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2011 Cadillac Escalade Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Cadillac Escalade was new.


Performance: 8.7

Most reviewers say 2011 Cadillac Escalade offers a smooth ride, ample power and pretty good handling for a large SUV.

The Escalade comes standard with a V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission that is popular with reviewers. A wide stance and auto-sensing suspension  (standard on all models but the base) keep the ride smooth, but during test drives, reviewers noticed the Escalade's size means the SUV demands a lot of driver attention, which is typical for a large SUV.

  • "At its core, the Escalade is the ultimate realization of GM's full-size truck and SUV platform. A beefy 403-horsepower V8 is standard and provides excellent acceleration for a truck that weighs nearly 3 tons. An adjustable suspension that's standard on all but the base Escalade optimizes ride and handling."-- Edmunds
  • "While it looks as big as a tank, the Escalade is actually pretty easy to drive, and you quickly become comfortable behind the wheel." -- The Sacramento Bee
  • "Quick and handles pretty well for an old-school body-on-frame ute." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The Cadillac Escalade comes with a 6.2-liter V8 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Most reviewers note that though this is the same engine in the GMC Denali, it has been tuned to make more horsepower in the Escalade. Most reviewers like the extra power and give the Escalade good marks for acceleration.

The Escalade features cylinder deactivation, a fuel saving technology that shuts down four of the engine’s eight cylinders when they’re not needed (when the Escalade is cruising or idling). The EPA gives two-wheel drive Escalade a combined fuel economy rating on 16 miles per gallon.

  • "On the road, the 2011 Cadillac Escalade delivers swift acceleration at all speeds thanks to its big 403-hp V8." -- Edmunds
  • "Non-hybrid versions have ample power for any situation. The transmission changes gears smoothly." -- Consumer Guide
  • "If a person can afford a loaded Escalade with a $65,000 sticker, the price of fuel is probably not going to be an issue, not even at $3 a gallon. That's why I'm not afraid to recommend this." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

For such a large and heavy SUV, the Cadillac Escalade handles well. The ride is enhanced by a road sensing suspension (standard on all but the base model) that uses a computer to give real-time dampening of bumps and ruts. Though the base Escalade is rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive models are available. Reviewers agreed that all-wheel drive increases the Escalade's handling abilities, and that the extra-long wheel base of the ESV made for an even smoother ride. Handling is further impacted by optional 22-inch tires and wheels. Though reviewers think the large chrome wheels make a great fashion statement, despite Cadillac's best efforts, the sheer size of the wheels negatively impacts handling. The Escalade offers plenty of braking power for secure and controlled stops, a major concern in an SUV this large.

  • "Its handling inspires confidence, especially with the active Magnetic Ride Control suspension, though you'll never mistake the Escalade for anything other than a truck-based SUV. You will appreciate the ride quality, though, as it remains comfortable even with the larger 22-inch wheels. A relatively tight 39-foot turning circle helps with overall drivability, but maneuvering in tight quarters can be a hassle even with the aid of the standard rearview camera." -- Edmunds
  • "The Escalade is by no means a spirited handler, but body roll is minimal, and even with the dubs, rough pavement is taken in stride." -- CNET
  • "Handling isn't really truck-like but, in curves, it doesn't feel like a sports car, either, although the steering feel is more pleasing and precise than with previous Escalades. Expect a smooth ride on good surfaces, although minor bumps will get through, especially with the larger-diameter tires and wheels." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Escalade's ride is comfortably absorbent, despite its traditional truck-type design and available 22-inch tires. ESV and EXT models have a longer wheelbase and a smoother ride." -- Consumer Guide


While few reviewers had a chance to hook a trailer up to their Escalades, many noted that the Escalade can handle pulling heavy loads. A manual shift mode on the transmission allows drivers more control while towing. The Escalade can tow up to 8,300 pounds when properly equipped, which is plenty of power for trailering a boat to the lake or a few horses to a show.

  • "It takes nearly a second-and-a-half from the time you tell it to shift before it finally obeys the command. I suppose this manual mode is not for sporting purposes, rather one might need it more for towing." -- The Auto Channel
  • "The Escalade gets such poor fuel economy with a trailer behind it for the same reasons it performs so well at the same task. . . In tow-and-haul mode, the six-speed automatic delays upshifts to make the most of the power band and downshifts early to maximize engine braking." -- Car and Driver

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