The Cadillac Escalade V Luxury 3 Row SUV: It Sounds, and Drives, As Good As it Looks

It's loud, powerful and fun to drive. It's pampering and thoughtful. The Cadillac Escalade V sounds and drives as good as it looks.

Cadillac Escalade V Feature Image
Cadillac Escalade V feature image

Refined, elevated, center stage; and you can avoid being obnoxious (if you want to).

When I started up the Cadillac Escalade in our driveway at 5 AM to head to the airport, my husband turned to me and said “our neighbors are not going to like you.”

It was loud. Really, really loud. And I felt obnoxious.

I quickly put the Cadillac Escalade V, a $149,000 fully loaded 3 row SUV, into drive and headed out as quietly as possible. I hoped to be gone before any of my neighbors could get up and look out the window to see who was making such a racket.

Related: 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V: Posh Power Personified

The View From The Driver'S Seat

The view from the driver’s seat. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who This Car is For

  • Drivers for whom speed, performance and towing are top of the list
  • Buyers who want the very best Cadillac has to offer
  • Buyers who value a limited edition, exclusive model
  • Drivers who need third row seating
  • Families who want 4 wheel drive, lots of passenger and cargo space and love the sound and feel of a performance vehicle
  • Drivers who trailer a race car and want an SUV to match

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

The Rear Tail Lights And Liftgate Projection Light On The Ground

The rear tail lights and liftgate projection light on the ground so you know where to kick your foot to open it. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know 

  • This is the top of the line SUV from Cadillac
  • The V edition’s performance specs add about $35,000 to the price of the Premium Luxury Platinum model
  • Estimated to average 13 MPG
  • This car is large and fast and may not be ideal for new or young drivers, though Teen Driver mode, which allows limits to be set, is a standard feature
  • Center row captains chairs fold and tumble forward for third row access but do not slide and tilt

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

2023 Cadillac Escalade V

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Head-Turner of an SUV – For its Looks and Sound 

Part of the Escalade mystique is its larger-than-life exterior that promises untold luxuries inside: supple, fragrant leather; automatic running boards that extend to assist you into the car; a panoramic sunroof that showers passengers with natural light; a wireless rear seat entertainment system; a refined and futuristic front seat multimedia system; “Hey Google” voice activated assistance so you never have to lift a finger to get what you want. There’s even a cooler box to keep your beverages refreshingly chilled.

There’s room for 7 passengers. Plenty of room— so everyone has lots of leg room and head room — though, I would still vie for a center row captain’s chair; these are the best seats in the house.

And then, there’s the sound. Fire up the Escalade V and all 682 horses roar to life. It’s loud. It’s rumbling and gurgly. It exudes power and you feel every single one of those horses, even just on startup. And it’ll make everyone around you look.

The View From The Driver'S Seat, With The Video View On The Driver'S Information Screen

The view from the driver’s seat, with the video view on the driver’s information screen. Photo: Scotty Reiss

But Also, Under the Radar— When You Want to Be

Unless you hear the Cadillac Escalade V in action, you might not instantly suspect it of being the loud one—Cadillacs are usually more about the interior luxuries than muscle car power. There are very few telltale signs that this over the top Escalade is supercharged and super loud. The V logo on the front door panels and rear lift gate give a clue that this the V edition. Or, you can stand behind it when it’s being started, and then there’s no doubt: This SUV is a muscle car at heart. 

However, it can be demure, too. You can actually temper the engine sound by changing the setting in V mode so it’s not quite so loud (but still loud). And be a good neighbor.

The Front Of The Cadillac Escalade V With Its More Elegant Gloss Black Grille

The front of the Cadillac Escalade V with its more elegant gloss black grille. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Why All This Power in an SUV? There is a Backstory! 

If you remember the Cadillac of yesteryear, fancy cars driven by Hollywood celebrities and Mary Kay super sellers, you might be surprised to learn that that this top-tier brand is also a performance car company with its heart and future squarely focused on track competition. 

A decade ago Cadillac began to hire top race car engineers to develop engines that could compete on the world’s toughest tracks. It was a quest to deliver not just great luxury, but also, credibility with the most discerning buyers: Those who relax in the luxury of a Mercedes-Benz, Porsche or BMW, thrill in its on-road performance and proudly bask in the brand’s badge of muscular honor. 

Cadillac’s performance line was give the designation “V” for victory (though I always associated it with the ‘V’ of powerful engines, such as V8 and V6 for the shape of the engine’s cylinder assembly). From there, Cadillac equipped V series models with true racing details, such as manual transmissions, paddle shifters, suede steering wheels and racing seats. 

I can attest—because I really fell in love with them—the first V series cars were world class and worthy competitors. As the brand evolved its racing DNA, the “V” designation was rebranded to represent the middle of the line cars, those with more power but not the most power. The most powerful cars in the lineup were renamed “Blackwing,” a nod to the brand’s original logo. 

Still, the brand had yet to put all its power into its most popular vehicles: Its SUVs. Until Cadillac introduced the Escalade V with an 8 cylinder supercharged engine based on the Blackwing. Finally, Cadillac has entered the top-tier of competition in SUVs, lining up against high-powered 3 row SUVs from BMW (X7 M60i with 630 HP), Mercedes-Benz (AMG GLS 63 with 603 HP), Audi (SQ7 with 500 HP) and Dodge (Durango Hellcat with 710 HP).

The Command Center With V Mode, The Gear Selector And Drive Modes

The command center with V mode, the gear selector and drive modes. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Subtle Differences Designed to Enhance the Drive (and the Thrill)

Driving the Cadillac Escalade V, which is essentially the top of the line Premium Luxury edition enhanced with the more powerful engine, performance features and a $35,000 price difference, can be a bit scary at first. 

On my first venture out on the road, almost instantly I was zipping past the speed limit. I quickly hit the brakes and was glad for the Brembo sport brake system to quickly slow down. On the highway it was almost too easy to get up to speed, soaring along so fast and effortlessly. 

It’s easy to forget how much power you have underfoot. This made me cognizant and grateful for additional features like the adaptive suspension that make it easy to harness and control all that power without letting it get out of hand.

Here are the Cadillac V features that are unique to this model:

  • A V6 supercharged engine with 682 HP and 653 torque; that’s 262 HP and 193 more torque than the standard Escalade V8
  • V Mode: Push the V button for a louder engine sound, stiffened suspension, more responsive steering and more; this system allows you to customize your drive experience and also, turn down the engine sound so your neighbors don’t think you’re so obnoxious
  • Adaptive air ride suspension with magnetic ride control, only available in the Platinum Luxury and V models, are key features: this keeps you on an even keel as you accelerate or slow down. An SUV with this much power can quickly feel out of control, but the V never did; even when brushing the speed limit on our high-speed Texas highways, it felt smooth and confident
  • Brembo performance brakes: Another key detail that you’ll want on a car this powerful. With the weight and speed of this SUV, it’s good to be able to stop quickly when you need to
  • Reverse automatic braking and rear cross traffic alert: again, with all that power, added safety features are appreciated
  • Night vision: this feature, selected in the driver information display, allows you to easily see any people or large animals at night, from  pedestrians on the sidewalk to deer about to lope across the highway
  • Super Cruise: This is a $2,500 option on our test model and frankly, I’d call it a necessity. You can easily set your speed and on mapped, closed access highways you can relax your hands on the wheel. And, you can set your speed so you don’t get carried away with the power in this SUV. Super Cruise might just pay for itself in saved speeding tickets
The Curved, Layered Screen Is Simply Sublime

The curved, layered screen is simply sublime. Photo: Scotty Reiss

All the Cadillac Escalade Luxury To Make You Feel Really Pampered

Probably the best news about the Escalade V is that you get all the premium features in the top of the line Platinum Luxury edition. This includes: 

  • The layered, curved glass OLED multimedia panel that incorporates driver controls (on the left of the steering wheel), driver information display and the multimedia display
  • Navigation with augmented reality: A camera image and graphic overlays illustrate turns and points of interest on navigation screens
  • Cadillac’s luscious leather interior with heated and vented massing front seats 
  • Automatic running boards
  • Cadillac logo puddle lights and motion activated sensor light (projects on the ground under the rear bumper to show where to kick your foot to open the lift gate)
  • AKG Studio experience sound system
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 
  • Vertical wireless phone charge pad- tuck your phone in to charge 
  • Live view rear view mirror- great when carrying a full load!
  • Smart key
  • Really great LED headlights 
  • Third row seats that can be folded from the front seat
  • Buttons to fold all rear seats
  • Heated center row seats
  • Surround vision cameras and recorder, which can capture video from the car’s camera system
  • Super Cruise hands free driver assist system (a $2,500 upgrade)
Center Row Captians Chairs Move Forward And Back And Recline

Center row captians chairs move forward and back and recline. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What This Car Costs

In a word: A lot (OK, two words). $149,000 is the starting price, and with Super Cruise ($2,500), upgraded paint ($1,225) and the cooler box ($700) in the front seat center console, the total ticket is $155,365 including the $1,795 destination charge. 

Here’s how the price stacks up to other Cadillac Escalade models: 

  • Luxury entry level model with a V8 420 HP engine, curved glass OLED display with navigation and augmented reality, brake hold (my favorite tech of the moment), leatherette upholstery, keyless entry, heated front and second row seats, 4 wheel drive, up to 8,000 lbs towing, AKG premium sound, ambient interior lighting and wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and phone charging, about $84,190
  • Premium Luxury model adds head up display, heated and vented front seats, live view rear camera, adaptive cruise control and leather seats, about $92,990
  • Sport model, with tow hitch guidance, integrated trailer brake, magnetic ride control and trailer blind spot monitor, about $95,990
  • Premium Luxury Platinum, as detailed above, about $110,490
Puddle Lights Are So Elegant- And Helpful

Puddle lights are so elegant- and helpful. Photo: Scotty Reiss

All the Safety Systems You Want And Need

The first one you might discover is “buckle to drive,” an increasingly popular feature that won’t allow you to shift into drive until you’ve buckled your seatbelt. 

Hmm. I get it. But I also like to back out of the driveways and parking spots unbuckled so I can fully turn around in my seat (maybe not the safest in an accident, but I feel I can see better that way). So, I’m getting used to stretching under the strain of the seatbelt to fully turn, and to use the cameras and mirrors more (which I still think should be secondary to a first-person view).

Then, Cadillac adds these features standard: 

  • Forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking
  • Lane keep assistance with lane departure warning
  • Front pedestrian braking
  • Surround view cameras
  • Rear pedestrian alert
  • Rear seat alert
  • Unbuckled seat belt indicators, (or, eyes in the back of your head)
The Interior Is So Light And Bright, Even With Black Leather

The interior is so light and bright, even with black leather. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Lot to Take In… But You’ll Want to Take the Time

The Escalade was redesigned for 2020 and due to its innovations, the pandemic and parts shortages, it’s had an extended debut; it still feels fresh and new. There is a lot to discover and a lot to enjoy, from so many new features to small, clever touches and improvements over prior models. Cadillac upped its game in the luxury space, and the V edition puts it squarely there on all counts. And it drives and sounds as good as it looks.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss