|✓ Supercharged V8
|☓ Styling that’s a bit too understated
|✓ Earthquake-inducing exhaust note
|☓ Woeful fuel economy (but what do you expect)
|✓ Did I mention it’s supercharged?
|☓ No factory performance/summer tire option
|✓ Brembo front brakes
|☓ $150K+ price tag? I’m not sure…
|✓ Still packs classiness, prestige and comfort
Review sections (click to jump):
2023 Cadillac Escalade-V Overview: America’s most heavy metal luxury SUV has arrived.
In a world of electric this and sustainable that, you really get the sense that the Big Three automakers are trying to make hay while the sun’s still shining by going berserk with supercharged V8s. The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is just the latest case in point, as GM’s iconic luxury brand finally gets around to V-ifying its signature SUV — with a 6.2-liter LT4 ‘Blackwing’ V8 no less.
The Escalade-V makes the standard SUV look positively pedestrian thanks to that hand-built, supercharged engine cranking out 682 horsepower. That’s 262 more than GM’s standard L87 6.2-liter V8 and makes for a nearly 6,300-pound SUV that can do 0-60 (at sea level) in around 4.4 seconds.
Cadillac calls the V’s driving experience “engaging and energetic”, but there’s a more apt description than that: Freaking loud.
If you look past the headline performance figures — we’ll come back to those in a moment — consider the fact that this relatively understated looking Cadillac has an exhaust note that can wake the dead. It’s glorious, though there is a hefty price you’ll have to pay for the privilege: Pricing starts at $152,490 for the standard (non-ESV) model.
The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V finally offers what the brand’s flagship has been missing in nearly two decades of V-Series models. But is the thunderous experience really worth that kind of cash?
Performance: The Escalade gets volcanic power and a deafening exhaust note
It still feels a bit odd, to be honest, talking about this big SUV’s performance first and foremost. That really is what the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is all about, though. From the outside, passersby may struggle to spot the V for what it is. It mostly looks like the standard Escalade from the front and sides, until you spot the V badging and the Brembo brakes. Still, that’s not a major giveaway of the beast that lurks within.
For that, you’ll need to catch it from the back. Those quad pipes are the dead giveaway and mark the business end of the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V, to my mind. Stomp on the gas pedal, and you’ll treat both yourself and everyone for about a mile around to the untempered, unholy wail of that 6.2-liter supercharged V8. With a hearty 653 lb-ft of torque, the V easily has enough grunt to blow the doors off most other motorists you’ll encounter on the roads. That is, if they don’t immediately jump out of the way when they hear you coming.
With great power (and weight) comes a need for effective suspension and brakes.
Fortunately, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V does not disappoint on either front. The team developing this mega-SUV tweaked its air ride adaptive suspension and magnetic ride control system to handle the gargantuan amount of shove coming from the engine through the V’s 10-speed automatic transmission. Apart from rearing up whenever you floor it — which is tremendously fun when coupled with the noise — this Escalade maintains its composure when you decide to be all gung-ho with your right foot.
When you need to slow everything down, the V has your back with vented six-piston Brembo front brakes. They did their job remarkably well, though you still need to keep in mind just how much mass you’re dealing with here. Push too aggressively at higher speeds, and the rear end (with the standard Escalade’s Duralife rotors) may get a little squirrelly. All in all, though, the chassis tweaks helped inspire confidence in passing maneuvers and even when the road got twisty.
My one performance gripe
You know what didn’t inspire confidence? The tires. The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V arrived with 275-width Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02 all-seasons on 22-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Look, that’s fine on the Chevrolet Suburban High Country or your standard Escalade. But on a 682 horsepower, three-ton performance SUV? I understand that choice makes the V more widely usable throughout the year, but it does dull its performance potential.
Some grippier rubber would not go amiss, I think, so that’s something you may want to think about if you’re planning to slap $151,000 or more of your dollars down on the V. Even then, the Escalade’s stability control system will kick in far before you get too crazy trying to treat the V like a sports car. At the end of the day, this is still a large, truck-based SUV, and even sticky tires can only do so much to combat the laws of physics.
Sticking with that whole truck thing, the fuel economy obviously isn’t spectacular either. Over 500 miles, we drained the Escalade-V’s 24-gallon fuel tank twice, managing right around 12 mpg. God help you if you decide to hook up a trailer behind this supercharged beast. That’s not to say you can’t — Cadillac rates the Escalade-V to tow up to 8,200 pounds — but the fuel economy will almost certainly drop by at least half.
EPA figures suggest you can get up to 16 mpg in highway driving, but I couldn’t get anywhere near that. That’s only if you’re incredibly light in your loafers — and I guarantee you won’t be, because the godlike thunder coming out the back will have you on your worst behavior pretty much all the time.
Comfort and Convenience: All the trappings of your ‘typical’ Escalade
As understated as its exterior is, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is even more normal once you get inside. Plenty of luxurious features, of course, but there are few new pieces to the puzzle. You still get large OLED digital displays, acres of leather upholstery, massaging seats and a fantastic 36-speaker AKG audio system.
Our particular V did not come with Super Cruise equipped, but it will arrive on later 2023 models. The most notable feature is V-Mode, which essentially takes the Escalade’s Sport mode to another level. Press the “V” button on the center console in front of the gear selector, and you’ll gain access to customize several drivability settings, from steering and brake feel to the exhaust note and more.
Like every new Cadillac model, you’ll have to spend an extra $1,500 for three years of OnStar and GM Connected Services. You don’t get a choice in the matter, though the only other packages beyond that add a few hundred dollars each to the bottom-line price.
Verdict: Is the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V worth the cash?
On one hand, you could argue that the V’s understated exterior is an asset. The bumpers, badging, brakes and exhaust pipes make this a sleeper, and that makes it an even more awesome buy. I’ll admit, shocking folks with this SUV’s sheer volume never got old.
Trouble is, as much as my ears screamed “YES!” with the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V, it’s genuinely tough to square that price tag. Even if you can get one at MSRP (good luck with that), we’re talking about a nearly $41,000 premium over the four-wheel drive Sport Platinum model. Sure, you don’t get the exhaust note, but the standard 6.2-liter V8 is a well-proven powerplant. What’s more, if you’re buying with your head over your heart, you can even get it with the 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel and get pretty much double the fuel mileage.
Even dialing all that out of the equation, there’s another badass, heavy metal American SUV on the block: the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat. Does it have the luxury and prestige of the Escalade? No, of course not. But what it does have is even more power — 710 hp, to be exact — and a savage supercharger whine to complement its Hemi V8 bass note. We still need a few more details on that one, but it will be back for 2023, commanding a far lower asking price. Again, assuming you can actually get your hands on one for MSRP at all.
Ultimately, if you have the cash and desire for Cadillac’s V-Series SUV (at least it’s finally here), price will likely mean little if anything to you. On that basis, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is an awesome luxury flagship. If you want an even larger footprint, you can even order it in long-wheelbase ESV form for $3,000 more.
As much as I love this thing, my wallet cried for mercy anytime I went near it. So, I’ll stick with the memories.