The 2021 Cadillac Escalade’s infotainment system was shocked and impressed when it debuted, but now we’ve finally had the chance to live with it and the giant SUV that surrounds it for a week. Sliding behind the triple OLED screens is like stepping into the tech-forward future that Cadillac promised us. The 6.2 liter pushrod V8 under the hood says otherwise, but the interior technology has already arrived.
There are a total of three screens: a 16.9 inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, a 14.2 inch instrument panel and a 7.2 inch touchscreen to the left of the instrument panel. They are all OLED screens, and as you would expect, they are beautiful to take in. None of the high-tech German luxury vehicles has screens that are this beautiful. The Escalade’s don’t just look great, though. All three screens are responsive and jump through functions / menus without any problem. The only delay or delay in the whole system is when you turn on the cluster’s augmented reality (AR) camera – you wait one potato, two potato, and then the feed comes out.
It’s a new take on GM’s infotainment system as a whole. You’re still swiping back and forth through an iPad-like display of apps, but the user interface has been completely rethought and looks fresh. Icons are large and easy to press. Nothing is hidden from the screen at any time. It just makes sense.
Cadillac has also found a way to make better use of its redundant scroll wheel. Although it is the same wheel as on other models, this time the entire screen changes to match the action of the wheel when you use it. For example, the home screen changes into a rotating circle of apps that you run through as soon as you turn the dial. It might take some getting used to, but the option between two different interfaces that both work well is a positive. Redundant touchscreen and control wheel combos are common, but no one offers such a thing.
Having a few physical buttons and a real volume knob nearby to operate the infotainment system is another thoughtful touch – the same goes for the climate controls, which are made up entirely of physical buttons.
Despite the amazing size of the central instrument panel, you won’t really find much buried in it. All ride settings and general vehicle settings have been moved to the infotainment system itself. Viewing certain things and adjusting settings is much easier on this large touchscreen than trying to use the steering wheel controls. It also frees up the cluster for larger and viewer-friendly displays like a full-screen navigation map, AR mode, and Cadillac’s Night Vision (which appears bigger than ever).
The option to use both wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto is fine, but the performance on the screen is less. Both apps are designed to run on rectangular or square screens. The closest thing to the Cadillac’s screen to a parallelogram, a shape that no ordinary app or program is designed on. This means that the size of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is smaller on the screen than you would expect from a 16.9-inch screen. It looks and acts a lot more like a 9-inch or 10-inch rectangle, looking bad in the process with the useless space on either side of the app. Cadillac could have made a more traditional screen shape to fix this, but it wouldn’t look quite as cool. But again, you don’t need to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
No other vehicle uses an additional touchscreen to the left of the instrument cluster, and it’s easy to see why. There are few things you can tweak or change on the 7.2-inch display that Cadillac uses. Switching between your cluster layouts and customizing your head-up display via a touchscreen feels chic and futuristic, but it’s not necessary at all. However, luxury cars are often about party tricks and going above and beyond what is really necessary, and this is a feature that sets Cadillac apart from what is normal elsewhere.
The Escalade’s new infotainment system as a whole is a huge step forward for both Cadillac and GM products as a whole. Most other GM infotainment systems are easy to use and generally uncomplicated, but the new Escalade retains its straightforward qualities and raises the bar for luxury. This three-screen experiment is good, and we hope it evolves and gets better in more Cadillac products down the line.