Cadillac introduced its Escalade full-size luxury SUV more than two decades ago, and even though other luxury brutes existed, what was then simply a rebadged GMC Yukon Denali became a cultural force and an icon of wealth, and it put some polish on a faded American luxury brand. The Escalade continues to be a dominant model in its segment, and it hasn’t slipped as a signifier of social status: Kim Kardashian made headlines with her custom Escalade just last year.
With the Escalade deeply woven into the fabric of American culture, any new challenger needs to bring the luxe-UV goods. That’s the challenge Jeep faced when developing the 2022 Grand Wagoneer. It would need to pull out all the stops and provide even more luxury, comfort, and refinement to best its crosstown rival—and, of course, live up to its Grand Wagoneer forebears, which ceased production in 1991 but which once stood themselves at the pinnacle of luxury SUVs. So, does it succeed? We hit the road with an Escalade and a Grand Wagoneer to find out.
Primed for Competition
The trims of our comparison test vehicles are primed for direct competition: the Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III 4×4 and Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum. Both had as-tested sticker prices around the $110,000 mark, both are powered by naturally aspirated V-8 engines, and both feature four-wheel drive. They also have bold, showy styling that stands out among more quotidian traffic. These two SUVs also have three rows of seating with room for seven passengers, high-end audio systems, and leather-lined, wood-trimmed interiors with massaging seats up front. This is truly a battle between two of the most luxurious American SUVs money can buy.
The Escalade’s 6.2-liter V-8 produces 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. Its engine sends power through a 10-seped automatic to either the rear wheels or, as in our vehicle, a four-wheel-drive system. During our test loops, we noted the Escalade’s drivetrain is very smooth, delivering effortless acceleration with clean shifts. We managed a 6.6-second 0-60 mph sprint, plenty quick for such a massive beast. It also stops commendably for its size, coming to a halt from 60 mph in a solid 125 feet, 9 better than the Jeep.
Jeep drops a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 under the hood of the Grand Wagoneer. It’s more potent than the Escalade’s eight-cylinder, developing 471 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, and it has a distinctive, muscle-car-like personality. (Which makes sense, because it’s also found in some of Dodge’s most potent Challenger and Charger models.) The V-8 idles with a loping burble and growls every time you dip into the throttle. Senior editor Greg Fink noted, “It just loves to rev and it sounds fantastic. Of course, it also loves to glug gasoline.” That’s also true of the Cadillac, although the ‘Slade does best the Grand Wagoneer’s 13/18 city/highway mpg by 1 mpg each. The Jeep is quicker than the Escalade, though, hitting 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.7 seconds.
Cadillac has tuned this generation of the Escalade—especially Sport models like ours—more toward the stiffer side of the ledger rather than the plush, luxurious one. As such, it was more fun and confidence-inspiring to hustle—relatively speaking—through a twisty portion of our test route than the Grand Wagoneer. It’s certainly the handler of the two, with outstanding body control and accurate, nicely weighted steering. But the firmer suspension meant that craggy road surfaces set the Escalade’s seats shuddering and sent thumps into the cabin, the experience lacking the overall serenity we’d expect from a six-figure luxury vehicle.
In contrast, the Grand Wagoneer is cushy, cushy, cushy. The steering is overboosted and gooey, which might be a problem on something with a less sumptuous mission, but here it just adds to the lounge-on-wheels vibe. Unlike the Escalade, the Jeep’s suspension has a suppleness over imperfections, soaking them up and dissipating them before they ever deign to intrude on passengers. We typically lean toward sportiness, but in this space, and for this money, we want to be cosseted.
Which Interior is Best?
Cadillac gets a lot right in the Escalade’s interior. Its multiple OLED screen setup is perfectly proportioned to the size of the vehicle, offering striking, high-res graphics and easy to use layouts. The Whisper Beige upholstery added an airy, modern aesthetic we found quite appealing, and there’s plenty of actual leather, metal, and wood applied throughout. It’s a great example of how far Cadillac has come with its interior execution, although there are a few lower-quality plastics below your hip point and some switchgear that’s shared with lesser vehicles. Those are small nits to pick, but they’re all the more unfortunate given that Jeep thoroughly committed to fully lining the Grand Wagoneer’s cabin in top-spec materials. The wood is gorgeous, the leather is supple, and most controls feel designed specifically for this vehicle, which added to the premium impression.
In the Cadillac, the level of luxury tapers off as you move rearward. The second row is reasonably luxurious and offers plenty of legroom, but the third-row seats hardly have any upscale touches—it’s quite plasticky back there. Meanwhile, the Grand Wagoneer is decked out in hides from stem to stern and even features vents and cup holders with metal trim in the third row. It impresses, too, with a way-back bench spacious enough that it feels like sitting in the second row of a compact crossover. Three adults can easily fit.
The Jeep’s second row is downright sumptuous. The Escalade doesn’t have ventilated seats in the second row, but the Grand Wagoneer does. Although both SUVs were equipped with rear-seat entertainment, the Grand Wagoneer features a much nicer control console for passengers, with a full color display situated between the captain’s chairs. To put a finer point on it, a captain of industry will feel pampered pretty much anywhere in the Jeep, while Cadillac only manages to truly spoil those in the front row.
Both the Escalade and Grand Wagoneer brim with high-tech features. The Escalade’s showstopper is the aforementioned three-screen display. The main unit is a massive, 16.9-inch screen used for Cadillac’s excellent infotainment interface. The second is the 14.2-inch digital gauge cluster, which is configurable to whatever information the driver deems to be most important. Finally, there’s a 7.2-inch display to the left of the steering wheel with even more readouts. From the driver’s point of view, one feels totally in command of the Escalade with easy access to all of the important controls, plenty of information, and a simplicity of graphic design. Cadillac largely eschewed capacitive touch controls in favor of hard buttons, too, which allows for easy no-look fiddling.
Jeep outfits the Grand Wagoneer Series III with a 12.0-inch infotainment screen displaying Stellantis’ new Uconnect 5 system. It’s not as easily navigable as the outgoing version but neither is it significantly flawed; the setup offers quick responses and handsome graphics. Not to be one-upped by Cadillac, Jeep also added a second 10.3-inch screen for HVAC controls and seat functions. Like the Escalade, the Grand Wagoneer also has a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that’s highly legible and offers scads of configurable data and detail. Second-row passengers have access to a 10.3-inch display for HVAC controls, as well as optional 10.1-inch entertainment screens on the seatbacks. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard in both the Escalade and the Wagoneer.
A powerful and clean-sounding audio system is crucial for a vehicle in this segment. We’ve lauded the Cadillac Escalade’s 36-speaker AKG setup before but Jeep came out swinging with its 23-speaker McIntosh system. It was tough picking a favorite but after jamming to the same selection of our favorite tunes in both SUVs, the Escalade eked out the win.
Safety and Driver Assists
Neither of these SUVs have been rated by the IIHS, and the Grand Wagoneer hasn’t been tested by NHTSA yet, either. For its part, the Escalade received a four-star overall rating from NHTSA. Both vehicles are absolutely stuffed with the latest driving aids, as one might expect, including excellent 360-degree surround camera views.
Cadillac equips the Escalade with a hands-free driver assist system, a key feature for modern luxury vehicles. While Jeep has a highway-assist mode with lane centering for semi-automated driving, it isn’t nearly as precise or well-executed as GM’s excellent Super Cruise, which uses mapped road data to help automatically pilot the car with better accuracy and which can also execute lane changes.
So, Which One Is Best?
We gathered these SUVs to find out which one delivered the best, most satisfying luxury experience. Jeep’s relaunched Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer sub-brand may not have the cultural cachet of the Escalade, but that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve it: It’s the winner of this test. With as-tested prices roughly on top of each other—our Escalade was $111,465, our Grand Wagoneer $109,980—the Jeep simply offers a more holistic, more carefully considered package. Its approach to luxury is more cohesive than the Escalade’s, and its opulence feels more baked in than slathered on. It’s an indulgent machine any luxury SUV buyer would be wise to consider.
2nd Place: 2021 Cadillac Escalade
- Distinct, sharp styling
- Good handling for a three-row SUV
- Super Cruise and AKG audio amaze
- Cheap-feeling buttons
- Too much plastic trim in the cabin
- Busy, firm ride
1st Place: 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer
- Sweet-sounding, powerful V-8
- Plush suspension tuning
- Decadent interior
- Even worse fuel economy than the Escalade
- Could use stronger brakes
- Controversial styling
Source: Read Full Article