2023 Cadillac Escalade-V: Posh Power Personified

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Side View.
2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Side View.

The full size SUV that makes rolling up to Starbucks an adventure.

On any given day, the Cadillac Escalade is an imposing figure. This full-sized, body-on-frame SUV participates in the big boy’s club with generous three-row seating and a lot of heft. But add in a supercharged V-8 engine and the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V  is downright intimidating. And a heck of a lot of fun. 

Just firing up the engine can get the blood pumping, as the exhaust rumbles and pops, sounding much more like a sports car than a family SUV. Then, that first highway merge with full throttle is, quite literally, breathtaking. 

With every punch of acceleration, I let out a giddy giggle, feeling like a kid getting thrown up into to air by her dad, only to be caught by his strong arms. And like that giddy girl, as soon as I let off the throttle, my first thought was always: Do it again!

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V has a lot going for it if you’re looking for a fun family vehicle with a lot of style. But buyer beware, there are a couple of downsides to this beautifully crafted SUV.

Related: 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum: Where Luxury Meets Self-Care on the Road

Inside Of The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V

There is so much room for activities! Photo:Jill Ciminillo

The Escalade-V is an Escalade on Steroids

To begin, let’s discuss the power. The regular 2023 Escalade (starting at $85,095) is powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that generates 420 horsepower. The 2023 Escalade-V (starting at $149,900) has a hand-built V-8 engine and then supercharges it to give you a massive 682 horsepower. It also gives you 653 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of juice to go from zero to holy wow Batman in short order. Then again, everything about this super powered SUV is beefy. 

The test vehicles we drove were the ESV models with the extended wheelbase. You see all of that extra length goes into the cargo area. With 42.9 cubic feet of cargo volume, you could conceivably fit seven passengers and their weekend luggage – assuming they pack conservatively. But strollers and sports gear will fit without difficulty – even with passenger volume at the max.

Outside of the voluminous space in the back, I also appreciated the power fold-flat third-row seats and the manual release for the second-row seats. That makes it so easy to load longer cargo items.

Related: 6 Reasons the 2021 Cadillac Escalade Luxury 3 Row SUV is the A-List Mom Taxi

Front End Of 2023 Cadillac Escalade V

There is a lot of power you would have never expected in this full size SUV. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

But how does it Drive?

Aside from the fact the Escalade-V is flipping fast, I appreciated how it handled on highways as well as winding roads. The Escalade-V ESV weighs more than 6,000 pounds, so I expected it to drive like a land yacht. But it didn’t. Instead, it felt almost light and nimble – or as light and nimble as a large, three-row SUV can feel.

With a lower beltline and the ability to adjust my seat height, I was able to get a commanding driver’s position with excellent visibility out all windows. This also contributed to the sheer drivability of the Escalade-V. 

And, of course, that supercharged V-8 helped. A lot.

I played around with the launch control, which propels this humongous beast from 0 to 60 MPH in 4.4 seconds. But I found this to be more of a gimmick than anything practical. What you need to know is this: You will beat all but true sports cars off the line from a red light, and you won’t have any difficulty merging with or passing highway traffic. I was also impressed with how well it held curves and corners for an SUV of this size.

When Your Key Fob Matches Your Brake Calipers

When your key fob matches your brake calipers. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

The Devil is in the Details

As you would expect on a Cadillac, the 2023 Escalade-V is packed with excellent finishing touches. From the reverse color piping on the seats to the lock button on the exterior door handles in the shape of the Cadillac logo, the details are purposeful and elegant. 

Let’s start with the 38 inches of OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen that goes from the left of the steering wheel all the way through the multimedia system. With an OLED, the resolution is better than 4K, and it’s well integrated into the dash – unlike the iPad-like screens stuck to the dash on other vehicles. 

While we’re on the topic of screens, one of the things I really appreciate on the Escalade-V is the redundant touch screen for the multimedia system. This means you have a dial on the console you can use to scroll through menu items, but if you prefer a touch screen, that option is open to you – even while driving (but use it safely.)  I like the dual functionality and found some functions were easier with a swipe while others worked better with a turn of the dial. Having a choice in how I use these two features is one of the things I love about the Escalade-V. 

Another favorite detail is the large-as-my-hand logo on the rear hatch. The textured emblem is a shining jewel on the rear of the Escalade-V, but it’s also functional. Press the logo and it pops the liftgate open. Just another posh but practical feature that can be added to my list of goodies. 

I also may have geeked out over the fact the Edge Red on the Escalade-V key fob is an exact match to the color on the brake calipers. 

Related: Cadillac’s Future is Electric and Lyriq Leads the Way

The Inside Dash Of The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V

The inside of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V is as luxurious as you would expect a Cadillac to be. Photo:Jill Ciminillo

Be Realistic About Fuel Economy

With a supercharged V-8 under the hood, you’ve got to understand you won’t be getting anywhere close to 20 MPG. The EPA hasn’t tested the 2023 Escalade-V yet, but we do know the 2022 Escalade with the plain V-8 gets 16 MPG in combined driving. 

During my brief test in the V-Series, I averaged about 12 MPG. There are a couple caveats here in that I did try the launch control a couple times, and there was a small amount of idling to take photos. Oh, and it was flipping hot in Arizona, so the AC was cranked ALL the way up.

When talking to some Cadillac folks who had been living with the vehicle, they said they were averaging around 15 MPG. 

So, if you can get all that extra power when you want it and only lose 1 MPG in combined driving, that’s not a bad deal.

Related: Step on the Accelerator and Free Your Soul: How an All Girls Driving School with Cadillac V-Performance Academy Changed Me Forever

Front Seat Of The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V

They say beauty is pain. The seats are beautiful but they leave you longing for comfort over style. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Among all These Hits, There Are a few Misses

While the Escalade is gorgeously constructed with well-patterned seats and tiny details that delight, this is not a perfect vehicle by any stretch of the imagination. But lets be honest – nothing is ever perfect. 

Let’s start with the seats. I found every seating position to be miserably unyielding. While this is fine for short drives, if you’re going to be sitting in 2023 Escalade-V for any length of time, your butt will likely hurt by the time you get out of it. Oddly, the middle-row seats were more comfortable than the front seats, and the third-row seats are like sitting on a concrete block. The massaging driver’s seat helped a little with the discomfort, but not enough in my book.

Another thing I thought was a miss was the fact there were no cooled seats in the middle row. As many people on social media were quick to point out, even the Hyundai Palisade has heated-and-cooled seats in the middle row. The Palisade also has heated seats in the third row, the Escalade-V does not. And it’s a $150k vehicle. I almost expect a foot massage for that price – in addition to cooled middle row seats and heated third-row seats.  

The final miss worth noting is that while General Motors has started to make a push to move its vehicles to a Google-powered multimedia system (as seen in the refreshed GMC Sierra 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500), the Escalade-V doesn’t get it. With all the beautiful screens in this large SUV, I think it really could benefit from the latest and greatest tech. Plus, it would have added another somethin’ somethin’ to set it apart from the regular Escalade.

The Inside Of The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V

A thing of beauty with a price tag to match. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

The 2023 Escalade-V in a Nutshell

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is rickety-split fast and beautifully crafted. However, with its hefty price tag and tough-to-swallow fuel economy, I really needed this three-row SUV to be the best of the best, and it wasn’t quite there. The stiff seats alone would be the dealbreaker for me, and I suspect many buyers may feel the same. 

Disclosure: I was Cadillac’s guest for this test drive, but all opinions are my own.