2020 Cadillac Escalade

By May 1, 2020

Ever since the first Escalade debuted in the late 1990s, it’s been known for its brawny V-8 engines, abundant space, plush cabin, and glitzy bodies. The 2020 Cadillac Escalade carries this large luxury SUV ethos forward, while sharing its foundation and many of its body components with the related Chevrolet Suburban.

Not much has changed for the 2020 model year outside of minor feature shuffling, since a redesigned Escalade is ready for introduction as a 2021 model.

Escalades come in standard and extended-length ESV configurations. The regular Escalade measures 204 inches in length, while the ESV checks in at 224 inches. Either way, the Escalade is an enormous bruiser.

Borrowed from other GM trucks, the Escalade’s 6.2-liter V-8 generates 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with four-wheel drive a $3,000 option.

With its blocky profile and powerful V-8, the Escalade is the opposite of thrifty. It earns an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city, 23 highway, and 17 combined with RWD, or 14/21/17 mpg with 4WD. Premium gasoline is required – the rival Lincoln Navigator runs on regular.

The Escalade hasn’t been fully tested by the NHTSA, but it does carry a four-star rollover rating and a five-star side crash rating from the agency. The IIHS hasn’t tested any of these big GM SUVs.

Active safety features are included with plenty of lower-priced vehicles nowadays, but the Escalade only comes with a surround-view camera as standard. The rest of the available technologies are only found on upper trim levels.

The Luxury trim includes automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warnings, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and active lane control. The top two trims also add adaptive cruise control and reverse automatic emergency braking.

Model Lineup

The Cadillac Escalade is available in four trims: Escalade, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum. ESV models cost an additional $3,000 than their standard counterparts.

The base Escalade starts at $76,490 and comes with leather seating surfaces, a Bose 16-speaker audio system, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, a power-folding third-row bench, active noise cancellation, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, a 12-inch driver information center, a hands-free power liftgate, and 20-inch alloy wheels. The infotainment system includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The $82,090 Luxury trim adds a sunroof, power second-row bucket seats, 22-inch wheels, automatic high-beam headlights, and the aforementioned active safety features.

The Escalade Premium Luxury is priced from $86,490, bringing a rear 9-inch screen and DVD player, lighted door handles, cornering headlights adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic emergency braking, and automatic seat belt tightening.

The $93,590 Escalade Platinum is equipped with softer semi-aniline leather seating surfaces, genuine wood trim, a unique grille, a suede headliner, an 18-way power driver’s seat with massaging, a leather-wrapped instrument panel, a center console cooler, and power-retractable running boards.


Escalades have always triggered diverse, typical opposing, opinions. Some folks delight in the many examples of abject excess that adorn the biggest Cadillac’s body. Others disdain, if not deplore, the sight of such a vehicle. One thing is for sure: the Escalade has presence. It’s hard to ignore.

Right up front, swept-back headlights flank a big, bold grille. Vertical taillights were doubtless inspired by Eldorados of the past. An optional Sport Edition package can black out the lavishly placed chrome – though all that brilliance has been an Escalade hallmark all along.

Standard 20-inch wheels appear huge, but optional 22-inch tires look even more outlandish.


Inside, the Escalade shares little with its Chevrolet and GMC siblings. The comfortable, car-like cabin focuses on chic furnishings. For instance, backlit buttons fade away when the vehicle is turned off.

Even the base Escalade is flashy, brazen, and – face it – decadent, using pleasant materials. Still, it seems to aim at fleet buyers. Discreet use of fake wood veers close to gaudy, while stitched surfaces give every Escalade a classy note.

Stepping up to the unabashedly luxurious and impressive Platinum model brings genuine open-pore wood dotted with inlay, and suede headliner trim. Softer, semi-aniline leather covers the dashboard and seats.

Surprisingly snug, the Escalade’s passenger space isn’t as voluminous as the standard model’s length might suggest. The biggest difference with the ESV is increased third-row leg room and cargo space.

Plush, multi-adjustable front seats are upholstered with leather. Platinum versions offer more adjustments and a massaging feature.

Second-row seating disappoints, as its 39 inches of leg room ranks around average. The seats are positioned a bit low, too. In addition, door openings on the standard model are relatively small for a sizable SUV. Third-row seats in the Escalade ESV are adequate for adults, but those in regular-length models are best for youngsters.

An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen sits high on the car-like dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard.

Cargo volume matches the Escalade’s large footprint. Even with third row upright, regular Escalades offer 15.2 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold that seat and capacity expands to 51.6 cubic feet. With both back rows folded, space reaches 94.2 cubic feet. ESV models offer 39.3/76.7/120.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Driving Impressions

Strong V-8 thrust provides acceleration that used to be appropriate for sports cars – as long as the road is straight. Push hard on the pedal and the Escalade concludes a 0-60 mph sprint in about 6 seconds. Although the 10-speed automatic generally works well, it can occasionally fumble downshifts.

Though composed, ride quality isn’t quite on par with rivals. A stiff, sometimes choppy ride, coupled with a trucky demeanor, make the Escalade seem obsolete compared to some large SUVs, such as the current Lincoln Navigator.

Most harsh impacts are squelched better than Chevrolet and GMC siblings can manage, thanks to standard driver-adjustable dampers. Base models with their 20-inch wheels ride most comfortably, with standard magnetic shocks to help repress bumps.

Steering is firm, with good assist. Even so, the Escalade’s mighty heft keeps it from executing agile maneuvers. Despite tall ground clearance, a four-wheel-drive Escalade isn’t intended to scurry along rocky trails.

Ample sound-deadening suppresses V-8 noises. Properly equipped, an Escalade can confidently tow up to 8,300 pounds.

Final Word

No question about it, the 2020 Cadillac Escalade isn’t a vehicle for everyone. Not only is it huge and quick, it’s famously non-frugal. Though well equipped at each trim level, an Escalade also is expensive. More importantly, standard safety technology falls short for the luxury league. Cadillac’s biggest SUV isn’t as strong a choice as it used to be, but a redesigned 2021 model is coming.

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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