By Peter Perrotta
When the powers that be at Cadillac were looking for someone exciting to help them launch their kickoff press junket for the newly redesigned 2021 Escalade, they turned to Spike Lee.
Yes, that same Brooklyn-born Hollywood film maker who directed “Do The Right Thing,” “She’s Gotta Have It,” “Malcolm X” and many other critically acclaimed movies.
What does Spike Lee have to do with Cadillac? What’s the connection?
It’s in the screen.
No, not the big screen.
But, the 38-inch diagonal display screen on the dash of the new Escalade that features a pixel density of a 4K television and is being championed by GM as the industry’s first curved OLED screen (Organic Light Emitting Diode).
According to the folks at Cadillac, “the technology delivers bold imagery, perfect blacks and the largest color range of any automotive display in production today.”
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum for one week to get a firsthand look at all of this new dynamic tech being offered.
The exterior of the new Escalade is bolder and more aggressive, but it’s really on the inside with the large screen tech and with the new rear independent suspension that this new Escalade shines.
The new screen is actually a three-in-one. It includes a 7.2-inch diagonal touch control panel and driver information center to the driver’s left, a 14.2-inch diagonal cluster display behind the steering wheel and a 16.9-inch diagonal infotainment screen to the driver’s right.
Simply put folks, this screen is mindblowing in its capabilities. On top of that, the new interior accoutrements inside the cabin are sumptuously luxurious as well.
But back to the innovative screen for a moment.
The vividness of the new screen enables Cadillac to offer up a newly available augmented reality-enabled navigation system, which uses camera produced real life street views with directional overlays displayed on the screen.
This is an eye-popping feature which at first can seem a bit unsettling because it’s so real. But, after I got used to it, I embraced it.
It also features surround vision, a standard feature that employs four exterior cameras to provide 2-megapixel bird’s eye view of the scene around the vehicle.
And, if that’s not enough, night vision is an available feature which uses infrared technology to enhance forward visibility, including detection of pedestrians and large animals projected on the center cluster display.
But one shouldn’t buy a vehicle of this magnitude, size and expense just because Spike Lee makes a cool commercial and short film promo for it. Or, for the screen alone, right?
Who knows? For some, that may be enough motivation. But, at the end of the day, you can’t drive the screen around.
To go with the new fully independent rear air suspension, the new Escalade offers up two engines: a 6.2 liter V-8 and a new turbo-diesel inline six cylinder. Both are paired with a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission.
The tester I drove for a week was equipped with the 6.2 liter V-8 which puts out 420 horsepower and is capable of deactivating half of its cylinders when cruising to save fuel.
I really put this Escalade through its paces for the week I drove it – logging a lot of miles which included two 230-mile round trips out to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, for a sports card show I was displaying at.
Needless to say, the long drives were effortless and enjoyable. This new Escalade rides smooth as silk and the independent rear suspension coupled with the air suspension in my tester makes it feel like you are riding on air.
The V-8 was plenty powerful enough the get you on and off the interstate with great ease.
While it’s certainly slick, smooth and comfortable, the new Escalade is massively big and not terribly fuel efficient.
It has a 24-gallon fuel tank that gets awfully thirsty very quickly. The EPA fuel economy ratings for the new Escalade are 16 miles per gallon overall – with 19 mpg for highway driving and 14 mpg in city driving.
EPA estimates it will cost – on average – $3,050 a year in fuel to feed this monster.
And monster it is. The new Escalade is a whopping 211.9 inches long, 81.1 inches wide, 76.7 inches high.
While this Escalade is plenty slick and smooth, its overwhelming “bigness” can be a bit much at times. This vehicle cruises quite nicely on the highway, but, truth be told, it’s not overly nimble or athletic.
There were a few times when I thought about driving it into Center City Philadelphia to go pick up some supplies I needed, but thought better of it. I can’t imagine trying to parallel park this vehicle.
The test vehicle I drove carries a bottom line sticker price of $112,095. The base price of the 4WD Sport Platinum is $102,995.
Added options on my test vehicle included: $2,000 for night vision; $1,995 for 12-spoke gloss black alloy wheels; $1,750 for retractable, power step assist with perimeter lighting; $1,225 for the Crystal White Tricoat exterior paint; $700 for a console cooler; $135 for puddle lamps that display the Cadillac logo and $1,295 for destination and delivery.
There is plenty positive to offer in this newly redesigned Escalade, a staple in the Cadillac line up since 1998. However, its hefty price tag and large stance has to be considered when you so shopping for a full sized, three row, luxury SUV.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. For questions and comments he can be reached at email@example.com.