FIRST GENERATION CADILLAC ESCALADE (1999–2000)
The 5-door Cadillac Escalade for sale was initially designed to compete with when full-sized luxury-type trucks became popular. It served as Cadillac’s first significant foray in the SUV market. The first-generation Escalade was offered from 1999-2000, then skipped in 2001, before it was redesigned for an appearance that was more in line with the Cadillac aesthetic. During that period, Cadillac produced just under 50,000 Escalades.
The first-generation Escalade design is often viewed as a rush job as the project went into production less than a year after it was approved. Cadillac Escalades are still manufactured at the Arlington Assembly plant in Arlington, Texas. The very first Escalade to roll off of that assembly line was a 1999 Aspen White model that remains in General Motors’ Heritage Collection.
The 5.7-liter Vortec V8 engine in the 1999-2000 Escalade produced 255 horsepower with 350 lb-ft of torque, and they were manufactured with Auto-Trac selectable 4×4 technology. Upon its introduction, the plush, fully-equipped first-generation Escalade prices were set at an MSRP just above $46,000. This added almost $4,000 to the cost of its mechanically similar, corporate cousins.
Each first-generation Escalade SUV was available with a five-seat configuration. Subsequent generations came with a third-row of additional seating. They were all well-equipped with a single base-level trim offering and a small handful of possible upgrades. The Escalade came from the factory with 16″ chrome-clad aluminum-alloy wheels, matching front and rear bumpers, side panels, and OnStar communications. Standard equipment also included premium stereo equipment, including AM/FM cassette radio. A remote-mounted CD changer and six-speaker Bose premium amplified sound system pushed the envelope, including features that made the Escalade worthy of the Cadillac badge.
The interior was upholstered in luxury leather with embossed logos on each of the front captain chairs. These fully automatic chairs included a driver’s memory system for ease of use. To round out the sleek interior, Cadillac added wood interior trim accents complemented by a leather-and-wood-wrapped steering wheel, topped off with the elegant Cadillac crest in the middle and climate control buttons built-in.
Keyless entry and sophisticated tri-zone climate control were part of the standard features. The Escalade also came with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass and temperature gauge, an overhead console, rear climate control vents, and automatic front head and fog lamps. They came with roof rails perfect for adding the optional roof rack, too, if additional space was required.
There are a few external distinctions that differentiate the first-generation Escalade from the Yukon. Upon close inspection, the two cars have different front fascia, offering a subtly more elegant curve to the Escalade. Additionally, the Escalade prominently wears the Cadillac crest on the front grille, front doors, and rear tailgates. Without those small modifications, it’s difficult to tell them apart from each other.
First Generation 1999 Cadillac Escalade Specs:
Engine: 5.7 Liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed Automatic
Torque: 350 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 10.5s
Top Speed: 110 mph
SECOND GENERATION CADILLAC ESCALADE (2002–2006)
The second-generation Escalade entered production in 2002 after Cadillac decided to skip production of a 2001 model. This decision to postpone a newer model allowed Cadillac to craft the version that many think of when they mention “an old Escalade.” This generation of Escalades shares the updated GMT820 platform. The Escalade was the last of GM’s full-size truck lines to make the switch to the new chassis.
This Escalade was the first to sport a bold, angular exterior design that meshed seamlessly with Cadillac’s brand new “Art and Science” design language that has guided the brand in years since, entirely justifying the delay. Cadillac took advantage of this fresh blank canvas to make a mark with the second-generation after rushing into production with a previous model that primarily served as a placeholder for future enhancement.
A further departure from the workhorse Yukons and Suburbans that share the same chassis is evident in the redesigned interior. Like the initial design, Cadillac spared little expense in upgrading the posh cabin. Zebrano wood paneling and several caddy-only leather colors elevated the interior. The new layout now included 8 seats (except for the short wheelbase EXT, or when second-row buckets seats were selected) instead of five as found in previous models. Features like a Bulgari-branded analog clock catapulted the Escalade to preferred rap video status. Cooled seats, satellite radio, and rear-seat entertainment helped the Escalade solidify its position as the ultimate luxury vehicle, bordering on excess, and sufficiently ahead of its time.
Second generation Escalades were in production until 2006. Between 2002-2006, Escalade horsepower depended on two engines, the 5.3 L LM7 Vortec V8 with 285 and 295 horsepower, then a more substantial 6.0 L Vortec 6000 V-8 engine capable of producing up to 345 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. The larger engine was available on all-wheel-drive models, and then on all models after 2005. This newer engine placed the Escalade near the top of its class, fit for squarely competing in a category of luxury-bent SUVs that was starting to heat up.
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To maneuver that more powerful Escalade, Cadillac opted for an industrial-grade four-speed automatic and an optional full-time four-wheel-drive system. These specs mean that for as elegant as the second-generation Escalade appeared, it was now capable of superior performance. The adaptive suspension was introduced during these model years and resulted in a far more agile Escalade. An 8,000-plus-pound tow rating made the Escalade as functional as it was pretty.
The Platinum Edition trim was introduced in 2004, and the second-generation Escalade price was $53,230. This package took the Escalade even closer to the point of excess. An ebony and shale dashboard, heated and cooled cupholders, a moon roof, second and third row monitors, a lowered suspension, 20-inch chrome wheels, and chrome grille were sure to get tongues wagging in case the second-generation Escalade didn’t already offer plenty of features to talk about.
Second Generation 2002-2006 Cadillac Escalade Specs:
Engine: 6.0 Liter V8
Transmission: 4-speed Automatic
Torque: 380 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 8.3s
Top Speed: 108 mph
THIRD GENERATION CADILLAC ESCALADE (2007–2014)
The third-generation Escalade marks the model years where the Escalade has come into its own by redefining the luxury SUV market and leading the charge at the top of its class. In 2005, Cadillac introduced yet another newly revamped generation of Escalades at a star-studded global debut party on Rodeo Drive. It was attended by Paris Hilton, Regina King, and Adrien Brody. In 2008, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was awarded an Escalade hybrid as the 2008 Super Bowl MVP prize.
For the first time, all GM truck lines built on the same chassis were launched together in 2006, just in time for Escalade’s third-generation overhaul. Escalades produced during model years 2007-2014 all sported a 6.2 L Vortec 6200 V8 engine capable. 2007-2014 Escalade horsepower was measured at 403 with 417 lb-ft of torque.
The pushrod, all-aluminum engine found in third generation Escalades includes variable valve timing. This was the first time that had been achieved in a mass-produced non-overhead cam engine and allowed the system to adjust intake and exhaust timing. To keep pace with the engine redesign, a new six-speed 6L80 automatic transmission was also introduced.
The single-engine exception is found in the short-lived hybrid model that was available between 2009-2013. In August of 2008, 20% of Escalade sales were hybrids. The hybrid version was equipped with a 6.0 L V-8 engine that was augmented by two 60-kW motors powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery located under the rear seat. That combination produced 379 horsepower and increased mpg by 5-6 miles per gallon. It relied on a unique transmission with three planetary gears and four traditional clutches. To help the standard Escalade remain attractive as fuel prices rose, active fuel management technology was added in 2010 to improve efficiency.
Cadillac continued to enhance the Escalade’s interior with a flashier front fascia that included an unmistakable grille with even more chrome. The guiding design principle for the Escalade continued to be that more is more, and this generation was even cooler than the previous one. Standard features included tri-zone climate controls, Nuance premium leather-trimmed seats, wood accents, leather-wrapped steering wheel, handy controls, heated front, and second-row seats, remote engine start, and a power liftgate. In the Platinum trim, plenty of entertainment screens for the DVD entertainment system, a first-class sound and navigation system and heated and cooled anything-that-you-can-think-of practically made these cars mobile movie theaters. Cadillac honestly thought of everything that you’d need to have an excuse never to leave your car!
The third-generation Escalade price started at $57,280 for the rear-wheel-drive version in 2006, but the all-wheel-drive was produced several months before that option was available. In 2012, the base price of an Escalade climbed to $62,500 for an RWD model. The majority of Escalade sales (60%) still occur in the Northeast of the United States. In 2014, the Escalade was only offered in the standard and ESV versions. Both the EXT and hybrid models were discontinued for the final year of the third generation of Escalades due to poor sales.
Third Generation 2007-2014 Cadillac Escalade Specs
Engine: 6.2 Liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed Automatic
Torque: 417 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.5s
Top Speed: 106 mph
FOURTH GENERATION CADILLAC ESCALADE (2015–2020)
The fourth-generation Escalade marked an even further divide between the glamorous Escalade and her run-of-the-mill siblings. Cadillac pulled out all of the stops to make this renovation one for the books. These cars are chock full of ultra-luxe, tech-heavy features that separate the Escalade from the rest of the pack. This generation placed emphasis on bespoke Cadillac CUE infotainment and more top-shelf materials.
The exterior was freshly redesigned with crisp, sharp edges for the 2015 model year that give it a modern, yet timeless sort of charm. The design appealed to those partial towards Cadillac’s penchant for vertical exterior lamps and distinctly angular architecture. In addition, fun features like a new drivers’ assistance package included several cameras (a live view rear vision camera was added to the rearview mirror in 2017), cruise control, and onboard diagnostics for the ultimate driving experience.
Cadillac employed several unique marketing strategies to introduce the new Escalade, including a massive holiday display in front of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York during November 2013. A front shot of the new Escalade was obscured by frozen holiday wraps. Coupled with other clever marketing tactics, the new Escalade was a hit. Demand outpaced supply, and by 2015, dealerships stopped taking pre-orders just to catch up.
The 2015 fourth-generation Escalade price was set to $71,000 for the full size and $74,000 for the ESV. It was initially available in three trims, the base, luxury, and premium editions. The new Escalade received rave reviews from critics who enjoyed the sleek, updated and enhanced drive quality in the fourth generation.
The fourth-generation Escalade is equipped with one engine type, the 6.2L EcoTec3 L86 V8. Between 2015-2020, Escalade horsepower remained at 420 with 460 lb-ft of torque coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. After 2015, that was changed to an eight-speed automatic transmission before being replaces in 2018 with a ten-speed Ford-GM automatic transmission. To round out the changes under the hood, these Escalades were fitted with a new coil-over front suspension, a wider track, and Magnetic Ride control for added stability and enhanced maneuverability. The Escalade also benefits from an updated security system to safeguard all of its expensive tech.
Inside, the well-appointed interior with several more inches of headspace and legroom in the front features plenty of cut-and-sewn and wrapped materials next to real wood accents. A reconfigured, fully-loaded dash and infotainment system improve accessibility for a ride that is even more fun than it was in the past. Platinum trim models (reintroduced in 2016) now include all of the available options plus DVD headrests. The other trim levels come with an overhead DVD player.
Starting with the 2015 model year, the new Escalade was equipped with 4G LTE connectivity. During that refresh, the wreaths prominently displayed in the Cadillac logo on the grilled were also removed, leaving only the Cadillac crest front and center. This generation was the first to be produced for the global market, with offerings in every country that Cadillac sells in.
Fourth Generation Cadillac Escalade Specs:
Engine: 6.2 Liter V8
Torque: 460 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 5.9s
Top Speed: 110 mph
FIFTH GENERATION CADILLAC ESCALADE (2021-Present)
Cadillac debuted the fifth-generation Escalade in February 2020 in Beverly Hills, California, with sales expected to commence in the Fall of 2020. This makeover breathes new life into a line that comes once again to the forefront of what it means to be a luxury car. A handful of brand-spanking-new features like GM’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous technology that allows for hands-free driving are part of Cadillac’s efforts to fashion a vehicle on the cutting-edge.
The exterior has taken on a classic, bold look that downplays the angular design of the previous generation, inviting you in with coke-bottle side curves and smooth glamorous elements that call back to Cadillac’s storied legacy. Cadillac has positioned the Escalade to suit two audiences, sporty and luxury, with five different trim options: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury Platinum, and Sport Platinum. The base fifth generation Escalade price starts at $76,195, with plenty of available options to tempt you.
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The 2021 Escalade is available with two engine options. The upgraded 6.2 L L86 EcoTec3 V8 carried over from the previous generation grants the 2021 Escalade 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. The alternative engine, a noteworthy, no-charge upgrade option, is the 3.0 L Duramax I-6 Turbodiesel engine that puts out 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a ten-speed Hydra-Matic 10L80 automation transmission and independent rear suspension.
Inside, the Cadillac looks completely fresh, with a space-ship like interior. Across the dash, you’ll find a 38-inch wall of screens that span the front of the cockpit. Touchscreens and cleanly laid out digital displays keep all of the information that you could possibly want at your fingertips. The curved, 15.9-inch showstopping OLED screen helps to reduce the amount of time that the driver’s eyes are off of the road. The Super Cruise option will let you set the Escalade on auto-pilot on over 200,000 miles of extensively mapped roads in the US. There’s also an Augmented Reality navigation function that operates as a sophisticated video game, displaying camera views to show you where and when you should turn.
The Escalade’s updated interior includes double-stitched leather and premium finishes. The 2021 model marks the shift to premium sound from 19 AKG speakers. Higher trim packages feature up to 36 speakers for 3D surround sound that you won’t find in any other vehicle. Independent rear suspension, coupled with adding five inches to the wheelbase, increases legroom in the third row by almost 40% as Cadillac continues to emphasize the importance of a spacious, comfortable cabin in their design.
The longer wheelbase Escalade ESV will feature unique fascia along with its passenger doors along with wider exhaust pipes. The fifth-generation Escalade will also be available as an electric vehicle (EV model). The EV is expected to share its platform with the GMC Hummer EV and rely on new Ultium battery technology. Those battery packs are as large as 200kWh and can provide up to 1000 horsepower when using the three-motor driving setup. Cadillac expects to release the EV by 2025.
Fifth Generation 2021 Cadillac Escalade Specs
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Torque: 460 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.1s
Top Speed: 95.6 mph