Of all the interiors that are vital to Cadillac’s success, the new 2021 Escalade’s is arguably the most important. It’s supposed to be the best GM can muster, and the previous generation was a distant second to the classically elegant Lincoln Navigator.
Cadillac didn’t try to copy Lincoln’s success with its redesigned full-sizer, instead opting to follow a more generic theme of tech-forward luxury. When we say tech-forward, though, we mean it. The 38 inches of curved OLED screens we covered in our Escalade infotainment review absolutely dominate the dash in a brazen display of opulence. There isn’t much room for anything else to take center stage, but what’s there is extremely nice. Large swaths of wood trim stretch across the dash and also adorn a substantial part of the center console. It’s harder to find something that doesn’t feel like soft-touch leather, wood or metal trim than it is to find cost-cutting materials. There are certainly some areas with the usual black plastic for buttons, but every car company that isn’t Rolls-Royce resorts to plastic at some level.
The seating position and ergonomics of the Escalade are a big step up from past models. There was a feeling of claustrophobia in previous Escalades with the whole interior being built up around the driver in an unfriendly manner. This Escalade tones that down with lower and flatter surfaces, along with just being bigger in general. That feeling of expansiveness is great for decompressing and relaxing in the available heated, cooled and massaging seats.
Riding in the back is almost as lovely. Switching to an independent rear suspension and making the vehicle longer means more passenger and cargo space (10.3 cu-ft more than before with the third row up). The majority of this is realized in the third row (10.4 inches more than before), where even large adults can sit comfortably with a laid-back seating position. Before, if your knees weren't in your face, it's probably because you gave up and hitched a ride with someone else. A BMW X7 or Mercedes-Benz GLS will still outclass it for materials and third-row features, but the Escalade wins on sheer bigness. Getting back there is a breeze with a huge walkway, though putting the seat back into place is borderline annoying, requiring much more physical effort than a powered second row would.
As big as the third row is, sitting in the second row is even better thanks to the massive dual screens mounted to the front headrests. You can beam content to them and watch shows or movies on long journeys via the high-quality monitors. Plus, you can even request that your driver navigate somewhere by sending instructions to the infotainment screen at the press of a button. The possibilities go on and on with all of the tech gadgets Cadillac included here.
Your color and design options are plentiful, but it all depends on trim. Our Sport Platinum tester pictured here with the Dark Auburn semi-aniline leather interior looks the business, but your only other options include Jet Black and Whisper Beige. Opting for a different trim unlocks Brandy (brown) and Parchment (light beige), but Lincoln’s Black Label interior options are far more grand and aspirational than this selection. Whisper Beige is the most intriguing with its Volvo-like use of fabrics. However, the close second-place option is Dark Auburn, which is essentially just a shade of purple.
Our test Cadillac was equipped with the AKG Studio Reference sound system that features 36 speakers, including two in each front headrest(!). It offers a sound stage unlike many others, and while we’re not professional audiophiles, this system sounds as good as the best we’ve ever tested. Very little outside noise intrudes for what is essentially a truck underneath all the fancy leather and sheet metal, and any that does can be easily silenced with this audio system. However, the 6.2-liter V8 makes its presence impossible to ignore when you really step on it in typical GM fashion.
Again, if you want to know more about the mountain of screens in front of the driver, our full deep-dive infotainment review on them digs into the features and various abilities. Cadillac makes the setup standard equipment on every model, so even if you get the base Luxury trim, you get the tech.
The big question remaining is the one we set up at the start: Escalade or Navigator interior? If you’re someone who likes and wants the very best new technology, the answer is Escalade. If sheer luxury and opulence is of higher importance, the Navigator (especially in Black Label form) is still ruling the roost. Both can claim victories citing their respective strong points, that is, until the Jeep Grand Wagoneer comes along to offer a third option.
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