Cadillac has revealed the 2021 Escalade, the latest generation of its best-selling SUV, with a tech-packed cabin and a more eye-catching exterior. Perennially popular in Caddy’s line-up, the Escalade now grabs some of the automaker’s newest features like the second-generation Super Cruise system.
A bolder, crisper exterior with two different themes
Sheer scale has always meant the Escalade wasn’t exactly easy to miss, and the 2021 SUV doesn’t dilute that. A new grille inspired by the Escala concept graces the front, tying the new model to other recent Cadillac cars like the CT4 and CT5. It’s flanked with sleeker horizontal headlamps.
At the rear, there’s the familiar horizontal tail-lamps as before. They’re now enhanced with what Cadillac describes as “deep three-dimensional layers and finishes with detailed etching,” to make them more visually complex. The 2021 Escalade rides on 22-inch wheels as standard.
As with other models in Cadillac’s range, there’ll be two distinct trim paths. After the entry-level 2021 Escalade Luxury, the SUV will split: you’ll have an Escalade Sport and Platinum Sport, with features like a black mesh grille and black exterior trim, and a Premium Luxury and Platinum Luxury track, with brighter chrome.
Engines and suspension
As standard, the 2021 Escalade will have a new 6.2-liter V8 gas engine. That will feature variable valve timing, auto stop/start, and Dynamic Fuel Management. Cadillac says to expect 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It’ll be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
New, though, for the 2021 model year is a Duramax 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel. That will deliver 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, though the latter will arrive far sooner than in the gas V8: 1,500 rpm versus 4,100 rpm. It’ll use the same transmission, and both engines will come with a trailering package as standard.
Either way, independent coil-over-shocks front and multilink rear suspension is standard. Cadillac will offer Air Ride Adaptive Suspension and Magnetic Ride Control as an option; they promise features like adjustable ride-height and auto-leveling. An electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) is also available, pushing torque between the rear wheels depending on which offers the best traction, while four-wheel drive is also available across all trims and engines.
All 2021 Escalade models have front automatic braking, front and rear parking assistance, and lane keep assist. They also have automatic emergency braking, front and rear pedestrian detection, safety alert seat, and forward collision alert. Get above the Luxury trim, and you get adaptive park assist, a head-up display, rear camera mirror, lane departure warnings with assistance, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, and lane change alert.
Inside, a big display and more space
Cadillac promised us a dramatic display atop the 2021 Escalade’s dashboard, and the SUV delivers. It’s the auto industry’s first production implementation of a curved OLED, over 38-inches in size, and with twice the pixel density of a 4k display.
It’s actually three screens combined. There’s a 14.2-inch cluster display for the driver’s gages, with a 7.2-inch touch control panel to the left of that. In the center, a 16.9-inch infotainment screen sits atop the center stack. Cadillac says that, because it used OLED, it can avoid the deep shrouding you’d typically expect.
Cabin space is up, with a massive 10-inches more legroom in the third row courtesy of the new platform, and a 68-percent increase in maximum cargo space in the standard-length Escalade. That now clocks in at 25.5 cubic feet. Thanks to the new independent rear suspension the interior floor can be lower, too.
Eight different interior color and trim options are being offered, including a new Gideon Whisper Beige combination. There are stainless-steel speaker grilles and new piping on the door panels, while the ambient lighting offers more color choices. Soft-close doors are optional.
2021 Escalade Luxury models get leatherette trim, with Mulan leather on the Premium Luxury and Sport, and Opus semi-aniline leather on the Premium Luxury and Platinum Sport. Heated first and second row seats are standard, as is tri-zone climate control and a hands-free lift gate. The Platinum Luxury and Platinum Sport trims get front massage seats.
More tech, more convenience
Beyond the curved OLED, there’s no shortage of technology. Augmented Reality-enabled navigation is available, overlying directions on the live street views, while the rear camera mirror is optional too. Night vision can be added, with an infrared camera feeding its view to the dashboard display.
Surround Vision is standard, while a Trailering Integration Package – with up to nine camera views – optional. A rear seat entertainment system adds two 12.6-inch touchscreens, with navigation, HDMI and USB inputs, and Android screen mirroring.
Announced earlier this month, the new version of Super Cruise adds automatic lane-changing to the hands-free adaptive cruise control system. It supports over 200,000 miles of divided highways in the US and Canada. The Escalade will automatically shift over slighting in its lane when other vehicles are passing in close proximity, too, so that it feels more comfortable for passengers.
An AKG Studio Reference system marks AKG’s entrance into the automotive audio space. It has 36 speakers powered by three amplifiers with a total of 28 channels, and supports Studio 3D Surround sound, along with conversation enhancement that uses microphones for the different rows to subtly amplify voices through the car. The front seat passenger can independently control their music volume, too.
A second AKG Studio system is standard, with 19 speakers and a 14-channel amp. It has a separate subwoofer, too. Both systems use a new audio rendering system for navigation, with left/right prompts coming from the appropriate side of the driver’s head, and then moving “nearer” to them as the turn approaches.
While the center display is a touchscreen, there are also physical controls. That includes a rotary dial controller and steering wheel buttons. All trims have NFC phone pairing and wireless charging, together with two USB-A and five USB-C ports. A panoramic sunroof is standard on all but the Luxury trim, and a power second-row bench is optional on all trims.
2021 Escalade pricing and availability
Cadillac will begin production of the new Escalade at its Arlington, Texas facility. That will kick off in time for the SUV to go on sale in late-2020. There’ll be five packages, starting out with Luxury, then splitting into two tracks: Premium Luxury and Platinum Luxury, or Sport and then Platinum Sport.
Cadillac will also offer both Escalade and Escalade ESV versions, the latter with an extended wheelbase. The former will be 211-inches in length and offer up to 109.1 cubic feet of cargo volume, while the latter will be 226.9-inches long and offer up to 126.6 cubic feet of cargo volume. Pricing will be confirmed closer to the on-sale date.
[Update: Cadillac tells SlashGear that it expects the new Escalade to begin at roughly the same price as the existing model. That begins at $75,195.]
Toyota foils leakers by offering an official image of the 2022 Tundra
Earlier this week, leaked images were going around claiming to show the next generation 2022 Toyota Tundra. Automakers never like leaks, and often they simply deny that the images are of their vehicle or ignore the leak altogether. However, Toyota used a different tactic when images of its 2022 Tundra leaked, choosing to release an official image of the truck.
2022 Tundra TRD Pro
With Toyota’s move, talk of the 2022 Tundra has moved from the leaked images to Toyota’s official image. However, it’s worth noting that Toyota only offered a single image of the TRD Pro version of the Tundra and offered no details on the truck. Last month, SlashGear posted a review of the 2021 Tundra TRD Pro, highlighting that it was the last hurrah for the current generation of the truck.
However, it does offer a nice opportunity for us to compare the exterior of the 2021 model to the 2022 model. What we see is significant changes on the exterior of the truck. While the overall profile remains virtually the same, the 2022 has a completely new front end that closely resembles the style used on the Tacoma and 4Runner SUV. That means a large black grille with hexagonal openings and bulky Toyota branding on the grille.
It’s unclear if non-TRD Pro versions will have the same front-end treatment. Another interesting tidbit that is easily seen from the official Toyota photograph is that the truck is equipped with an LED light bar underneath the Toyota logo in the grill and what appear to be LEDs underneath the grill on the front black portion of the bumper. The headlights are much smaller and appear to be LED.
The truck has modest black fender extensions and rolls on very attractive black wheels. We also note that the truck has integrated sidesteps to make it easier to get in and out. Unfortunately, there’s no indication of what changes might have been made to the interior or under the hood of the truck at this time.
Ford to purchase Electriphi for integration with Ford Pro services for EV fleets
Ford has announced it will purchase Electriphi, a California-based provider of charging management and fleet monitoring software for electric vehicles. Ford intends to integrate Electriphi capabilities with its Ford Pro services to develop advanced charging and energy management experiences for commercial users. Many large commercial fleet operators are actively transitioning from combustion-powered vehicles to electric vehicles, and managing charging is a significant challenge.
Ford believes that the acquisition of Electriphi will help spur the adoption of the new F-150 Lightning Pro and E-Transit van by fleet operators around the country and the world. The automaker also notes that the acquisition is part of its plan to invest more than $30 billion by 2025 to enable it to lead in electrification for both commercial and retail customers.
Ford Pro is a new global business within Ford designed to help improve commercial customer productivity and develop advanced charging and energy management services. Charging infrastructure and managing charging capabilities for large fleets of electric vehicles is seen as one of the biggest challenges to the adoption of electric vehicles by commercial users. Ford Pro estimates that the depot charging industry will grow to over 600,000 full-size trucks and vans by 2030.
Ford Pro expects to have over $1 billion in revenue from charging by 2030. Ford’s full-electric E-Transit van is currently scheduled to begin shipping later this year, and the F-150 Lightning Pro will begin shipping in the spring of 2022. Electriphi had a team of over 30 employees, and the software they developed is designed to simplify the electrification of fleets, save energy cost, and track critical metrics like the real-time status of vehicles, chargers, and maintenance services. Ford expects to close the acquisition this month at undisclosed terms. Ford Pro will begin for customers in North America, but it will launch in Europe later.
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Review: Sober Value
Volkswagen would probably call the 2021 Jetta “pragmatic,” and rationality certainly is the name of the game for one of the most affordable cars on the market right now. A mainstay of the compact sedan segment since 1979, the Jetta always promised a balance between the playful Golf and the grown-up Passat. These days, though, the Jetta may have matured a little too far.
Much as with the Golf in the US, VW has pared back the Jetta configurations to a single engine. In fact it’s the same engine: a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, with 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The cheapest 2021 Jetta, the S trim from $18,995 (plus $995 destination), comes with a six-speed manual. So, too, does the $22,795 Jetta R-Line.
Otherwise you get an eight-speed automatic, with front-wheel drive across the board. In the case of my 2021 Jetta SEL Premium – the swankiest Volkswagen offers – it pushes pricing to $28,045 plus destination. Part of that is the Cold Weather Package, which is $500 on lesser trims, and the equally priced Driver-Assistance Package.
All Jetta get LED front and rear lights, and R-Line and above upgrade the 16-inch alloy wheels to 17-inch versions. SE and above have heated side mirrors and a panoramic power sunroof. SE and above get dual-zone automatic climate control and heated front seats; cars with the Cold Weather Package have a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. Only the SEL Premium has actual leather upholstery, though.
On the safety side, automatic post-collision braking is standard across the board, while SE and above get forward collision warnings with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts. SEL and SEL Premium cars throw in adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assistance.
The Jetta may have the same engine as the 2021 Golf, but the end result still feels fairly different. The Golf has, of course, near-sublime chassis tuning, and is altogether more eager with its 147 horses. Even with the same platform underneath, the Jetta plays things a little more grown-up. It’s surprisingly zippy from a standing start, easily pulling away, but corners see more body roll and the steering is dialed in light.
I suspect that’s what Jetta owners like, though, and certainly it’s a relaxed and unchallenging experience from behind the wheel. The Jetta GLI promises a few more thrills, thanks in no small part to its active damping, but this regular car is unlikely to get your heart rate up.
The same could be said for the cabin, which is dark and sober enough that you could assume Volkswagen is going through its goth phase. Matte black plastics sit alongside gloss black plastics, and the sprinkling of dark silver trim around the clusters of controls isn’t enough to lift the interior out of its somber monochrome.
The switchgear feels good, but the rest of the plastics are only middling, and all the button blanks around the transmission shifter are a reminder that even in SEL Premium form you don’t get a huge number of toys. The 8-inch touchscreen on SEL and SEL Premium trims now runs MIB3, a newer version of VW’s infotainment system; S, SE, and R-Line cars get a 6.5-inch touchscreen and the older MIB2. So, too, the two highest trims pack the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, with a screen replacing the analog gauges.
MIB3 is clean and easy to use, though VW’s graphics don’t stray from the pallid aesthetic of the rest of the interior. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a wireless charging pad, and both SEL and SEL Premium cars get a 400 watt Beats Audio system with eight speakers and a subwoofer. There’s a surprising degree of bass from that, along with two USB-C ports.
Where the Jetta does stand out – including against the Golf – is in economy. The EPA says you’ll get the same 29 mpg in the city, but highway driving is rated for up to 39 mpg (versus the Golf’s 36 mpg) for a single point advantage at 33 mpg combined. In practice, it’s not difficult to meet those figures either, not least because the Jetta doesn’t especially encourage profligate manners behind the wheel. Highway driving in particular feels tuned for steady plodding rather than anything approaching urgency.
Practicality tips things back in the Golf’s favor, with the Jetta offering 14.1 cu-ft of trunk space versus its hatchback cousin’s 17.4 cu-ft. Still, it feels bigger than that, there’s a 60/40 split rear seat, and adult passengers back there only had a slight dip in headroom to complain about. A four-year/50,000 mile warranty is a little more generous than what many in the category are offering.
2021 Volkswagen Jetta Verdict
I’ve said it before: VW’s attentions seem to be on its electrification strategy and the ID range, and that leaves cars like the 2021 Jetta out in the shadows. The compact sedan isn’t a bad car, just an unmemorable one, and the problem there is that it finds itself with competition that rival automakers are taking a lot more seriously.
The new 2022 Honda Civic Sedan, for example, is similarly priced but has a fantastic cabin and is more rewarding dynamically. The Mazda3 has beguiling looks and is far more enjoyable to drive than the Jetta. There’s not really anything objectively wrong with Volkswagen’s car, and those on an extreme budget might find its lesser-equipped trims appealing, but even those who think of their vehicles as appliances will find more to appreciate elsewhere.
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