2021 Cadillac Escalade Diesel Review

Big trucks and diesel engines are like peas in a pod, a winning pairing that has persisted even after the Dieselgate scandal. Diesels, you know, have a lot of torque, a lot of towing capacity, and can travel long distances without refilling. Large trucks powered by classic gasoline V8 engines are notoriously thirsty, and rising fuel prices in Canada aren't helping matters.

The Cadillac Escalade is in the same boat. It's a huge and commanding three-row, seven-seater SUV designed to transport passengers while pampering them with sharp OLED screens, adaptive air suspension, and the softest American leathers, but the base 6.2-litre V8 engine is thirsty. Our own test drive resulted in an average of 15.5 liters per 100 kilometers. Rather of switching to a plug-in hybrid like its competitors Lincoln and Land Rover, Cadillac has decided to offer a no-cost diesel alternative with its renowned SUV. 

A 3.0-litre Duramax turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine with 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque is available. Although the horsepower is down from the V8's 420, the torque remains the same, as does the 10-speed automatic transmission. And yes, that's the same Duramax engine that powers the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Sierra - Cadillac trucks, unlike the Blackwing cars, never had distinct engine options.

Still, diesel is the better option for people who are concerned about their weekly fuel costs or who simply enjoy the thought of traveling 1,000 kilometers on a single tank. It's the ideal road trip warrior, thanks to the semi-autonomous Super Cruise technology. Diesel is four cents cheaper than standard 87-octane gasoline in Toronto at the time of this study. Yes, it may be difficult to find a diesel station in small towns, but when you have a thousand kilometers to travel and need to fill up, a diesel car is far superior to an electric vehicle. Furthermore, the digital fuel indicator did not move during our first 100 kilometers, leading us to believe it was broken. With a combination of city and highway driving, we averaged an excellent 10.9 L/100km.

However, there are several disadvantages to using diesel. It's pretty noisy, and the cabin can hear a lot of the tractor-like clatter. Despite the gobsmack of low-end torque, it rumbles like a truck under acceleration, and the vibrations betray its premium pretense. We regret the smoother and quieter 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8. The start-stop system is also clumsy, shaking the entire vehicle when the engine heats up, making us appreciate EVs and plug-in hybrids even more.

The Escalade runs out of breath rapidly when accelerating at freeway speeds, and you have to slam the gas pedal to the floor to get this beast up and running in a jiffy, whereas the V8 required far less effort and allowed for more last-minute maneuvers. The diesel requires a little more forethought. This is only applicable when cruising at triple digit speeds. The diesel's advantages are obvious at low speeds, with the full fury of 460 lb-ft of torque arriving at 1,500 rpm. It also has strong off-the-line acceleration, making it feel lighter and more agile than the Lincoln Navigator.

The handling is precisely what you'd expect from a large body-on-frame truck, and it's nearly identical to the V8 version. The Escalade, on the other hand, isn't that ungainly, handling low- and high-speed curves with outstanding body control and stability. While the roughness still comes through when negotiating pockmarked roads and bumps, it's much more tamed and less invasive than before thanks to the independent rear suspension.

There are no changes to the outer sheetmetal or inside amenities when you choose the diesel option. That's a good thing, because this is Cadillac's most opulent interior to yet. From the keyless entry sensor on the door handle styled like the Cadillac badge to the high-grade buttons and knobs that may appear plasticky but provide positive and costly feedback, the attention to detail is astounding. Many of the touch panels will be familiar to anyone who has driven a Cadillac CT5 or XT5, but there are a few enhancements, such as the fully digital HVAC control screen, which looks better than the XT6 variant.

The curved OLED panel, which is standard on all Escalade versions and measures approximately 100 cm diagonally, is the star of the show. Three OLED panels are placed on top of each other to create a stacked visual appearance that adds depth. The left screen is 7.2 inches wide, the driver's screen is 14.2 inches wide, and the center screen is 16.9 inches wide. What's the finest thing about OLEDs? They're only about the thickness of a sheet of paper. Cadillac has managed to leapfrog its competition with the highest definition screen I've ever seen in a vehicle. It's bright, sharp, and has twice the pixel density of the Sony 4K TV in my living room. The curving angle is also appealing, enclosing the interior while also emphasizing the dashboard's width. The steering wheel rim, like that of the Porsche Taycan, is continually in the way, requiring you to tilt your head back and forth to access the information you require.

The broad center console ($805) has a cooler box with two fridge settings (+5 and -5 C) that can carry around 4-5 standard water bottles, adding to its road-trip appeal. A new function called Conversation Enhancement has also been included. Little microphones are strewn over the inside, capturing the driver's and front passenger's voices and blending them into the audio delivered to the back seats so they can hear them better. The rear microphones also convey dialogue back to the front when you choose the AKG 36-speaker system. Furthermore, unlike other vehicles, the Escalade has a normal gear shifter rather than a column stalk, yet this does not obstruct the flow of the console and its numerous cubbies and cup holders.

You know you're in a huge car when you can't reach the passenger side door handle from the driver's seat. There is 40 percent more third-row legroom and 80 percent more cargo capacity behind the third row thanks to the wider platform and enhanced packing. The floor isn't awkwardly lifted for third-row passengers thanks to the new independent rear suspension, offering them a more comfortable seating position without their knees pressed into their chests. Do you require even more space? The extended ESV variant adds 618 litres to the load capacity.

The 16-way adjustable front seats look terrific, and the semi-aniline leather's checkered stitching is superb, complementing the soft, tactile attributes of Mercedes and BMW seats. They're just as comfortable as they appear, with heated, ventilated seats and a powerful massage mechanism with numerous modes to fine-tune your masseur. It's a shame the window sill isn't wide enough for your arms to rest on. The second row is large and comfortable, with seats that can be adjusted using two levers. The first lever swings the seat forward and back on its tracks, making access to the third row easier, while the second lever folds the seat down for loading bulky things.

In the Escalade lineup, the diesel remains the more practical and efficient option. The Escalade is the only SUV in its market that still offers a diesel, with Mercedes, Range Rover, and even Lincoln opting out in favor of hybrids and fully electric vehicles. As a result, it occupies a unique position, combining the advantages of long-range travel with the cost-effectiveness of a smaller engine. Although the turbodiesel lacks the V8's high-speed acceleration and refined delivery, it more than makes up for it in other ways, making it the obvious choice for Cadillac's legendary SUV.

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