Functionally, the fanciest examples of the spanking-new GMT T1XX* SUV architecture are nearly indistinguishable. The range-topping 420-hp, 460-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic transmission come standard on all 2021 Cadillac Escalade/ESV models the 2021 Chevy Tahoe/Suburban High Country, the 2021 GMC Yukon/XL Denali, and each will be offered with an equally torquey 3.0-liter turbodiesel. Throttle and transmission calibrations are essentially identical because Chevy, GMC, and Caddy buyers all value a non-jumpy throttle and smooth but not mushy transmission shifts, meaning one “ideal” calibration is pretty much shared across all brands. They also share many other features, including all the cool trailering apps. So what do you get as you add extra Clevelands to the purchase price? (Remember him from the rare $1,000 bill?) Let’s take a look.
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*For the number geeks: The last two digits of the T1 code distinguish the many different truck and SUV bodies. Tahoe is T1UC, Suburban is T1YC, Yukon is T1UG, Yukon XL is T1YG, Escalade is T1UL, and Escalade ESV is T1YL.
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Which GM SUV Has the Best Suspension?
The Air Ride Adaptive suspension with magnetic-ride-control shocks comes standard on the new Escalade, but you still pay extra for it on the top versions of the new Chevy and GMC. (The architecture’s midlevel coil-springs-and-MR-shocks suspension comes standard on these.) But if you pop for the air suspension on the Chevy and GMC, the spring and damper rates and tuning vary little between the three brands (aside from minor tweaks to account for weight differences). It turns out that buyers of all three want a smooth, quiet ride that only firms up as needed when you’re sawing at the wheel or stabbing at the pedals. So if someone took you for rides in air ride-equipped examples of these three trucks blindfolded (with the audio systems off and maybe with your nose plugged so you couldn’t smell the different leathers), you’d be hard-pressed to identify which was which.
Does the Escalade or Yukon Have Better 4WD than the Tahoe?
Two-speed auto AWD transfer cases are offered across the board, but the new Chevy Tahoe makes do with a mechanical limited-slip rear diff, whereas GMC and Cadillac offer electronically controlled diffs that permit a bit more programming of traction and handling characteristics. (Note that this T-case features a neutral position that makes it possible to flat-tow any of these trucks behind your Prevost pusher-diesel RV.)
What Driver Assists Systems Do They Have?
Adaptive cruise control is optional on the 2021 Tahoe High Country and Yukon Denali, but 2021 Escalade owners get the option of Super Cruise. This system, available for a few years on CT6 now and extending to CT4, CT5, and Escalade for 2021, allows hands-off-the-wheel driving for extended periods under the right conditions. Those include reasonable weather and driving on some 200,000-plus miles of limited-access freeways that GM has thoroughly mapped and logged. No pricing has been announced yet, but the option adds $2,500 to the price of a top CT6, and the Escalade system adds lane change assist to what the CT6 can currently do.
Yes, the 2021 Escalade Has a Giant Curved Screen
High Country buyers make do with the same 10.0-inch (diagonal) central touchscreen protruding up from the dash that base Chevy and GMC buyers get. Denali splurgers get a completely unique dash that integrates a similar 10.0-inch screen lower in the dash structure with air vents above it. And of course, upgrading to Cadillac gets that Escala concept car dash, complete with its three separate curved OLED display screens that combine for 38 total diagonal inches. Each of those screens reportedly delivers double the resolution of a 4K TV with vastly higher contrast than is possible with the industry standard LED-backlit LCD screens. Optional rear-seat entertainment systems from all three brands include a pair of 12.6-inch screens we’re told are the biggest in the biz. One “screen” that’s smaller in the Caddy: the head-up display. A 2×4-inch screen projects a bit less information up onto the Escalade’s windshield, while the HUDs that come standard on the top Chevy and GMC offerings project a 15-inch diagonal image from a 3×7-inch screen. More info is shared in unique new ways on the Cadillac’s main screens.
Escalade, Tahoe, and Yukon Exterior Differences
Dub-deuces (22-inch wheels) come standard on Chevy’s High Country and on all Cadillacs, but GMC charges extra for them on a Denali. This may make the GMC the compelling choice for buyers in the pothole belt looking for more compliant tire sidewalls. Chevy buyers get unique bronze accents on the grille, while GMC and Cadillac grilles feature a Galvano (matte silver) finish. To open the rear liftgate, Escalade owners press the Cadillac crest emblem, and Chevy and GMC buyers reach for a traditional switch. And only Cadillac offers optional soft-close self-cinching doors.
Is the Escalade’s Interior Worth the Money?
This may be where the money spent becomes most evident. High Country interiors are distinguished from lesser Chevy (and GMC) models primarily by logo sill plates, seat embroidery, and some unique color options. With 60 percent of Yukon buyers springing for the Denali, the numbers make sense to offer the first completely unique interior in the Denali brand’s 20-year history. In addition to the aforementioned unique dash, it gets its own seats (at least in the front and middle rows), and four unique color themes are offered—each with a genuine wood accent trim. Surprisingly, the absolute base fleet/livery Cadillac Escalade features leatherette seats, whereas High Country and Denali models get leather seating surfaces. But step up at all, to either the premium luxury or sport grade, and the Cadillac materials quickly surpass the best Chevy and GMC can offer, with the top Platinum trim featuring intricate and unique sew patterns, real woods manipulated to look like carbon fiber, marquetry, lace, etc. And there are eight color themes to choose—double what the less aspirational brands offer.
Escalade, Yukon, and Tahoe Stereo System Differences
The more audio-snobby you are, the easier you’ll be to upsell. Chevy’s fanciest audio system is a very nice 10-speaker Bose system. GMC upgrades Denali owners to a Bose Performance Series setup boasting 14 speakers. Cadillac’s entry-level audio system is an AKG Studio surround setup with 19 speakers, but of course the true audiophile will be powerless to resist AKG’s Studio Reference system. A total of 36 speakers—including a pair in each front-seat headrest and several in the ceiling—immerse occupants in Surround 3D sound, which can be optimized for front- or rear-seat listeners or muted for left or right front-seat passengers while taking a phone call. This system also includes four microphones to enhance conversation between the seat rows. It’ll be standard with the Platinum trims, optional on mid-grade models. Cadillac is the first OEM to engage the microphone and headphone experts at AKG, which has been awarded a technical Grammy for its contributions to the art and science of music recording and performance.
What Does the Escalade Have the Yukon/Tahoe Don’t?
Only 2021 Cadillac Escalade buyers can opt for an onboard refrigerator-freezer or night vision. And 2021 GMC Yukon/XL Denali buyers are the only ones who can purchase a power-sliding center console. Motoring said console aft 10 inches (via an unmarked button on the center roof console) opens up a space to store a purse or parcel, moves the cupholders on the rear of said console closer to occupants of the rear captain’s chairs (the option isn’t offered with a middle-row bench seat), and exposes a drawer in the bottom of the console in which to store valuables. When the console’s motored forward and the key is away from the vehicle, it would take a lot of vicious crowbarring to access what’s in that drawer.
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More 2021 Cadillac Escalade
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban High Country
2021 GMC Yukon/XL Denali
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 8-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 7-9-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 7-9-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8; 3.0L/277-hp/460-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve turbodiesel I-6||6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8; 3.0L 277-hp/460-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve turbodiesel I-6||6.2L/420-hp/460-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8; 3.0L 277-hp/460-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve turbodiesel I-6|
|TRANSMISSION||10-speed automatic||10-speed automatic||10-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,550-6,350 lb (est)||5,450-6,250 lb (est)||5,450-6,250 lb (est)|
|WHEELBASE||120.9-134.1 in||120.9-134.1 in||120.9-134.1 in|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||211.0 x 81.0-81.1 x 76.4-76.6 in||210.7-225.7 x 81.0-81.1 x 75.7-75.9 in||210.0-225.2 x 81.0-81.1 x 75.7-75.9 in|
|HEADROOM, F/M/R||42.3/38.9/38.2 in||42.3/38.8-38.9/38.2 in||42.3/38.8-38.9/38.2 in|
|LEGROOM, F/M/R||44.5/41.7/34.9-36.6 in||44.5/42.0/34.9-36.7 in||44.5/42.0/34.9-36.7 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R||65.5/64.6/62.7-62.8 in||66.0/64.8/62.7 in||66.0/64.8/62.7 in|
|CARGO VOL, Beh F/M/R||122.4-144.7/72.7-92.9/25.5-41.1 cu ft||122.4-144.7/72.7-92.9/25.5-41.1 cu ft||122.9-144.7/72.7-92.9/25.5-41.1 cu ft|
|0-60 MPH||5.5-8.0 sec (MT est)||5.1-7.8 sec (MT est)||5.1-7.8 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet tested||Not yet tested||Not yet tested|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Summer 2020||June 2020||Summer 2020|
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