Cadillac Escalade — High-performance V-Series

Photos by Paul Borden

By Paul Borden

(August 20, 2023) Two decades after unveiling the 2003 Cadillac CTS-V and nearly a quarter-century since jumping into the SUV pool, Cadillac has brought high performance capability to its signature Escalade. The result is a full-size work horse with the DNA of a 1960s-era muscle car. It is capable of towing up to of 7,000 pounds, and its spacious interior has a cargo capacity of 121 cubic feet behind the first row, 72.9 behind the second, and 25.5 with all three rows in place.

Yet the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series still retains the same ostentatiousness and boldness that made it a pop culture icon right after its launch as a 1999 model.

Imagine, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series sprints from zero-to-60 mph in 4.4 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 12.74 seconds at 100 mph, according to the company’s initial testing. That’s like a 300-plus pound defensive tackle posting a 4.4-second 40-yard dash time.

The downside to all that power: Equipped with all-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series is a thirsty beast with EPA fuel mileage ratings of 11 miles-per-gallon city, 16 highway, and 13 combined. And premium fuel is required.

By comparison, the 6.2L V8 in the standard AWD Escalade is rated at 14/18/16, and the V6 is a comparative fuel-sipper at 20/26/22. But it’s going to take you at least a couple of extra seconds to reach 60 mph in either of those models.

In addition to the massive power upgrade, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series gets unique front and rear fascias, quad dual exhausts, Brembo brakes with red calipers, unique 22-inch wheels, semi-Aniline leather seats, leather interior trim, and V-Series badging on the front doors, liftgate, and throughout the interior.

Cadillac’s Super Cruise hands-free driving assistance system also is available.

Other standard features include air-ride adaptive suspension, 16-inch screen for infotainment features (including navigation), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power panoramic sunroof, tri-zone climate control, rear camera mirror, wireless device charging, keyless entry with push-button start, adaptive cruise control, hands-free power liftgate, power folding second- and third-row seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and power running boards with perimeter lighting.

Safety features include enhanced emergency braking, lane-keeping assist with lane departure warning, forward collision alert,  blind-spot alert, HD surround vision, and enhanced auto parking assist.

My test 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series for the week came with options that included the Super Cruise for an extra $2,500 and a radiant red exterior paint for $1,250. The refrigerator/freezer in the console added another $700.

All in all, the options added $4,375 to an already hefty base MSRP of $149,195. With the $1,895 freight charge, the total came to $155,465.If all this power and performance doesn’t suit you, an all-electric Escalade is coming as a 2025 model available in late 2024. Cadillac says it is expected to be priced from around $130,000 and will have estimated range of 450 miles.

What I liked about the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series: There is beaucoup power from the huge supercharged V8. The exhaust notes have the full-throated tone of a full-fledged Muscle Car. The roomy interior offers massive storage room when the third-row seats are folded and adequate space when those seats are in place. Infotainment features are plentiful and user-friendly. You can either use the touchscreen or the rotator knob on the console to select functions. The console storage bin works as a  refrigerator/freezer at the push of a button. Third-row seats have enough legroom (34.9 inches) to accommodate adults (though three would be a tight squeeze) and there is ease access to the far back row.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series: Not surprisingly, that big, powerful engine is very thirsty, and premium fuel is required. The overall size can limit your options in mall parking lots.

Would I buy the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series? Too big for me, and very expensive as well. But if you want to make an impression, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series is a great choice.