By Andy Stonehouse
Can a car change you? And if so, do you want to take on the personality of a 682-horsepower, fire-breathing, $150,000 box of Texas-built Cadillac, an end-of-an-era monster that makes Corvette noises and conforms to almost no standard societal norms?
Well, sure. For the price of two Hellcat Widebodies, two Camaro ZL1s, or a pile of Ford GT-somethings, Cadillac has produced the complete antithesis to its upcoming family of electric vehicles.
The 2023 Escalade-V is a striking and rather conspicuously over-the-top automobile designed to outdo other brash statements such as the 577-horsepower Mercedes AMG G63 (though the Benz is still $30,000 more expensive), yet still haul seven passengers.
If you’d yearned for a full-size American SUV that’s capable of 4.4-second runs to 60 mph, exhaust noises that scream and crackle, and parked on 22-inch wheels, this is it.
Yes, a lot of questions come along with such a vehicle. Is it truly and unbelievably different than the base Chevy Suburban you can get for approximately $90,000 less—a vehicle of the same size and general capacity? Well, yes and no.
For this price point, I’d kind of expected Escalade-V to at least come with the new Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system, or maybe a hot tub or controls covered in Swarovski crystals. Even a refrigerated console box would have been cool. Sadly, none of those were present.
Interior finishes are indeed premium, with lots of polished wood, an Alcantara headliner, and a beautifully perforated dash top. The Escalade-V’s extra-chiseled looks do set it apart from its Suburban/Yukon/standard Escalade siblings, but it’s still basically the same tallish box as they are.
As mentioned in previous reviews of the newer General Motors full-sized SUV platform, the benefit is rear-seat access and head room that will allow adults to perhaps more than temporarily be seated in the third row. The captains’ chair second-row seats sort of drop and squat out of the way; you just have to navigate around slightly oversized TV monitors attached to the back of the front seats.
Scale is gigantic up front, too, with a super-broad and tall console that’s so large you simply cannot reach over and try to pick up something on the passenger seat. You also get power running boards, helpful for access, as well as blacked-out, bugle-styled exhaust tips, ultra-bright vertical brake lamps and lighting in the rear, and very nice 18-spoke alloy wheels.
But none of that is quite as important (or, costly) as the hand-assembled 6.2-liter supercharged V8, with 682 actual horsepower and 653 pound-feet of torque. It is quite the technological achievement, and when noisy acceleration is required, the Escalade-V delivers.
As I found on my first outing, it’ll (happily) hit a rev limiter at about double the standard U.S. highway speed limit, which will help you from destroying the vehicle, maybe, as high-speed handling was strictly a straight-line kind of deal.
I did appreciate the fact that the Escalade-V handled in a relatively civil and even large-sporty fashion when driven more slowly, capably taking curves and riding along firmly on its adaptive air-ride suspension—which seemed to readjust itself at every stop sign.
Like the Corvette, almost every aspect of the Escalade-V’s driving can be adjusted—braking, shifting, chassis control, even exhaust noises – and hitting the somewhat hidden V switch ahead of the oversized 10-speed auto shifter puts everything into max mode.
That results in somewhat stabby braking, but those banquet dish-sized front discs and red Brembo calipers up front are fully capable of bringing Escalade-V out of orbit, so that’s reassuring.
Fuel consumption is as expected, ranging between about 11 miles per gallon (mpg) and an unlikely 28 mpg I got coming back into Denver; the EPA sticker suggests you will spend $13,000 more on gas over a five-year period than an average car, and get 16 highway mpg.
Sí: The Escalade-V delivers on its promise of unmatched performance in its segment.
No: For the price, the Escalade-V doesn’t set itself apart from its more affordable full-size siblings offered by GM.
Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Lakewood, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested, and feature European models.