INDIANAPOLIS — My family has spent way too much time in our house during the last few months – because of COVID, winter temps, and admittedly, general laziness. We needed to get away, to have a retreat. With the completely redesigned 2021 Cadillac Escalade in the driveway and just two and a half hours between us in Indianapolis and the Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park, we loaded up to go.
My daughter couldn’t wait. That’s probably because she had her own heated seats and infotainment screen for connecting her phone in the middle row. She tapped into 4G Wi-Fi to conjure shows on her pad and monitored our progress with the navigation app – like a pint-size backseat driver on a trans-Atlantic flight. We love her, but her dads were pretty comfy up front too with seats that heat, cool, and massage. Since I was nominated to be the pilot, I also enjoyed the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and head-up display.
Senses will be drawn to layers of suede, stitched leather, curved wood, woven cloth, and of course, the 16.9” curved OLED infotainment screen used to swipe through audio functions, conjure directions, and make calls. The instrument cluster can be configured for digital gauges, night vision camera, or navigation with augmented reality that shows directions over real-time imagery. The 32-speaker AKG audio system immerse you in total sound while wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto keep devices humming. The front console cooler, stocked with sodas and iced coffee, kept my family humming.
The trip went fast. The historic Potawatomi Inn on Lake James was built 1927 and remains a respite from modernity with its lazy sun porch, graceful lawn, historic dining room…and toboggan run. The lake was frozen enough to support snowmobiles and it was too cold for tobogganing, but flocks of cohabitating cardinals were beautiful. There’s a spirit about the place that joins the past with tomorrow.
That’s also true of the Escalade’s style. As the modern version of a befinned 1959 Eldorado, it makes a statement via large satin silver grille, LED headlamps, and 22” wheels. A longer and wider body provides increased legroom for the second- and third-row seats. Finlike taillamps extend from bumper to roof, leaving no doubt it’s a Cadillac.
Out on I69, the big truck cruised effortlessly with its 6.2-liter V8 engine delivering 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque – put down through a 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel-drive. That’s ample power, but the downside is fuel economy rated 14/19-MPG city/highway. It’s capable of towing 8,000 lbs., so towing a Chris-Craft speedboat or Airstream camper will be easy. Vastly improving ride and handling are a new independent rear suspension plus four-wheel air control to smooth highway travel and raise up for off-roading.
2021 Cadillac Escalade
Safety is a given. As Cadillac’s flagship, the Escalade has all of the latest tech from radar adaptive cruise control to forward collision mitigation, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection with auto brake. GM’s safety alert driver’s seat vibrates in the direction of danger. Going further, the Escalade is available with Cadillac’s hands-off Super Cruise driving system.
The Cadillac Escalade has always provided first class accommodations, but solid rear axles and sub-par interiors kept them from fully matching the world’s best. As my family experienced on a long and cold weekend adventure, this big wagon was the ultimate get-away on the way to our get-away. A base price of $76,195 rose to a lofty $109,500 as tested, putting it against other high flyers like the Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lincoln Navigator, BMW X7, and upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
Casey Williams is former auto correspondent for WFYI and the Indianapolis Star plus a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Auto Page. He has reviewed vehicles and covered the auto industry for over 25 years. He lives with his family in Broad Ripple. E-mail him at AutoCasey@aol.com; check his reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey.
2021 Cadillac Escalade
7 passengers, 4WD SUV
Powertrain: 6.2-L V8, 10-spd trans
Output: 420 hp/460 lb.-ft.
Suspension f/r: Air Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 22”/22” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Capability
Fuel economy: 14/19-MPG city/hwy
Towing: 8,000 lbs
Assembly: Arlington, TX
Base price/As-tested: $76,195/109,500