SUV Comparison: 2021 Cadillac Escalade vs 2021 Lincoln Navigator
Both do an excellent job of cosseting occupants, hauling copious amounts of stuff, and looking massively imperious
Peter Bleakney: American luxury used to be served up within the confines of the lengthy four-door sedan, but now it comes in very big boxes. Here we pit the redesigned Cadillac Escalade against the Lincoln Navigator — both larger than my first apartment and considerably better furnished. These posh pachyderms have been locking tusks for 22 years, and the evolution of this species hasn’t exactly been moving along at a brisk pace. The Escalade and Navigator are still body-on-frame “trucks” based on less distinguished members of their respective families — the Chevy Suburban and Ford Expedition respectively. The Cadillac just gained independent year suspension this year, while the Lincoln crossed that evolutionary threshold in 2003.
With its 2018 redesign, the third-generation Navi leapfrogged the aging ‘Sclade, but Cadillac has countered with this new-from-the-tires-up offering that bristles with forward thinking tech, improved interior space, better road manners and an audio system to die for.
But let’s get to the superficial stuff first. Clayton, which one looks best?
But when push comes to shove, the Lincoln looks more expensive. I like the body-colour grille (an extra-cost option) and the all-black turbine-esque wheels. I also like the lack of extraneous chrome. It’s remarkably restrained for a nearly 6,000-lb luxury SUV. On looks alone, I’d rather have the Lincoln in my driveway to make the neighbours jealous. But we also care about what’s under the skin. Peter, how do the two interiors stack up?
PB: The Navigator’s cabin is the more traditional of the two, sporting plenty of chrome accents, posh open pore wood, and here trimmed in lovely saddle brown leather. I like Ford’s Sync 3 interface for its ease of use, here displayed on a floating 10-inch screen with Lincoln’s own graphics. The menu structure is logical, and the voice recognition system responds quickly and accurately to most requests. Factor in a plethora of analogue controls and buttons for HVAC, audio and seat cool/heat functions, and you have a pretty intuitive interior. Okay, Lincoln’s signature push-button gear selection thingy is weird, but the Perfect Position 30-way and massaging front seats do indeed live up to their billing. Getting supremely comfortable in these chairs is a matter of calling up the adjustment screen and having at it. The 20-speaker Revel audio system is pretty impressive too — until you jump into the Escalade.
The Caddy’s interior dates the Lincoln’s big time. It features industry-first curved OLED screens with blazingly sharp graphics. There’s a small 7.2-inch screen to the driver’s left, a 14.2-inch multi-configurable instrument cluster front and center, and a 16.9-inch screen for the infotainment system. In this top trim ‘Sclade we get night vision and augmented-reality turn-by-turn navigation that overlays directional arrows on the video stream from a front-facing camera. It’s pretty slick, as are the voice prompts that come from the right of the cabin when you have to turn right, etc. If you miss a turn, the prompt comes from behind.
But the piece de resistance here is the 36-speaker surround-sound system fashioned by famed Austrian microphone/headphone maker AKG. It’s truly one of the greatest automotive audio installations ever.
This Escalade’s cabin gets the default all-black treatment, effectively neutering its bold design and craftsmanship. I’ve seen this interior in lighter shades and it looks considerably more rich.
As far as accessing the third row, they’re both pretty accommodating. The Navigator’s captain’s chairs slide and tip forward with one-touch convenience, whereas the split bench in the Escalade gets a two-step process — the back folds flat and then the whole seat flips up. In both vehicles, third row accommodation is generous.