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A review of the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum: the icon of American opulence

When you look at the traditions of American luxury it is all about being the biggest and having the best of everything - two qualities that are well represented in the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum and while the top of the line Escalade might carry a big price tag, there is no question that this is truly a premium American luxury vehicle.


Americans vehicles in the luxury and performance segments have a reputation around the world of being big, looming vehicles powered by a gas guzzling V8 that strives to near the 20mpg mark and while the American automakers have made a big move towards more fuel efficient models, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum stays true to the American luxury roots. The outside silhouette of the Escalade is massive as is the carbon footprint from the 6.2L V8 engine mated to a full time all wheel drive system but in terms of interior and exterior design – the Escalade offers every premium amenity that one could ask for in a modern luxury sport ute. Everything about the Escalade Platinum is big, luxurious and 100% American.

The Exterior
The 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum is a massive vehicle even in the standard shorter bodied version that we are reviewing here, sitting taller than pretty much anything on the road that doesn’t have “heavy duty” in the name. It has big, bold lines all around with a very upright design that almost makes the 22 inch chrome wheels tucked in the wheel wells look small. Most importantly, the Escalade Platinum is heavy chrome clad with some familiar design cues from the rest of the Caddy lineup that make this unmistakable as a member of the GM luxury lineup.

The big, bold design of the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum starts up front with the massive chrome Cadillac grille that begins at the lower edge of the hood and travels down to the ground with the only break being the body colored front fascia portion that runs across the whole front end. Projection lights have become a mainstay of the luxury segment and Cadillac recognizes that by equipping the Escalade with a pair of what must be the biggest headlight housings on the market – each of which is filled with 4 rectangular projection units and 3 larger, circular projectors that provide as much light as any car on the road. These are the kinds of headlights that draw a “wow” when you turn them on because they are so incredibly bright. Not to mention, they look great just based on the sheer size and amount of chrome even when they aren’t all lit up. Of course, the chromed out front end of the Escalade Platinum is fitted with a large Cadillac logo right in the middle of the big chrome grille.

Along the side, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum sports more chrome on the front fender vents, on the bottom of the large power mirrors, along the bottom of the side window openings, on the door handles, along the middle of the doors, on the side of the roof fails and along the lower rocker panels. By the way, when you open any of the doors of the Escalade Platinum, that chrome lower rocker panel swings down and converts into a step – making it much easier for shorter passengers to climb into this high riding SUV. The side of the Escalade Platinum is finished off by a set of gorgeous 22 inch chrome wheels wrapped in all season tires.

Out back, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum continues the “real big” theme with an upright rear end that creates a shadow on smaller cars in traffic. True to modern Cadillac form, the Escalade features a pair of large LED taillights that along the outer contours of the body, starting at the bottom of the dark tinted rear glass and running to the top of the rear bumper while an LED light bar that is one of the biggest in the industry runs along the length of the molded rear spoiler that hovers above the back glass. There is a little less chrome out back with only the center lift gate appliqué wear the Cadillac logo is mounted, the center section of the rear fascia and the large twin rectangular exhaust tips clad in the mirrored metal. Finally, the Escalade wears a body colored panel that oddly protrudes from the lower center section of the rear fascia and when you snap off this panel, you find the heavy duty hitch assembly that allows the Escalade to tow a whopping 8,300 pounds.

Some folks will say that luxury vehicles are designed with a “notice me” attitude and the big, brawny 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum is an SUV which is hard to miss. Gobs of chrome, 22 inch wheels and massive, ultra bright lights in the front and rear make this a vehicle that catches the eye in perfect luxury fashion.

The Interior
Luxury vehicles are all about packing in lots of content and with a vehicle the size of the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum, there is plenty of room in which to fit every possible gadget and comfort that a driver – or passenger – could ask for in a big SUV. Throughout the interior, my test vehicle featured a gorgeous two tone layout finished in Cocoa (the darker brown) on the seats, carpeting, dash and upper door panels with Light Linen (the a lighter brown) located around the lower portions of the interior. There is some chrome inside but the majority of the bright silver found on the dash, the steering wheel and the center console of the Escalade Platinum has a satin finish that offers a classy, modern luxury look.

My 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum test vehicle was equipped with bucket seats in both the front and second rows, with the gap between the middle seats allowing for easy access to the third seating row. These rear seats offer a split bench design with room for two but realistically, they will need to be a smaller pair of people to fit comfortably. Due to the compact design of these rear seats, which fold forward to significantly enlarge the rear cargo area, leg room is a little tight for folks sitting back there. These are great seats for kids and shorter adults but for anyone nearing 6 feet tall or more – it’s tight enough that you likely won’t want to spend a long ride back there. However, for a family with smaller kids, this third row of seats is great for hauling a group of kids in style. During my time with the Escalade, I didn’t need to use the third row so I spent most of the time with these seats folded forward and with this enlarged cargo area, I could easily fit four full sized ice hockey bags, at least four golf bags and enough groceries to last a month.

As mentioned, the middle row of my 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum test vehicle was fitted with a pair of high back bucket seats that offer more comfort and elbow room for the rear riders. These seats are almost as plush as those found up front including heated surfaces (but minus the power adjustments) with foldaway arm rests to allow for easier access to the third row of seats. As part of the Platinum package, the Escalade includes monitors in both front headrests along with a third monitor mounted on the headliner. These monitors all include input jacks so rear passengers can either watch whatever DVD is playing in the in-dash DVD player or they can plug in other devices like video games, etc. The rear passengers also get their own set of heating and air conditioning controls as well as control of the sound system with headphone jacks located throughout. Luckily, the Escalade Platinum comes with four sets of wireless isolator style headphones that link into the on board entertainment system and provide great sound quality. This is one entertainment system that truly offers premium amenities for everyone throughout the interior and those riding in the second row seats get just as much luxury pleasure as do the folks up front.

When you climb into the driver’s seat of the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum, you are greeted by a cabin layout that has a huge, roomy feel while keeping everything within reach. In an era where some larger SUVs tend to eat up their own interior space with consoles and gadgets, the Escalade offers everything that you could want while still providing tons of front seating space all around. The driver’s seat offers enough adjustability that the Escalade will accommodate drivers very short and very, very tall. Bling factor isnt the only reason why so many NFL and NBA players rock the Escalade – as this is a vehicle that provides more room for the driver than many other vehicles on the market today. This is an idea luxury SUV for a very tall driver but with the adjustable seats, adjustable pedals and an adjustable steering wheel, a 5 foot tall driver will also be comfortable behind the wheel.

The heated, wood and leather trimmed steering wheel of the 2013 Escalade Platinum holds buttons for the stereo system, the voice control system and the cruise control – offering the driver the ability to fully adjust the radio and the navigation system without taking his or her hands off of the steering wheel. The voice navigation control is more user friendly than similar systems from other luxury automakers and after spending a few minutes learning what the system wants, you can use the nav system pretty easily without touching a button. The navigation system is projected through the massive touch screen mounted high on the dash so if you don’t want to use the voice controls, the touch screen offers big virtual buttons for easy use on the road. Below the big screen is a set of buttons and knobs to offer more control of the sound and navigation systems while the center stack is punctuated by a panel of buttons and knobs that offer individual multi zone heating and air condition functions – plus heated and cooled front seats. The driver and front passenger also benefit from cup holders in the center console that offer both heating and cooling services. Beyond the heated leather steering wheel is a gauge cluster that is simple but looks great with silver accents on a satin background while blue illuminated needles and units that only show up when the vehicle is running look very classy.

The 2013 Escalade Platinum includes a roomy glove box with lots of storage room but there is also a dual level center console box that is capped by an armrest with soft paddle leather while a satin silver center area is great for stowing your smart phone. The lower storage area is where the wireless headsets for the entertainment system were stored and while they eat up a great deal of that space, there is still tons of storage area for smaller items in the center console.

The 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum is a vehicle that offers a big, inviting interior that is wonderful for long trips. The front seats are incredibly comfortable thanks to the built in climate control and the range of adjustability while the integrated DVD system provides entertainment to everyone inside with fantastic sound quality from the premium sound system. In terms of comforts, the Escalade offers as much interior space as any SUV on the market while the Platinum package packs that roomy interior with literally everything that you could want in a modern luxury vehicle. There is no vehicle on the market today that offers both the interior space of the Escalade and the level of luxury of this high end package so if you are after a true luxury interior with as much room as possible – this is the vehicle for you.

The Drive
While the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum might not pack the high speed goodness of the CTS-V, the Escalade is a big vehicle that is fun to drive in its own special way. Under the hood is a 6.2L V8 sending 403 horsepower and 417lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission and an all time all wheel drive system. The Escalade is a big, heavy vehicle but the power output of this brawny sport ute allows it to haul some serious tail. When you launch the Escalade hard from a stop, the weight transfer and instant torque output to the wheels allows this Caddy SUV to actually spin the front wheels. You read that right – when the weight transfers on a hard launch, the rear tires grip hard while the front tires spin a bit. We aren’t talking about smokey burnouts but the fact that it spins the front wheels is unlike anything I have ever experienced in a luxury SUV. Even with this very slight wheel spin, the Escalade accelerates hard with strong, positive shifts under wide open throttle with the GM V8 offering a pretty sweet roar from the rear dual exhaust. When under load, this American luxury SUV sounds like a proper V8-powered American vehicle should and truth be told – this big SUV will roar away from a stop light with enough hustle and intensity to make some sports cars blush.

On the open road, the Cadillac Escalade Platinum offers a smooth ride and while this is a very large vehicle, it doesn’t feel quite as heavy as other large trucks and SUVS. Even with the 22 inch wheels of this range topping trimline, the highway ride is quiet and smooth although it doesn’t depart from the way an SUV should ride so you aren’t going to get the smoothness of, say, the Cadillac CTS but this big ute offers a quieter and smoother ride at high speed than the majority of the large vehicles I have driven. More importantly to some (including me), the 6.2L V8 allows the Escalade to cruise effortlessly at 70 miles per hour and when the need arises – putting the hammer down will allow this big Caddy to hammer up past the century mark in a hurry.

Thanks to the active fuel management system, the Escalade Platinum can get up around 18 miles per gallon on the highway with an EPA estimated average of 15 miles per gallon. During the 8 days driving the Escalade, I averaged 14.7 miles per gallon with a pretty even mix of highway and city driving. While some buyers might question getting below 15mpg, I suspect that most people looking to pay over $80g for a luxury SUV aren’t going to worry too much about the fuel economy. At the same time, I suspect that many Escalade owners don’t driver quite as hard as I do so I believe that a driver who has a lighter right foot will easily be able to get better than 15mpg per tank. That being said, it didn’t bother me for one second that this vehicle only gets 15mpg while I was driving it because – simply put – driving the Escalade Platinum is a great experience with strong acceleration and a smooth, confident ride that makes this vehicle as much fun for the driver as those passengers enjoying the built in luxuries.

The Final Word
If you are in the market for a true premium luxury vehicle that offers tons of cargo space and individual, comfortable seating for four very tall adults with the ability to also seat two more adults in the third row, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum provides like no other vehicle on the market today. While there are other luxury SUVs out there, this is a real full sized SUV that answers all of your cargo and seating needs with an entertainment and navigation system that deserves to be in a premium luxury vehicle. There is no need to compromise in any way with the Escalade Platinum and while the $82,495 price tag might be out of the range of many – this is truly the perfect vehicle for those looking to drive a roomy, capable luxury SUV.


Ray Battiston (not verified)    January 20, 2013 - 9:31PM

Excellent review. I purchased our 2013 Platinum in Aug 2013. Very happy with it. Quieter, and many more options than our previous Ultra Luxury Escalade. The beautiful leather (upgraded in the Platinum model) still has a wonderful smell each time you open the door. We love this vehicle for highway driving. Our regular sized Escalade, also called the "short one" might actually be too small if you have 3 or more kids in the family. An ESV for the bigger family may be the better option. For us, we may have two grand kids inside every so often and we have squeezed in more of the family with the third row seats on short trips. We often travel with the third seats in the up position for greater cargo room when we just have two passengers in the middle buckets or only us two up front.
To be fair on the gas mileage issue, we owned a Cadillac SRX two Caddilacs ago, and it got only slightly better mileage on the highway than our present Escalade. It is a little painful to drive the Escalade in stop and go traffic as you watch the gas gauge get lower, but highway use, being in extreme comfort, safety, and high visibility down the road (for the driver) even things out.