Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Cadillac Escalade Platinum 4WD

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One doesn’t usually associate the Cadillac Escalade with such pedantic pursuits as moving the contents of an apartment, but having a white ’Sclade in my possession, and having a daughter relocating to some new digs, it all fell into place.

Size, power, opulence, and glitz.

Additionally, this 2018 Cadillac Escalade Platinum 4WD was conscripted to haul some musicians and their gear up to Gravenhurst for a sold-out concert with the fabulous Toronto-based Steely Dan tribute band, Pretzel Logic. Considering these plus-sized Caddy SUVs have been known to star in the occasional rap video, this job was a little more in keeping with the truck’s vibe.

While the 2018 Escalade starts at $86,540, this top-tier Platinum 4WD rings in at $109,085. The only option here is the $900 Crystal White Tricoat paint.

With a direct-injected, aluminum-block 6.2L V8 putting out 420 hp, 460 lb-ft under the hood, the Escalade doesn’t have too much trouble getting up to speed, despite its 2,656 kilogram mass. The 10-speed auto (developed in conjunction with Ford) does an excellent job of seamlessly transferring the power to the road under all conditions. Standard is 4WD with an Autotrac two-speed transfer case, auto-locking rear differential, and a heavy-duty trailering package that allows for its max 8,300 lb (3,765 kg) towing capacity.

The Escalade remains a body-on-frame vehicle with a solid rear axle, so despite having slick magnetorheological dampers, the ride can feel unsophisticated at times – pitchy and crashy over rough surfaces. And certainly exacerbated here by the Platinum’s 22-inch rolling stock. (Chromed, ’natch.)

The Platinum’s auto-deploying running boards make hoisting yourself into the elevated cabin a somewhat graceful affair, and once settled into the comfortable climate-controlled aniline leather chairs, you have a commanding view of the road. A cool feature here is the rear-view mirror that has the option of displaying a video feed from a rear-mounted camera. This proved its worth when the we had the Escalade packed to the roof with boxes and furniture.

The dash features a clear digital gauge cluster just ahead of the driver, and at the top of the centre stack sits the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) touchscreen with a proximity sensor that calls up a menu of icons when your hand nears the screen.

While CUE has been tweaked over the years, it’s still not particularly user-friendly, and as far as the rest of the stack’s design and ergonomics – well, the sooner Caddy bins this mess the better. Cheap-looking chrome accents aside, the haptic touchpoints they underscore are a lesson in how not to create a human/machine interface. First off, you instinctively go for the chrome bars, thinking they are buttons, but it’s the area just above that needs to be hit accurately, and firmly, before your wishes are granted. And a haptic slider for volume control? Ask Honda why it’s changed back to a volume knob for its vehicles.

Cadillac has totally re-thought this with the upcoming XT4 crossover, so we can expect the next-gen Caddys to have this sorted. Meanwhile, if you really want a ritzy full-size GM body-on-frame SUV that will tow your Chris-Craft, the GMC Denali has sensible ergonomics, most of the available toys, and a lower bottom line.

Ah, but who are we kidding? Those who aspire to cruise the ’Sclade, to be seen in the most garish of the breed, will settle for nothing less. It’s a statement that no Denali can make.

And so to the task at hand – loading up the Cadillac and plowing through Toronto traffic, from the east end to the west end. The Escalade’s third row can be powered down (and up) from buttons on the right side to the cargo area. The second-row captain’s chairs flip forward with a touch of a button as well. The load floor is disappointingly high in this brute, but at least it is somewhat level with all seats folded.

Despite its size, the Escalade is reasonably maneuverable in the city, showing a pretty tight turning circle while offering good all-round visibility from its lofty perches. It took a couple of trips but we got the job done.

The standard Driver Awareness Package includes forward collision alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, low-speed forward automatic braking, automatic high-beam, and Safety Alert Seat – the latter sending vibrations through your butt, instead of the usual audio alerts for things like parking proximity, lane departure, etc. Weird, but effective.

The Platinum also gets a full-colour head-up display (HUD) along with the Driver Assist package that adds full-speed range adaptive cruise, forward/reverse automatic braking, automatic safety belt tightening, snazzy illuminated exterior door handles, front LED cornering lamps and a Blu-Ray-compatible rear-seat entertainment system.

The following day’s drive to Gravenhurst showed off the Escalade’s virtue as an imperious cruiser, effortlessly ferrying its occupants in serene opulence. The Bose audio kicks nicely, the ventilated front seats effectively cool the backside, and with its 6.2L V8 ticking over at barely above idle, cruisin’ the ’Scalde was a chill experience. Ultra-legal speeds creep up quickly, so it’s good to keep an eye on the HUD. Or set the cruise.

You can’t argue the fact that the Cadillac Escalade is an iconic piece of American iron, and certainly the most-recognized vehicle in the marque’s stable. It reflects everything that this historical brand is famous for – size, power, opulence, and glitz. Sure, Cadillac has been sending volleys overseas at the established performance/luxury makers with its hotted-up sedans, but nobody is really paying attention.

Yet this big ol’ pig with the Dior lipstick is showing its age. The new Lincoln Navigator has a nicer cabin, independent rear suspension, and is considerably more refined. Ditto the Infiniti QX80 and Mercedes GLS. And then there’s the Range Rover with its class-leading cabin and potent supercharged 5.0L V8.

You know Cadillac is on this. Look for the much anticipated fifth-generation 2020 Escalade in late 2019.

Engine Displacement 6.2L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 420 hp
Peak Torque 460 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 16.6/10.9/14.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 425 / 2,667 L seats down
Model Tested 2018 Cadillac Escalade Platinum 4WD
Base Price $109,085
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,000
Price as Tested $112,085
Optional Equipment
$900 – Crystal White Tri-Coat $900