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Blingtastic Cadillac Escalade comes with $77,490 price tag

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Cadillac this week announced that its all-new, 2021 Escalade land yacht will start at $77,490 when it opens for orders this coming Thursday, April 23.

Automakers are leaning on giant, profit-rich SUVs and pickups to tow them out of the COVID-19 sales hole. General Motors Co.'s Cadillac hopes the iconic Escalade, the best-selling full-size premium utility, will be a tonic for GM's luxury line.

The hugely profitable Escalade is also important as Caddy retools into a battery-powered brand with ambitions to sell mostly EVs by 2030. Like the Escalade, the new stable of EVs will be stamped with names instead of alphanumeric badges — including the flagship Celestiq sedan and Lyriq SUV previewed to investors and media in March.

GM also previewed an as yet unnamed, three-row electric replacement version of the Escalade. But the money-making, 2021 Escalade is key to initially subsidize those new vehicles in a U.S. market where customers have thus far been cool to EVs.

In the currently frigid COVID-19 market, big vehicles have helped Detroit automakers gain 10 points of market share with transaction prices soaring to a record $35,800 as dealers have offered unprecedented volumes of 84-month loans with 0% financing.

The 2021 Escalade is all new with a more subtle, horizontal grille and design.

Most of those sales have come in the pickup truck segment ($42,000 average transaction) which has seen sales decline only 18% in April's shutdown economy compared to the industry-wide 56%. Premium vehicles have not shared in the love with sales off 60% in part due to the premium market's higher lease rate and customers desire for lease extensions. But as shelter-in-place restrictions come off, analysts expect lease shoppers to be back in showrooms, and the Escalade — based on the same truck chassis as the Chevy Silverado — may be in the sweet spot of what they are looking for.

The $77,490 Escalade standard model for 2021 is $1,000 more expensive than the outgoing chariot. Supersize to the long wheelbase version and the sticker jumps to $80,490. The higher price reflects a new generation of Caddy stuffed with industry-first tech like a massive, curved, 38-inch, OLED screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated-and-cooled leatherette thrones, 22-inch wheels, 19-speaker sound system, and 6.2-liter V-8 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The 2021 Escalade increases cargo capacity by 68% over the outgoing model.

True to its stature as the King of Bling, the Escalade then piles on the options including self-driving Super Cruise system, twin, 12.6-inch HD screens for second-row passengers, and a 36-speaker AKG Studio system with movie theater-quality surround-sound. Nine interior color and trim combinations are also available.

The big SUV even offers a stump-pulling, Duramax 3.0-liter Turbo Diesel option for those who want fewer visits to the gas pump.

Such details have famously attracted Hollywood celebrities and athletes alike, and no less than film director Spike Lee is the front for the new ute. "The Escalade is a star like no other,” the “She’s Gotta Have it” director says. “It’s not just okey-doke. Art leads to innovation as we like to say in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn.”

To accommodate Spike's New York Knicks pals, the rear compartment gains 10 more inches of legroom and 68% more cargo space thanks to an extended wheelbase and a lowered floor courtesy of Escalade’s first independent rear suspension.

Famous for its vertical, edgy styling, the 2021 Escalade conforms to current, more horizontal Caddy design cues first seen on Cadillac’s Escala concept car — and now smaller utes like the XT4 and XT6. 

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade starts at $77,490. The extended size model is $3000 above that.

The 38-inch glass screen stretches from the driver-side A-pillar across the dash and houses three separate information screens — including a 14-inch screen behind the steering wheel that can display instrument-gauge view, night vision, navigation and something called "augmented reality" which shows live street views to indicate where the driver should turn.

The new behemoth gets a smoother ride thanks to that independent rear suspension as well as standard magnetic shocks. An Air Ride suspension is available, which enables curb-side tricks like kneeling down 2 inches to assist customer entry and exit.

The latest Escalade follows Cadillac’s new marketing convention. The SUV is offered in a simple “Y” model format starting with standard Luxury trim, then splitting into either Sport or Premium Luxury. A blingtastic Platinum versions is available for both.

The Escalade box office opens Thursday here.

The 2021 Escalade showcases the first curved OLED in the industry with over 38 inches diagonal of total display.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.