“No, I don’t like it,” I declared to my eldest son, sitting in the captain’s chairs of the second row of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade 600D.
“Why?” He asked, staring back at the richness of his surroundings and with his own touchscreen.
“That’s how big. That’s the thing to park,” I replied. And it did. Even with multiple camera angles, including a 360-degree view, the bigger Cadillac is one for navigating into the parking lot. There was pain.
But, slowly, the big lug—the car, not my son—began to grow on me. Sometimes I had to remind myself that it was the Diesel Escalade. I couldn’t really hear the front clatter of the motor or the exhaust coming out the back. I double-checked the tach for a telltale lower redline, and was reassured that I was driving the vehicle I was told would be delivered.
Under the hood is GM’s Duramax 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbodiesel engine that delivers a handful of 277 horsepower — significantly less than the standard 6.2-liter V8’s 420 hp. But the Duramax has a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque, the same torque figure as the V8. The advantage here is that peak torque is reached from as low as 1,500 rpm, while the V8’s full twist doesn’t come into the rev range until very high at 4,100 rpm.
The result is an SUV that feels eager to jump off the line and scoot about the neighborhood (if “scoot” is a word that can be applied to such a giant). That starting torque hit is almost instantaneous, but there are limits to a diesel’s staying power. It’s on the expressway on-ramp that the Duramax finally labors under this Escalade’s 6,015-pound curb weight. Once you get close to highway speed, the numbers on the speedometer are not far from urgency. It only happens with 277 horsepower.
While the sound does a great job of hiding the sound of the deadening motor when inside the Escalade, standing outside with the Duramax running is no doubt about the diesel mill powering this charming beast. It’s not particularly loud or harsh, but the clatter is conspicuous when you’d normally expect to hear a V8’s humming at idle.
A 10-speed automatic transmission seems apt for this powertrain. With a redline of just over 5,000 rpm, the extra gears reduce the time spent at the top of the rev range—a good thing in a vehicle for which low-end torque is king. The transmission isn’t very quick to shift, but it does so with ease, complementing the general quiet refinement the diesel Escalade gives its occupants.
Equipped with four-wheel drive, the diesel Escalade delivers an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. That’s about 6 mpg better than gasoline-powered models that require premium gasoline. It also represents an EPA-estimated $1,350 fuel cost savings. Per year. At the time of this test, the average price for a gallon of diesel in Michigan is $3.265, while the premium is $3.778. A year ago, according to AAA, the difference was smaller — about 39 cents — but still in favor of the diesel.
It seems like a perfect time to mention that despite the many benefits of Duramax, you probably won’t be able to find an Escalade along the way anytime soon. Since my drive of 600D, GM halts production of 3.0-liter turbodieselBlaming supplier shortages. The automaker said it would resume production “as soon as possible”. If for whatever reason the pause extends and you can’t wait any longer for the Escalade, know what’s under the hood, the 2021 model is a huge improvement over the previous generation.
The Escalade spiritually connects to a light-year-different vehicle Chevrolet Bolt EUV – Being one of the first vehicles to benefit from the availability of GM’s updated Super Cruise Advanced Driver Assistance System. And despite using an internal combustion engine and being a far larger vehicle than the electric Chevy, the Super Cruise works in the Escalade as well. Being able to take your hands off the wheel in a vehicle that might just take one home is, unsurprisingly, enough rest. Having more miles of mapped roads than the previous iteration of Super Cruise is a bonus, as is the fact that this Escalade will safely change lanes for you when you activate your turn signal.
The Escalade has a new independent rear suspension and, as in our truck, an available combination of Air Ride Suspension and Magnetic Ride Control. These help the Escalade adapt to a variety of surfaces and terrain, and allow it to overcome many of the flaws that would bother the lower suspension, but there’s no way to completely isolate this large beast from the road. . The resulting ride is mostly smooth—especially the front seating, but there’s a bit of truck-like liveliness as the suspension fights against the weight of the thing. There’s no creaking and rattle coming from the truck itself, but the rear-motion motion of things like car seat buckles and unsafe cargo releases their own clattering soundtrack. All this is still better than more trucks like the old Escalade.
The new Escalade also improves on the previous generation with really beautiful materials and a better fit and finish. Especially in our tester’s Gideon Whisper beige interior with woven fabric and striped wood trimmings. It’s a far cry from the airport shuttle experience of the previous Escalade, with its aging design featuring coarse-grained plastic and loose-fitting trim. It’s a lot better than the others, Cadillacs currently sold and signals a new era of craftsmanship for the brand that got us excited about the grand upcoming lyric And celestic.
add at the top that a Impressive array of curved OLED displays Arranged in a clever and usable configuration in front of the driver, and this Escalade feels at home and well-equipped for today’s technology-dependent world. The showy system is also quite functional, with intuitive input via a touchscreen or scroll wheel, and information displayed in a clear and attractive manner. You can display a map, or even a night vision feed, directly in the instrument cluster.
And, obviously, cubic feet of passenger volume is too much. People of all ages will appreciate the generously spacious third row if they find themselves back there (another advantage of the new independent rear suspension). And one of the second-row captain’s chairs is easy to go back without even turning—there’s enough room in front of and between them to maneuver.
Our Cadillac SUV was a luxury liner on wheels, along with other goodies like a center console cooler and a rear-seat entertainment system. So, yes, I grew to enjoy the Escalade not only for a more economic engine with a distinct character, but for its rich, tasteful interior, attractive but helpful technology and generous space. And yes, diesel is good to be refined and economical. But, yes, it sucks to park.