The 2023 Escalade V has been a long time coming. In the 24 years since production began, Cadillac has never offered a performance-oriented version of its full-size SUV, allowing aftermarket companies to cash in on the ever-growing market for super-haulers by offering upgrade packages that include forced induction and gigantic power numbers.
Up until now, that is. For the first time ever, Cadillac will finally sell an Escalade with a V badge. At its core sits a supercharged 6.2-liter small-block V-8, not unlike the powertrain you’d find in one of Hennessey’s offerings. Except you can get this one straight from your local Caddy dealer. It’s an absolute riot.
The Escalade V comes at an interesting time for the brand. Officially, Cadillac plans to be all-electric by the year 2030, although rumors suggest GM’s luxury arm could be a purely EV affair by as early as 2025. Its first all-electric vehicle, the Lyriq, is set to be released next year. Pre-orders sold out in hours. So why release the Escalade V, the antithesis to logical efficiency, now?
“General Motors has opportunities to do so many different things,” David Schiavone, the Escalade’s global project manager, told Road & Track. “And if you look where the focus was [when the V sub-brand was new], it was really developing the V series on the sedan side, because that’s where most of the racing has been. We started that in, what, 2004? So we’ve been doing it for 18 years. “
Eventually, the business case for an Escalade V became too tantalizing to ignore.
“With the V series becoming so popular, we [realized that] it was time, ”Schiavone continued. “We’ve got equity in our V series. People are excited about them. We’ve got all the content we need from similar engine architects that we were able to just say, ‘Okay, it’s time. Let’s go. ‘ And once we made that decision, it all came on really fast. ”
Even if popular consensus determined there should’ve been an Escalade V a decade ago, we’re not complaining now. That engine, based on the phenomenal unit found in the CT5-V Blackwing, comes with a slew of changes to make sure it works on this platform. The block is the same, stuffed with a forged crankshaft, forged connecting rods, forged pistons, and lightweight titanium intake valves. But thanks to exhaust and intake runner restrictions in the engine bay, Cadillac had to bump up the Eaton supercharger’s size from 1.7 to 2.65 liters to get the power it wanted. The result is 682 hp and 653 lb-ft of torque — 14 more hp and 6 fewer lb-ft versus the CT5’s engine.
Though most of the changes were made for packaging reasons, don’t think the motor’s been neutered. There’s power everywhere in the rev range, with instant response and all the fantastic noises you’d expect from a V-8-powered V-Series Cadillac. Thrust is constant and unwavering, with 80 percent of the engine’s torque arriving at 2000 rpm. Step on the gas and you’re immediately met with a ferocious bellow from the quad exhaust tips out back, along with a substantial punch to the gut as you’re ferried away. Redline comes at 6200 rpm, typical for GM’s line of small push-rod blocks. That might sound low, but you don’t really notice thanks to the 10-speed automatic the engine is paired to. It’s well geared to deliver good acceleration, allowing for a claimed 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds, or 4.5 seconds in the long-wheelbase ESV truck.
All of this extra grunt meant the Escalade team had to upgrade the rest of the SUV to cope. While the vast majority of the hardware is shared with the standard Escalade, the Magnaride dampers, air springs, and steering have all been retuned for the V in an attempt to match the engine’s rowdiness. After a short stint behind the wheel through the mountainous desert ranges outside Phoenix, Arizona, it’s clear the Escalade V works best as a high-speed cruiser. Weighing over three tons means not even 682 hp can make it truly fast, with a lot of that acceleration turning into heat and noise as you climb higher up the speedometer. Once you are up to speed, though, it’s just as pleasant and comfortable to drive as a normal Escalade. On the highway, Cadillac’s latest version of Supercruise — the brand’s hands-free driver assistance system — works wonders, able to change lanes to go around slower cars all on its own, without any input from the driver.
Thanks to all of those chassis upgrades, the Escalade V can maintain its composure through high-speed bends. It’s no sports sedan, obviously, but it’s far from boring. We suspect owners will extract the most joy out of straight-line blasts from stop lights. Remember, this is a vehicle sized and shaped like a small building that can launch out of the hole as quickly as a mid-range sports car. Its goal isn’t to wow drivers on track — that’s what Blackwing models are for. The Escalade V is designed to bring more excitement to the everyday monotony of life. It’ll be an all-rounder for most owners, according to Cadillac. In addition to the occasional 0-60 pull, they’ll be picking up kids for soccer practice, commuting to work, grocery shopping, and towing.
This iteration of GM’s 10-speed is its most refined yet, able to fade into the background when you’re cruising along, or slam through gears and jolt the cabin when you’re really on it. But the same can’t be said for the ride. Like every other Escalade, the V is still a body-on-frame vehicle, and neither the Magnaride nor the air suspension can erase all of the jitters that come with that design. And while the brakes are gigantic Brembo units developed specifically for this application, pedal tuning doesn’t inspire much confidence. Initial grab is fantastic, but when you really need to dig into the available stopping power, you have to press a lot harder than you think. It’s a weird sensation I’ve felt before, at the wheel of the diesel-powered Suburban we tested last year. Owners will likely get used to it over time, but it’s a bit unnerving at first.
Those brakes are shrouded in gigantic 22-inch alloy wheels exclusive to the Escalade V. They’re painted in a slick gunmetal tone and come wrapped in Bridgestone Alenza all-seasons measuring 275 / 50R22 all around. Other changes to the exterior include a specific front fascia with “side-blade” grille inserts next to the vertical DRLs, along with a unique rear bumper to show off the larger, squared-off exhaust tips. There are also a couple of absolutely gigantic V badges on each front door so no one will mistake your car for a lesser Escalade.
Aside from the iffy ride, the Escalade’s V cabin is a lovely space to spend time. It’s largely unchanged from the normal Escalade save for a couple of V badges. That’s a good thing. The dashboard is dominated by a curved OLED infotainment display that controls virtually everything on the car, from radio, to navigation, to drive modes. Both it and the digital gauge cluster are easy to read and use. Unlike its Suburban sibling, the gear selector is a singular piece placed on a logical part of the center console, rather than just a selection of buttons on the dash.
The Escalade V is silly, ridiculous, and nonsensical. No one needs an Escalade with this much power, but it’s easy to see why it’ll be a sellout hit: Because it’s just plain fun. You’ll find yourself smiling after every press of the start button and every stomp of that accelerator pedal. Of course it isn’t perfect. The V could never keep up on track with the Audi SQ7s or Alpina XB7s of the world. But that’s not what it’s for. Instead, it’s a fitting tribute to a fast-dying breed of cars built purely for enjoyment, even at the cost of efficiency and logic. One that you can use as a daily driver that can tow your race car to the track. One day soon, cars like this won’t exist. All we can do is enjoy them while they do.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io