“I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE” Jeremy Clarkson once proclaimed while cutting down a tree somewhere in the depths of Bolivia. Obviously, the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series didn’t exist yet. The 682-horsepower, 6200-pound mass of mayhem and madness defies all logic and sensibility. Its quad tips produce the loudest bellow anyone has heard from a factory exhaust. It corners like a vehicle two-thirds its size and weight. Somehow, taking the CT5-V Blackwing’s supercharged V8 and cramming it into a luxury SUV made for a rowdy ride that begs you to misbehave.
Monster engine, monster sound
“Loudest factory exhaust ever” wasn’t an exaggeration. Don’t just take my word for it: Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman said so as well on a recent episode of my podcast. The Escalade uses GM’s supercharged 6.2L LT4 V8 and, because sanity is long since gone with GM’s lawyers or accountants, runs pipes that seemingly have no mufflers. A warm start is obnoxious; a cold start from up close is painful. There’s no way to start it in quiet mode, either. Get going, and there’s a restrained beauty to the sound when not in V mode, simply melding into the background. Yet deploy Full Kill, and it burbles, pops, and shouts like an unrestricted Z06. It’s NASCAR-like theater in a vehicle that is totally unexpected to deliver such.
Monster price, too
Being heard everywhere in a country mile doesn’t come cheap. Or at least not in the case of this Caddy. The 2023 Escalade V-Series starts at $148,195. The test vehicle seen here costs $150,640, including delivery. That’s for the “short” wheelbase model; the ESV iteration has a base price of $153,990. Supposedly they’re all going for well over sticker, too. That’s consistent with what we’ve heard about the CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing. And if buying it isn’t enough, prepare to constantly shell out big at the gas pump.
We admittedly drove less than efficiently to constantly hear the engine, yet still only saw an average of around 9 MPG during our loan. That’s worse than the 702-horsepower Ram TRX delivered in similar conditions, and the truck weighs a little more than the V. The pickup’s exhaust shouts less, but its supercharger whines more. Burning gas and making right-foot-generated noises while we can is one of the joys of this era in automotive history. Utterly irresponsible but all in good fun.
Fun for seven, but mostly for the driver
And fun is what Escalade V is about. Its exhaust effectively tells the whole story: It knows it’s not the fastest thing around, yet it’s all about having a good time. The ride quality, even with the suspension set to its stiffest, is remarkably composed. Dialing everything except the exhaust to its most comfortable setting and still hearing the LT4 yell at the world with every downshift is a hysterical experience. It’s like drinking a fancy glass of bourbon with a PBR chaser. Or dubbing over a dramatic movie with your own juvenile commentary. Refinement is perfectly matched to an unrefined bout of noise.
The Escalade V is pretty good at doing all of the mundane, non-shouty stuff, too. The tech is excellent, and though it doesn’t have Super Cruise, it does feature quite good adaptive cruise control. The AKG stereo is the best we’ve heard this side of Jeep’s (sorry, Wagoneer’s) unbeatable McIntosh kit. There’s tons of space, the seats are great, and it’s quite safe. And it goes without saying, but even though there are faster machines out there, the V is truly fast. Floor it from a dig, and the nose points to the sky, the 10-speed transmission firing off shifts almost too good for a vehicle of this kind. Plant your foot at any speed, and after a downshift or three, the speedometer rockets upward. That this engine is available in the CT5-V Blackwing at a base price of $90,995 makes it a bonafide bargain.
Palate the price of the Escalade V, and you have one excellent do-it-all vehicle on your hands. While we’d prefer the sedan with the manual transmission as it’s dynamically better and more engaging than the SUV with which it shares an engine, what the Escalade V can do is almost beyond comprehension. It gets around, turns shockingly well, cruises like a luxury barge, and still manages to evoke laughs and smirks on every drive. But most of all, it’s just a fun thing to drive or ride in. This might be the peak super-SUV before we turn things over to our impending electric overlords. We don’t condone violence, but the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series is our kind of brutality. Disturbing the peace never felt so good.