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2023 Cadillac Escalade-V: The V-8’s last hurrah? [First Drive]

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The Cadillac Escalade has always been the pinnacle of luxury with its prettily patterned seats, up-level amenities and posh ride. Now, as Cadillac prepares to take its brand completely electric by 2030, it presents the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V – the ultimate in big-boy rides with plenty of V-8 fast added to the mix.

Driving dynamics

Perhaps the first and most important thing you’ll notice about the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V is how it drives. We were in the ESV version for the media preview, and that weighs more than 6k pounds yet drives a lot smaller. Part of this is due to the lower beltline and excellent driving position, but a lot of that is due to the vehicle’s engineering.

We were on some highways as well as twisty two-lane roads during the drive, and the Escalade-V held the road very well. Not that I pushed it like I would a sports car, but I did inject my typical aggressive driving style, and this humongous three-row SUV almost felt nimble.

Then you have the 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine that delivers a 4.4-second 0-to-60-MPH time for the standard-length vehicle. This engine produces damn near effortless acceleration and is a blast (literally and figuratively) to drive.

We played around with the launch control a bit, and while I didn’t come close to the 4.4-second acceleration, it was plenty fast for highway merges and passing maneuvers.

Cool V-Series details

Outside of how it drives, I was very impressed with the overall attention to details on the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V. The leather seats have a stylized pattern, and Cadillac carried it through to all three rows – not something all automakers do. Plus, the USB charge ports and excellent air venting carried all the way through to the third row as well.

On the exterior of the vehicle, the front and rear fascia get a unique and more aggressive design with extra venting at the front and a quad exhaust in the back. A couple other distinguishing details include the blackout grille, unique 22-inch aluminum wheels and the V-series badging.

Plus, the sound of the engine will leave car nerds salivating. But if you need to sneak out of the neighborhood before dawn and don’t want to wake the neighbors, you can always change the exhaust note to “Stealth Mode” to reduce the snap, crackle and pop sounds.

The detail I geeked out the most about, however, was the key fob that matched the brake calipers. That’s a thing on the V-Series vehicles, and the CT5 Blackwing has blue calipers and a blue-accented fob. The Escalade-V has a gorgeous Edge Red calipers and fob.

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

Tech stuff

Since this isn’t a redesign or even really a refresh, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V doesn’t get the Google operating system we’ve seen on other GM products, such as the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Ultimate and AT4X or the Chevy Silverado 1500 ZR2. But the standard GM operating system is fairly good and without lag. It incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto as well as accommodates the wired-in versions.

The real tech delight, however, will be the 38 inches of OLED screenage that flows from the driver’s side to the center stack. It has impressive digital clarity, and arranges trip information, gauge display and infotainment logically and cleanly.

A particular fave: the impressive resolution of the 360-degree camera.

Audiophiles will also appreciate the AKG Studio Reference 36-speaker audio system with 3D surround sound.

Seat comfort in the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

One of the biggest disappointments I have with the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V centers around seat comfort. While the driver’s seat is highly adjustable and provides excellent visibility out front and side windows, it isn’t comfortable. At all. In fact, both me and my drive partner likened them to sitting on cardboard. Plus, the thigh bolster isn’t adjustable, so for petite drivers, the seat bottom is going to be about an inch too long.

The massaging front seats are a nice bonus, but they don’t make up for the stiff seat padding.

Oddly, the middle-row captain’s chairs are the most comfortable seats in this vehicle. I find that odd because no one is going to spend more time in the vehicle than the driver.

Third row seats are slightly less comfortable than the driver’s seat – even though there’s plenty of legroom. Cadillac engineers said this was due to the fact they put less padding in these seats so the third row will fold flat for cargo. So, that’s the trade-off. However, since Cadillac execs estimate this third row is only used 30% of the time, maybe it doesn’t matter?

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

A few unfortunate things

Outside of the seat comfort, there are a few other things on the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V that I didn’t love. Shall we start with the price?

Looking at the standard wheelbase model, the base price for the V will be $149,990. If you want the ESV version you’ll start at more than $152k. And that’s without options.

Yeah, you heard that correctly, the Escalade-V isn’t a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). In fact, Super Cruise is an option.

You do get heated steering wheel and massaging seats as standard fare, but really? Options? On a vehicle like this at this price point? That’s weird. I’d say raise the price a smidge and include everything. You might argue someone may not want Super Cruise, but here’s the thing: It’s a subscription-based service anyway. So, better to have the hardware and not use it, than want it and not be able to get it retroactively.

The last thing I thought was odd on a vehicle costing upwards of $150k: There are no cooled seats in the middle row. People were quick to point out on my TikTok that Hyundai and Kia have this feature in their sub-$50k vehicles.

The bottom line on the 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

The 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V has a lot going for it from ride and handling to fast acceleration. Plus, the engine noise makes the heart beat faster. There are a few misses from seat comfort to features that should be standard, but I’m not sure those outweigh the fun factor.

Since the V-8 engine for all automakers has a death day looming in the imminent future, the Escalade-V is something truly special. I’d even go so far as to say it’ll be a collectible one day – especially given the fact Cadillac only intends to produce it in limited numbers.

Expect this vehicle to show up in dealers late summer, and while you can’t configure it quite yet, you can sign up for updates on the consumer site.

Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Cadillac covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization.

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