Among luxury SUVs, the Cadillac Escalade has long made no apologies about being big and brash. Now Cadillac has redesigned the Escalade for 2021 with a new look and an infusion of new technology features. Do these updates make it the best large luxury SUV you can buy?
Not if the competition has anything to say about it. The 2021 Escalade faces off against the 2021 Lincoln Navigator, Edmunds’ preferred pick over the previous-generation Escalade, and one of Europe’s most luxurious SUVs, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS. Edmunds’ experts compare all three to find out which one takes the crown.
Standard with every Escalade is a 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8, the crown jewel of General Motors’ truck and SUV engines. A diesel-powered six-cylinder engine is also new for 2021, and when paired with rear-wheel drive, it has the highest EPA-estimated fuel economy in this group of 23 mpg. The Escalade is relatively smooth and composed around turns, but its prodigious torque is the highlight of the driving experience.
Every Navigator comes with a turbocharged V6 engine making 450 horsepower; there’s no other engine available. Like the Escalade, the Navigator is comfortable, but you never forget you’re in a massive vehicle. The GLS’ lineup ranges from a 362-horsepower six-cylinder engine to a ferocious 603-horsepower turbocharged V8 in high-performance AMG trim. In Edmunds testing the GLS posted the best acceleration, braking and handling figures of this group. On-road comfort is unparalleled too.
Winner: Mercedes-Benz GLS
Part of the Escalade’s appeal is its ability to haul heavy toys with ease. And the new version impresses with a maximum towing capacity of up to 8,200 pounds — enough, in some cases, to pull a camper trailer up to 27 feet long. If you’re looking for maximum space, the longer Escalade ESV has a lower tow rating but cavernous cargo capacity.
Lincoln takes a similar approach to the Navigator: The standard version tows up to 8,700 pounds, and the longer Navigator L maxes out cargo space, though it trails the Escalade ESV in total capacity. In this case, the Mercedes places a distant third. It has a max towing capacity of 7,700 pounds and less cargo space than the two U.S. brands.
Winner: Cadillac Escalade
The 2021 Escalade makes a great first impression, with supple leather, authentic wood and aluminum trim. But compared with the best of the best, the Escalade falls short. Its seats lack plushness, and the ride is more bumpy over differing road surfaces. There’s no question the Escalade is comfortable, but the competition is palatial and plush.
Lincoln makes the Navigator impressively easy to use: The doors open wide and deployable running boards come standard. It is also well appointed, although there are a number of blind spots. The GLS has no such issues. It’s easier to see out of, and the materials inside are second to none. The GLS has exceptional ride quality, and an optional road-scanning adaptive suspension elevates the class to new heights.
Winner: Mercedes-Benz GLS
The Escalade offers a veritable buffet of features. Heated front and second-row seats are standard, and the highlight is Super Cruise, an optional hands-free driving aid that works exceptionally well. However, we’re somewhat disappointed that most features are sold a la carte. For instance, adaptive cruise control isn’t standard even on the Escalade’s midlevel trims.
The Navigator comes with more standard safety equipment, including blind-spot monitoring and lane keeping assist. Still, the Mercedes shines. Every GLS — even the base model — comes with ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control, eight USB ports, a stellar voice command system and numerous safety aids.
Winner: Mercedes-Benz GLS
The main draws for the Escalade are its signature styling and forceful V8 engine. There are also expansive dashboard screens that lend the Escalade some cutting-edge flair. However, the SUV is hampered by costly options and some subpar cabin materials.
The Navigator lacks the modern interior look of the Escalade but otherwise more fully delivers on value with more standard features. More importantly, the Navigator’s upscale materials feel more inherently worthy of the price tag. As for the Mercedes GLS, its base version is priced similarly to the Escalade and Navigator, but the V8-powered trim levels are downright princely. The GLS delivers, but value isn’t its calling card.
Winner: Lincoln Navigator
We expect a lot from large luxury SUVs, and the new Cadillac Escalade meets our expectations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exceed them, making the Lincoln Navigator a smarter choice for the money. But at the top of this comparison is the Mercedes-Benz GLS. It may not deliver on the value front, but it provides the most extravagant celebration of grandeur.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Ryan ZumMallen is a staff writer at Edmunds. Twitter — Instagram
2021 Cadillac Escalade review; 2021 Lincoln Navigator review; 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS review.