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Review: The 2021 Cadillac Escalade – Everything a Tesla Isn’t

Happy Valentine’s Day. We’re on our fifth year of our love-hate relationship with Elon and Tesla. After a second purchase of a Tesla with Full Self-Driving (FSD) and no cigar, it’s beginning to smell more like vaporware. Tesla now is morphing FSD into a "feature set" that includes Automatic Lane Changes, Summon from across the garage, AutoPark (maybe and sometimes), Traffic and Stop Sign Alerts, and AutoSteer on City Streets (coming soon). You’ll note that AutoSteer on the highways and interstates now has vanished even though Elon touted sleeping in the back seat while his Tesla drove him from California to New York. To juice end-of-year sales, Tesla even offered buyers a 90-day FSD subscription rather than making buyers fork over $10,000 for vaporware. In case you’re confused by Tesla’s new nomenclature, keep in mind that many vehicles have had most of these "FSD features" for years, but nobody else called it full self-driving much less charging $10,000 for it.

Which brings us to General Motors and the 2021 Cadillac Escalade with SuperCruise for an extra $2,500. Guess what? On all major highways in the United States, it offers hands-free Full Self-Driving so long as you sit in the driver’s seat and keep your eyes on the road. Does it park itself? Yes. Does it have Automatic Lane Change? Yes. Does it have a HUD display? Yes. Does it have Night Vision? Yes. Does the dashboard look like a glorified golf cart? No. In fact, the dashboard sports curved OLED displays measuring more than three feet in total width. Any commercial airline pilot will be drooling. Can it really drive itself without your touching the steering wheel? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Damn near. Will you ever buy a Tesla again? Probably not. This is especially true considering GM’s new electric Hummer EV is just around the corner and will also include SuperCruise.

Want to know more? Well, here you go. There’s a vertical wireless charging holster between the seats that works great with an iPhone or an Android phone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work perfectly without ever plugging in a cable. The Escalade dash now offers lots of apps and automatic updates. Welcome, Alexa. You now can say, "Open the Garage", or "Lock the Front Door", or "Turn on the Living Room Lights" from the comfort of your car. And our old favorite, Waze, works great to alert you to every speed trap on the road. Got a favorite radio station in a distant city? The Escalade has you covered with TuneIn. And Spotify and Pandora are as close as your dashboard. Every car these days has a backup camera. The Escalade has cameras everywhere, and you can view any of them from your dashboard. There’s even a zoom in and zoom out feature. The car has its own WiFi HotSpot, or you can connect to the Internet via a Personal Hotspot on your smartphone. And, yes, the car slams on its brakes before you hit something or someone in front of or behind your vehicle.


Finally, a word about Escalade fuel costs compared to Tesla Superchargers. If you’re planning to buy a Tesla to save money on fuel costs, DON’T. Back in 2016, Tesla touted that its superchargers would "never be a profit center." This may be Tesla’s biggest scam of all. Florida has some of the least expensive electricity rates in the U.S. Yet when you use a Supercharger in Florida, the cost is nearly 8 cents a mile. But that’s a mile according to the Tesla dashboard. Just because a Tesla shows 320 miles of range, don’t believe it. 320 miles of charge actually gets you about 240 miles of driving range at typical interstate highway speeds. When you factor that into the actual cost per mile, the number is closer to 11 cents a mile. For a vehicle such as an Escalade which can use regular fuel and still get 20 miles per gallon even by the EPA highway estimate, that translates into an almost identical cost per mile. Florida regular gas is selling for about $2.20 per gallon. While an Escalade is anything but fuel efficient, your actual cost per mile is nearly the same as driving a Tesla Model X using Tesla’s Superchargers for electricity. Funny how Big Oil has managed to make gazillions of dollars off gasoline sales charging the same prices as Elon’s "non-profit" superchargers.

For those that are wondering, would we buy the new Escalade? Absolutely. In fact, we already have. Put this car on your Bucket List. Or surprise your Valentine. It’s that good.

UPDATE: And now there’s this:

Originally published: Sunday, February 14, 2021  Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2021


  1. Ward – you know I have the greatest respect for you, but maybe there is another slightly different view on this for would be buyers to at least consider?

    If I could offer, extended family has owned 4 Escalades so have *alot* of experience in the expenses to keeping one running, having test drove the ’21 Escalade (for mother in law), and owning a Tesla Model X (now to be my 3rd Model X with a ’21 purchase coming) – and having put 65,000 miles into Tesla Model X …. as a car guy with a love of manuals, smell of gas, and the roar of an engine … I think the evaluation misses the point a little (though I understand the frustration driving it).

    That is, yes the Escalade Auto-Pilot equivalent may be a bit more refined today than Tesla’s at the moment (software updates will sooner than later change as is Tesla’s history, and Cadillac/GM cannot truly provide), however, it will *never* do what Tesla’s FSD is doing right now in a wide Beta among select owners (See Sandy Munro’s review – Google it) & to be released to 10x more drivers this year. The car will never protect your investment with full vehicle software updates or more importantly factory offered full computer upgrade/swaps for $1500 … instead of "buy a new model year to upgrade" as we all know Caddy and the rest practice for the last century. So far no car in history is as safe for you & your family than Tesla’s per NHTSA. And a bit more.

    Equally, the car like all gas (ICE) vehicles has 3x times the parts of an EV, 10x times the maintenance/expense to keep it running (see TeslaCar maintenance records for 300,000mile Model X’s used as taxi’s/car-service – with only $18k in repairs of which $12k was tires alone), and as for fuel costs … nobody except possibly folks in apartments & very-long-distance road-warrior drivers base their daily driving on SuperChargers — so the fuel cost evaluation is more oranges to apples.

    Based on home electricity rates using time-based power as most use with EV’s (i.e. charge after 10pm at home for cheapest power to get your daily morning "full tank" every day, without ever going to a gas station no less) the per mile costs of EV’s are still multiples below gas (even in Florida with gas at 60% of other states pricing).

    Personally, an ocean of unnecessary buttons we rarely use and a giant screen filled with nonsense ultimately still only showing me what can be seen on something a fraction of that size don’t highlight advancement but rather desperation to create the allusion of advancement – and just more things to break & have to fix eventually (Escalades do not have a good track record in this regard).

    From this car loving traditionalists view, the ’21 Escalade is a lovely vehicle for the demographic that typically buys them of course – however, in terms of reducing maintenance, total cost per mile, long-term investment, simplification of daily driving, pure technological capability & possibility, and ultimately *safety* (every Tesla has passed NHTSA with 5-stars in every category, a historical first no car manufacturer has ever achieved – still) — there is just no comparison, not even close; other than personal styling preferences, extra cargo space, and other more general needs if you don’t care about all the other costs/safety/repairs/simplification-of-life of course.

    One car enthusiasts slightly differing perspective in case there is an item or two in there that provides another consideration.

  2. Why does the car even consider speeds faster than the posted speed limit? With this setup, the car manufacturer can simply have the car *not* go faster than the speed limit, ever. And, if you manually do, what’s to stop the car from "phoning home" to report you for speeding?

    And all those cameras everywhere seems like a hackers wet dream come true. No thanks.

  3. GM/Cadillac’s Onstar has had a very poor record of using/sharing vehicle gps location, speed, and other vehicle data (including hacker issues) before Tesla and still.

    To Tesla’s credit they have been an unusually fervent stand-up citizen unlike most companies for customer data privacy (and being a tech company have managed security an order magnitude better than the car companies so far anyway).

    Also, those cameras although risky as you say have caught innumerable hit-and-run folks damaging cars, lying to police after accidents, etc. to the saving grace of the Tesla owner whose cameras caught it all – so there is another side to that as well that is pretty valuable not to discard.

    [WM: I agree with much of what you’ve said above. We’re on our sixth Escalade and second Tesla. Despite one flat tire, we’ve never had any issues with the Escalades. Wish I could say the same for Tesla. While the Model X has been reliable, it’s only six months old. Our previous Model S had a total system failure (literally) in the middle of nowhere. Took a day to get it towed 200+ miles to Tesla, and they kept it 5 weeks before discovering they had bent a pin while replacing a defective MCU. So much for fault-tolerance. As for charging a Tesla, what you’ve said makes perfect sense IF you have a garage and your own 240v outlet. For those that live in apartments and condos, they’re pretty much at the mercy of Tesla Supercharger pricing.]

  4. You’ve had a far better experience than our family with the Escalades – and the exact opposite is true for yourself & us on Teslas. Just goes to show, there are exceptions & unknowns with everything really.

    Sorry to hear of the S issues – ouch. I would offer I think that is pretty rare however, unfortunate you were the "lucky" one. Had a friend with a train-wreck X delivery experience & returned car – swore the brand off forever, until I reached out to someone inside I know who contacted them a couple months after they cooled down – and they have a 2nd X now and swear they will never go back to gas (very happy).

    Tesla’s biggest weak spot really is customer facing communication – too many young folks who haven’t been trained correctly or simply are lacking the understanding of how important a little professional/prompt communication goes (this isn’t smartphone sales).

    If you ever want to get an interesting insight into what Tesla is doing that far exceeds anything the auto industry has *ever* done or been able to do – watch a bit of Sandy Munro (the teardown specialist for the defense & auto industries) he even has a recent interview with Musk that is quite interesting. Certainly, gives another perspective that at least for me makes me a little more forgiving/patient in light of the items that otherwise grind my gears.

  5. Twenty miles per gallon? Are you serious. You’d be laughed off the road in Europe. Some of the top performing cars on sale across Europe can do 220 MPG. Obviously these are small cars against the monstrosity that is the Escalades. I know gas is cheap in the US but that is f**king ridiculous’. only in the US would a car like this be a viable product. I know there are vast differences between the motoring world of Europe and that of the US but I just don’t get the rational behind these cars. It looks like a cross between a small tank and a van…

    [WM: Funny you’d mention European vehicles. Our former Mercedes ML550 got the same gas mileage as a UPS truck. BMW, Range Rover, Jaguar, and Bentley aren’t much better. So I’m not sure your logic holds for all European cars except perhaps the Fiat and VW bug. Curious what that 220 MPG vehicle looks like.]

  6. Euro efficiency estimates tend to be typically 20% higher than US metrics & US are known to be closer to reality (even with their own issues of course). That said, the most efficient gasoline cars in the world are pushing 53-60MPG — the current record holder for MPG is a Tesla Model 3 at 134MPGe (equivalent). Every other machine in the world is measurably less – so no 220MPG has ever existed in production (although some fun solar/bike setups over the years have delivered this!). So in a practical sense, a 20 MPG beast is pretty great compared to a can opener at double!

  7. Here’s a brief update on our first 500-mile trip with SuperCruise. About 100 miles of the trip were on non-Interstate highways so you get Adaptive Cruise Control there with ping ponging to keep you in your lane. It’s nothing to write home about. The other 400 miles were spectacular. With the exception of four momentary disengagements for less than a minute each, the rest of the journey was much like riding as a passenger. Two of the disengagements were expected because of road construction. The other two, near Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach on I-95 are difficult to classify. There was no evidence of road construction at either place. You do get alerted, and the car immediately begins to slow down since cruise control is also disabled immediately. All in all, it was an incredibly pleasurable trip without the worries of routine surprises that we experience driving a Tesla on long trips with AutoPilot and FSD. You never know when a Tesla may see an overpass it doesn’t like and slam on the brakes. Given the choice of the two vehicles for an Interstate trip, it’s really a no-brainer.

  8. Spent today traveling across North Carolina and Tennessee on a half dozen different Interstate highways. SuperCruise worked flawlessly for about 98% of the trip including winding Interstate highways through the Great Smoky Mountains. Our Tesla would have driven off the side of the mountains with AutoPilot engaged. But, hey, it’s your choice.

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