter system is an engineering marvel. It uses what tech types call a magnetorheological fluid in its dampers. In other words, the fluid contains microscopic-sized ferrous particles. Apply a magnetic current and you can adjust each individual damper anywhere from pillow soft to stiff as a board in the time it takes to travel about an inch at 60 mph. On an aggressive drive, this keeps you glued to the pavement. Cruising? It all but banishes bumps and potholes.

The Escalade-V models provide a variety of driving modes, including Stealth, which quiets down that quad exhaust so you won’t wake up your neighbors coming down your street late at night.

At the other extreme is V-Mode, activated by a button on the steering wheel. It not only amps up the SUV’s exhaust note but gives you faster, albeit harsher, shifts, a stiffer ride and a more aggressive throttle response. It also activates Launch Mode allowing the fastest burnout possible.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V ESV - high angle REL
The Cadillac Escalade has been the dominant player in the full-size luxury SUV segment almost from the day it debuted, outselling the competition for 17 of the last 20 years.

My drive route included about 40 miles on Arizona Route 87, heading northeast out of Phoenix. It’s a steep and winding divided highway, much of it mapped for Super Cruise, giving me a chance to check out the latest version of that Level-2 autonomous technology.

I did have a few false starts activating the system, likely my fault, but that was a little perplexing. You have to get the vehicle centered in its lane, loosen your grip on the wheel and be looking at the road ahead before Super Cruise takes over.

Once that happened — signaled by the light bar on the top of the steering wheel glowing green — I was largely impressed with how it works. It holds to the center of the lane better than any other autonomous system I have tried, including Tesla’s Autopilot.

And the latest update allowed the Escalade to automatically change lanes when coming up on a slow vehicle. That worked as promised but for one time when I was navigating a particular steep and curvy section of Route 87.

While a vehicle like the Escalade-V is a thrill for driving hands-on, there are times on a long drive when the ability to take your hands off the wheel can be appreciated.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V ESV Specifications

Dimension L: 226.9 inches/W: 81.1 inches/H: 76.4 inches/Wheelbase: 134.1 inches
Weight 6,407 pounds
Powertrain 6.2-liter supercharged V-8; 10-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 16 mpg combined
Performance Specs 682 horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque
Price Base price starting at $149,900 including destination charge
On-Sale Date Available now

Wrap Up

The Cadillac Escalade has been the dominant player in the full-size luxury SUV segment almost from the day it debuted, outselling the competition for 17 of the last 20 years. And I’d be surprised if that doesn’t happen again in 2023, even with a recent update to the Lincoln Navigator.

The Escalade-V and V ESV provide another reason why so many Caddy buyers aren’t even considering the competition, according to the brand’s internal data. The V-Series model is fast, surprisingly fun to drive and, as the pinnacle of the line, it is lavished with just about every sort of luxury accoutrement you could imagine. The newest Super Cruise update is another reason to check out the Escalade-V.

The big rig isn’t cheap, the two versions starting around $150,000. And while final mileage numbers haven’t been released, even the most affluent buyers likely will gulp hard when they see what it costs to fill the tank as fuel prices set one new record after another. (All the more so considering premium gas is required.)

But for those who want comfort, power, features and striking looks, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V and Escalade-V ESV should definitely be on your shopping list.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V — Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V?

The standard-wheelbase Escalade-V lists for $149,990, including delivery fees, the stretched Escalade-V ESV starting at $152,990.

How fast will the 20232 Cadillac Escalade-V be?

The short-wheelbase model will launch from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, the long-wheelbase model taking a couple tenths of a second longer to get there.

How much horsepower does the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V have?

The Escalade-V’s 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 punches out 682 hp and 653 lb-ft of torque.