Trucks and SUVs

2023 Best Full-Size Luxury SUV: Cadillac Escalade

Among the criteria our jury of more than 20 automotive journalists considered while voting on the winners in this year’s AutoTrader Awards, especially important for this Best Full-Size Luxury SUV category is “Overall Excellence.” Throughout the decades, Cadillac has been careful to preserve and enhance its brand’s century-long association with excellence. And with the fifth-generation Escalade, it delivered excellently overall in many areas, and has earned its win as the Best Full-Size Luxury SUV in this year’s AutoTrader Awards.

This is a tightly competitive category. While every vehicle available in this segment was eligible, this year’s finalists were the BMW X7, Land Rover Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator, and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class. But the Escalade is a long-rehearsed master. It was among the earliest unapologetically ample and opulent SUVs anywhere, first appearing in model year 1999 and proclaiming the arrival of its drivers ever since.

An Escalade’s opening price is $98,397, but there’s almost unlimited available customization. Indeed, the number of choices, trims, possibilities, and options to impress the neighbours is mind-boggling. So, we’ll just pick a few examples of specific excellence from those many possible configurations that exemplify how rife this large SUV is with innovative technology.

Let’s start with the audio system. Exclusive to Cadillac, the standard 19-speaker AKG Studio system delivers pin-droppingly accurate concert hall sound. Depending on what trim you choose, it’s tuned differently to maximize the acoustics of the given interior. Microphones in the front seats can blend the conversation up front throughout the audio playing in the back. The function is called “Conversation Enhancement.”

Serious audiophiles can upgrade to the AKG Studio Reference system with its class-leading 36 – yes 36! – speakers. This upgrade includes microphones in the back, now enhancing conversation two-ways, front to back and back to front.

There’s an abundance of tech easily available to the Escalade’s driver across 38 inches of OLED screens. And as if that’s not enough, a polychromatic head-up display spreads the most vital real-time information even more widely. This year, the infotainment system onboarded the owner’s manual digitally. The navigation system features an augmented reality viewing function that displays the road in front of you with directions overlaid. The included surround-view camera is utterly irreplaceable.

This three-row SUV fits seven but you can order a middle bench to accommodate an eighth. You can spoil the second and third-row passengers with 12.6-inch touchscreens – that’s the largest in this full-on luxury class – to play video and audio from multiple compatible devices.

With so many potential passengers, an Escalade owner may want to consider adding Super Cruise, the winner of this and last year’s Best New Safety Innovation Award. The high tech hands-free driving assistant works on more than 3.2 million kilometres of public roads across Canada and the U.S. and in 95 per cent of driving scenarios, mapping and positioning the vehicle in real time using advanced GPS data, an army of sensors, and a huge cache of computing power.

The 2023 Escalade is rich with curb appeal, riding on big 22-inch alloy wheels. Look closely for an etching of the scripted “Cadillac” at the bottom of the headlights.

But let’s talk luxury. A favourite available feature is the front console refrigerator with a freezer mode. And let’s quote Cadillac’s website to get this one right: “16-way power driver and front-passenger heated and ventilated Full Semi-Aniline leather seats with massage settings.” With so much luxurious comfort in the front seats, definitely consider the aforementioned Super Cruise addition. It monitors drivers to make sure they’re paying attention to the road and haven’t dozed off because they’re too relaxed.

Then there’s the elongated Escalade ESV’s footprint. Few actions declare excellence better than the ability to stretching your legs. The ESV leads the segment with 4,043.6 litres of cargo space once the seats are folded.

And have you heard about (or heard) the powerful new 2023 Escalade-V? Its hand-built 6.3L supercharged V8 engine emits a glorious 682 hp. The opening price of the V series trim is $181,997.

Enjoy the overall excellence that the 2023 Cadillac Escalade lineup has to offer.