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Horse Show Review: 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum

I recently used a 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum in place of my half ton pickup to get my wife and her horses to a horse show, and after three days of being worked like a farm truck including pulling the trailer to and from the show – the Escalade proved to be every bit as capable as a pickup.


When I received my 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum test vehicle earlier this year, it happened to arrive in time for one of my wife’s horse shows. When I posted on social media that I would be using the Escalade in place of my pickup truck, several of my friends joked that it would be the first Cadillac to be worked like that, but I wasn’t surprised when I was one of three people there with a newer Caddy SUV pulling a horse trailer. I also wasn’t surprised that this big, beautiful SUV worked just as hard as a pickup truck getting us to and from the horse show – and it kept us more comfortable than any vehicle Ive taken to a show in the past.

The Horse Show Review
Before getting into my “horse show review” of the 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum, here is a quick rundown of what a weekend-long horse show with my wife and her friends consists of. Horse shows are messy from beginning to end and they are hard on a vehicle, from towing and hauling down rough, unpaved roads to serving as a sleeping quarters for the competitors between classes – nothing tests a vehicle’s combination of working ability and comfort like a horse show.

We leave our stable early on the first day with 2 horses in a trailer that weighs a little over 5,000lbs when loaded, along with 6 bales of hay, 8 big bags of bedding for the horses, 50lbs of grain, all of the tack needed to ride two horses, chairs, a cooler, a saddle rack, a rolling muck bucket, her huge tack trunk, her wardrobe for the weekend and a seemingly endless assortment of random items that she might need for the show. The trailer has a small storage compartment, but when I am taking a pickup truck, the hay, the tack trunk, the muck bucket cart, the bedding, the chairs and the cooler go in the bed, the saddles and clothing goes inside of the truck and all of the other items are packed into the small storage compartment of the trailer.

16 escalade side

We make the drive to the event, which is generally anywhere from 50-200 miles away with the horses in the 2-horse trailer, which when packed up with all of the random items for the show, weighs a little under 6,000lbs. It seems that almost every horse show venue is on a rough dirt road, so the vehicle has to tow and haul on the highway for a long distance followed by at least a few miles on a rough, often muddy road.

Once we are there and everything is unloaded, the truck then serves as a sort of apartment for us during the weekend. We usually get to the show grounds around 4am, so I spend lots of time napping in the truck and as the temperatures rise, we all use the vehicle to cool off between rounds. When the temperatures climb over 90, I keep my truck running all day with the AC blasting, offering a chance to get out of the heat. After a few days of making the trip back and forth to the hotel and idling at the show grounds, we hook the trailer back up, load up all of the cargo and head home.

The vast majority of people at the horse shows use either half ton trucks or heavy duty trucks, but as I mentioned above, there were a few other Cadillac Escalades being worked at this particular show. I spoke with the folks driving the other two, and they had the same input about their privately owned Cadillacs as I do below.

So, this is the part of my 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum review which will probably make many people cringe, as while this big SUV is easily one of the most capable in the luxury segment, it is also one of the most expensive. The Platinum package is the top of the Cadillac lineup, and my short wheelbase Escalade with 4WD had a base MSRP of $91,950. Add in the power retractable side steps ($1,750), the $75 wheel locks and the $995 destination fee, and we have a price as tested of $94,770. This is not a budget buy by any stretch, but for someone who wants a true premium luxury SUV that will do the work of a half-ton truck – this is the one.

I have never tested a vehicle that will work as hard as the Escalade while providing the same level of high end luxury comfort, and I don’t know that one exists. So while $94,770 is a big chunk of change, this is the best combination of working abilities and luxury in the US, and that combination comes with a big price tag.

Interior, Cargo and Loading
The Cadillac Escalade is offered in two different wheelbase options and as you can see in the images above, my test vehicle was fitted with the shorter wheelbase. This leads to a significantly smaller rear cargo area, but you still have seating for six adults – provided that the two sitting in the rear-most seats are a bit on the shorter side.

For the horse show, we folded the 3rd row seats down, giving us a nice sized interior cargo area for things like the bagged bedding, the big tack trunk, the saddle rack and many of the smaller odds and ends. The rear cargo area was big enough for me to have loaded the hay back there, but I didn’t want to get hay all through the cabin, so the hay went in the trailer and everything else fit into the rear cargo area of the Escalade. The two saddles buckled safely into the 2nd row captain’s chairs and the various hooks around the cabin held my wife’s show wardrobe.

16 escalade rear sats

Getting there was a breeze thanks to the integrated navigation system, which is operated via the CUE control screen on the dash. That touch-sensitive system makes it quick and easy to adjust every aspect of the interior – from the sound system to the navigation software to the HVAC controls – with voice control support and an array of buttons on the steering wheel. The infotainment system is elaborate, but after spending a few minutes familiarizing myself with the controls, I had no issues finding my way around the different systems while on the move.

16 escalade dash

When we left for the horse show each morning, it was still hours before sunrise, so it was cooler in the morning and my wife made good use of the heated seats on our way to the showgrounds, but later in the day, we all found ourselves enjoying the AC and the cooled seats when we needed to get out of the midday heat. While relaxing in the 2nd row seats and the AC, we even put a movie on one of the three screens and although we didn’t have any little ones with us – the cabin of the Escalade did serve as a good place for a friend’s child to relax amidst a very long day in the sun. Oh, there is also a small electric cooler under the center arm rest, which will keep a few bottles of water cool on a hot day and when the center armrest is closed, you can charge your smartphone just by setting it on the centered charging pad. That is technology that I love.

16 escalade fr seats

Best of all, when the 2nd and 3rd row seats are folded down, I was able to stretch out as well as I can in any bed, allowing me to make up some of my lost sleep during downtime at the show – in the AC with the premium sound system playing my favorite music via a Bluetooth connection to my phone. Even with the music off, the Escalade blocks out almost all noise, but I spent lots of time with the sound system or the DVD player in action.

Shy of hauling the hay, the 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum proved to be every bit as useful in getting all of our cargo to the horse show and it was the most comfortable vehicle we have taken to a horse show, with plush cooled seats and enough room for me to sleep in the back with some seats folded down. Of course, in addition to how well it hauled cargo and served as a mobile command center at the horse show, the plush front seats and the heavily loaded interior never failed to impress while driving around town before and after the show – but when it comes to the horse show test, the Escalade Platinum gets top marks.

Towing and Hauling
The 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum is powered by a 6.2L V8 engine which sends 420 horsepower and 460lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission and an advanced four wheel drive system. This drivetrain makes this big Caddy SUV surprisingly quickly under normal driving circumstances, allowing the Escalade to blast away from a stop and reach triple digit speeds with confidence all while handling surprisingly well for such a large vehicle thanks to the Magnetic Ride Control suspension setup. However, very little of the horse show experience is normal.

escalade towing

The first task for the Escalade was the 100 mile drive to the show with our 2-horse trailer hooked up out back. The backup camera made hooking up a breeze and, not surprisingly, the Magnetic Ride Control system did a great job of maintaining the ride quality under the heavy load. My trailer is only around 6,000lbs fully loaded, which is well under the 8,300lb towing capacity, but my trailer is a common one in the industry the Escalade did a great job of pulling it back and forth. The 6.2L V8 had no problem getting that extra weight moving and keeping the big Caddy cruising at highway speeds, and while some SUVs loose some ride quality when hooked to the trailer – the Escalade was nice and smooth with the horses out back. More importantly, the Escalade was very stable on the sweeping turns of the highway and tighter turns around town, with the trailer really having no negative impact on the drivability of the big, beautiful Cadillac SUV.

16 escalade rear dirt

Finally, the last few miles of driving as we neared the showgrounds took us down some rough, unpaved roads, and the Escalade – even with the huge 22 inch Platinum package wheels – handled the ruts and the mud very nicely.

In the end, the 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum handled the trailer and the payload as well as most half ton trucks, but that doesn’t come as any surprise to me, as the Escalade is one of the last few SUVs that is based on a pickup truck. The fact that the Escalade is based on the underpinnings of the popular half ton GM trucks allows this gorgeous luxury SUV to work like a truck, while being as comfortable as any large luxury SUV in the world.

The Exterior
While the exterior design really doesn’t have any impact on how well the 2016 Escalade did getting us to and from the horse show, I have to address how much I like the look of this big Cadillac. When it is light out, the Escalade has bold, hard lines everywhere, with lots of sharp angles making this a big, powerful looking SUV. The satin chrome trim found all over the outside gives this Escalade a modern, upscale look with the help of the chrome-lined LED headlights and the large LED tail lights – all of which is punctuated by the 22 inch wheels which come with the Platinum package.

16 escalade front

In an era where curves and aerodynamics are all the rage, the Cadillac Escalade is a big, chiseled SUV and GM makes no apologies for this design – as it is just what large luxury SUV buyers want. The Escalade just screams super premium, even in the subtle Grey Silk Metallic exterior paint shown here.

The Final Word
If you are looking for a premium luxury SUV which will comfortably seat six adults while also being up to many of the tasks of a half-ton truck, look no further than the Cadillac Escalade Platinum. This big SUV has an interior with every piece of modern technology that you could want, but more importantly, it will pull a trailer or haul over a half ton of cargo without breaking a sweat.

At $94,770, the Cadillac Escalade Platinum is not for everyone, but if you can make the payments – you wont find a better luxury SUV to pull a trailer than this big, beautiful Caddy. While people might make jokes about using a luxury SUV with a price tag close to $100k for the duties of a work truck at a horse show, this Cadillac handled the abuse as well as any half ton truck and better than any SUV I have taken to a horse show.