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2021 Cadillac Escalade Technology: Enormous Curved Screens, 3D Audio

There's a total of 38 inches of screen on the Escalade's dash.

Todd LassaWriterSteven PhamPhotographer

It's easy to get lost in the hubbub of the 2021 Cadillac Escalade's unveiling, with so many new features and so much new design on display. You don't have to work very hard to find the new Escalade's infotainment technology, however—it's all front and center, and it's enormous. Very on brand, then.

Cadillac says the new Escalade's screens feature the first curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display in the auto industry, with 38 inches of diagonal display in total, twice the pixel density of a 4K television, and "bold imagery and a full spectrum color range with perfect blacks." For those who still go to a physical location just for watching movies, the upgrade to all of this curved screen real estate is a bit like the difference between a normal theater and IMAX.

Those 38 inches of total display space consist of a 7.2-inch touch display on the driver's left, a 16.9-inch touchscreen on the right and a 14.2-inch instrument cluster.

"It's driver-oriented curvature. So the whole screen curves around you," says Phil Kucera, Cadillac interior design manager. And while it comes with every '21 Escalade from the base Luxury model up to the Premium Luxury Platinum and Sport Platinum trims, it is not shared with the other new models on the Cadillac's new platform, the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban and GMC Yukon. The Escalade's screen is a thin package, wrapped in leather.

There's also a 2x4-inch head-up display (that's the size of the image on the windshield), which is smaller than the Chevy/GMC models' 3x7-inch HUD, because their larger display would have compromised the Cadillac's interior design.

"We wanted the whole instrument panel down and the whole (OLED) screen prominent."

The 14.2-inch instrument cluster offers four different digital layouts. There's a traditional gauge view, a navigation screen, a night vision view, and even an "augmented reality" screen with active route guidance. On this screen, the screen shows the vantage point of the front camera, but with arrows and other digital overlays to show where to turn.

The 16.9-inch center screen is operated by a rotary knob on the center console that can be programmed by touch or with detents. Mercifully, the heating/ventilation/air conditioning controls are on a separate panel, requiring no swipes. Similarly, the heated and cooled seats are operated by buttons on the front doors, and the heated steering wheel has its own button on the wheel itself. The contrast ratio and brightness of the screens are so strong that Kucera is confident there will be no sunlight wash-out.

Asked whether this is the end of Cadillac User Experience (CUE), Kucera says, "It was a very ambitious time, and we learned a lot."

Escalade head rest screens operate independently

Not to be left out, there are two screens on the back of the front headrests for second- and third-row passengers. They operate independently, support USB and HDMI devices and work with Bluetooth headphones. Even if the Escalade's owner is being chauffeured in the second row, they can search points of interest, enter a navigation destination and send it to the driver, and then follow the route, all on the rear screens.

Cadillac also is climbing above its Bose mid-level audio systems in favor of two AKG systems worthy of competition for Mercedes-Benz's Burmester and Lexus' Mark Levinson hi-fidelity stereos.

The AKG Studio hi-fi is a 19-speaker surround-sound system "custom-tuned to the vehicle's trim materials, powered by proprietary audio algorithms," Cadillac says, and is optional on all but the Platinum trim levels.

AKG Studio Reference is a surround 3D system with 36 speakers, standard on Platinum and optional on Premium Luxury and Sport. It can be adjusted to surround all three rows, or just the front row. It comes with a separate front passenger volume control and can be directed to one or the other front-row occupant. It also comes with vehicle noise compensation and a conversation enhancement feature for two-way or one-way communication from the front row to the third row.

AKG senior manager for acoustic engineering Brandon Wheeler offered a short demonstration. Playing some Marcus Miller and Donald Fagen, Wheeler proved the Studio Reference system to be as clear, clean, and precise as any Mark Levinson or Burmester audio, with no vibration in the interior body panels nor over-reliance on bass response. We can't wait for real-world, on-the-road audio system comparison.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade also gets the second-generation Super Cruise driver's aid as an option, bringing features like automatic lane change as well as hands-free driving.