When you have a large family, you need a vehicle that is a true people-mover. But minivans are not for everyone; some people still want a stylish vehicle, even when they can’t justify an expensive sports car. But can you save your image and still get the kids to school in one trip? You bet. You might even gain some style points in the swap. Take the 2021 Chevy Suburban vs 2021 Cadillac Escalade as examples. These are both very stylish, large vehicles that are great for families and car enthusiasts alike. But when push comes to shove, which is the better option? In short, the Suburban.
But read on to learn why the 2021 Suburban and the 2021 Escalade are formidable opponents, and how the Suburban edges to the top in nearly every category. Brand new and completely redesigned from the ground up, this new Suburban refines its classic good looks with a fresh, sculpted exterior look and over-the-top plush interior features that turn errands into me-time mental health holidays. The Escalade may not stand a chance, but we’ll objectively review and compare them here so that you can get behind the wheel of a real winner.
Price and Trims
Price wise, the 2021 Suburban starts at an MSRP of just $51,700. The Escalade? $76,195. At nearly $25k more, we have to wonder how much of that is the cost of the Cadillac badge. If we swing to the other end of the price spectrum – the high side – we still can’t spec out a Suburban that costs more than $80,000. The Escalade, on the other hand, tops out at well over $100,000. That’s the cost of a small condo in 3/4 of America. One could argue that the Escalade makes a sort of luxury statement, thus justifying its price tag, or even that it’s “cool” because of its wildly high price tag. We say, why spend more when you can get all the luxury you want for a fraction of the price?
Setting price aside, though, let’s look at which SUV provides the most freedom of choice. The Suburban is available in six diverse trims that are designed to stand alone, almost like different models-within-the-model. The folks at Chevy want you to feel firmly in control of this process. They kept it simple, justifying the jumps in price and trim levels and designing a clear differentiation in each. It helps buyers zero in on what they want without having to pay for unnecessary or unwanted equipment.
The top-of-the-line 2021 Suburban High Country starts at $72,300. Over at Cadillac, it’s a tie: both the Escalade Premium Luxury Platinum and the Sport Platinum trims start at $99,995. Hey, at least they’re under $100k, right? The other Suburban trims are the base LS, starting at $51,700; the LT, coming in at $56,500; the RST, at an MSRP of $59,800; the Z71, for $61,900; and the Premier, with an MSRP of $65,300. For the Escalade, we have the base Luxury, which starts at $76,195; the Premium Luxury, for a mere $82,995; and the Sport, at an MSRP of $85,595.
Winner on Price and Options: The 2021 Suburban. Tell me something, how much more is it going to sting when your kid carpet bombs the back seat of your $100,000 Escalade with Cheerios dust?
Performance & Capability
Large SUVs are not only a people movers; they’re designed for utility too. Lots of us have weekend hobbies that require towing our toys. Whether you’re an RV guy or a boater, you need your SUV to pull double duty. It’s more likely at this stage of life that you’ll be spending the weekend wearing out the road between home and the big box store, honey-do list in hand, so payload and cargo capacity are important too. What numbers can you expect from the Suburban and the Escalade?
Let’s start with engine options; Chevy has a lot of them. The 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine with Dynamic Fuel Management is standard on all trims except the High Country, and it puts out plenty of power for most hauling scenarios. You’ll get 355 hp and a solid 383 lb-ft of torque, which, when paired with the standard 10-speed automatic transmission, produces a very respectable fuel economy rating of 20 MPG on the highway, while still putting out solid performance numbers. It is definitely brag-worthy.
The 6.2 liter EcoTec3 V8 with Dynamic Fuel Management that comes standard on the High Country will give you cul-de-sac cult status because your Suburban achieves 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, also with the 10-speed transmission and also while achieving 20 MPG highway fuel economy. In case that’s not unique enough, Chevy also has a Duramax 3.0-liter Turbo-Diesel engine that delivers 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, available on all Suburban trims except the Z71.
The Escalade offers just two engines, giving buyers constricted options and locking them into a single standard 6.2-liter V8 engine. The same Duramax 3.0-liter diesel option is available on the Escalade as well. (Remember, General Motors owns both Chevrolet and Cadillac, so there is some overlap with technology and equipment). But here’s the thing: Why would you spend upwards of $25,000 more for an Escalade when all the same engine options are also available on the Suburban?
All in all, the Suburban’s max towing capacity is over 8,000 lbs, which is impressive, and all you need. Over at Cadillac, you’ll get a max towing capacity also around 8,00 lbs. The Suburban, though, is going to look way better caked in mud with a stack of plywood loaded up in the back. The Escalade is just a little too fussy to pull that off. Go ahead and take advantage of the Suburban’s utility without worrying too much about banging it up a little.
If we look at size as a determiner of the winner, we’re going to find out something very interesting. The Suburban is much larger, except for in regard to the Escalade ESV, which has nearly identical dimensions. Whether we’re focused on driver comfort, overall length, or those poor kids crammed in the third row, the Suburban and the Escalade ESV tell a similar story. Why is this even worthy of comparison, then? Because the normal Escalade is actually much smaller than the Suburban. Plus, even cubic foot counts, and the Suburban is the larger vehicle no matter what.
In terms of cargo capacity, 144.7 cu.ft. await in the Suburban, while Escalade ESV owners will fall short with just 142.8 cu.ft. It seems like a small difference, but wait until you’re trying to stuff eight sets of football gear in the back. You’ll be glad for the extra couple feet. Additionally, the regular Escalade only offers around 121 cu.ft. of cargo space, which is, in fact, a significant difference. If you really need space, the Suburban is the best option.
The Better SUV
When push comes to shove, we think the 2021 Chevy Suburban ticks all the boxes without a staggeringly high price. We see versatility in the trim lineup, which will invite a broader spectrum of buyers into the Suburban ownership family. We love the Escalade, and it does offer some incredible luxury features. Still, if we’re serious about asking what we want and why we want it, victory looks a lot like saving some cash and compromising nothing in exchange. Our vote? The 2021 Suburban. Hands down.