The Cadillac Escalade has been an incredibly popular vehicle since its launch in 1998.
A firm fan favorite loved by celebrities and a security staple, the Escalade is considered the ultimate status symbol of luxury, and prestige.
However, with this big, brash ‘Beast’ fast on its way to legendary status, some years tend to perform better than others, meaning there are some Cadillac Escalade years to avoid (according to Consumer Report).
Common issues with the now well-established Escalade, which has entered its fifth generation on the auto market, include engine problems, faulty speedometers, transmission defects, airbag problems, and door handles breaking off.
Designed to compete with the Lincoln Navigator and the Chevrolet Suburban, the Escalade has seen a number of recalls over the years.
Despite this, it remains one of the most popular luxury SUVs.
The 2023 Escalade has drawn both compliments and criticism, with Consumer Report praising its spacious interior when compared to vehicles like the Chevrolet Suburban.
On the downside, the current Escalade has been judged inaccessible and extremely heavy on fuel.
Here are the Cadillac Escalade years to avoid and the best years.
Cadillac Escalade Years To Avoid
2007 Cadillac Escalade
NHTSA reported that the third-generation Escalade had 270 complaints, making the 2007 model a year to avoid.
The included issues with airbags (134), electrical systems (35), engine (33) and electronic stability control (26).
Owners of the 2007 Cadillac Escalade also complained about door handles breaking frequently, inside and out.
Some claimed they had to replace them more than once, and one driver reported that broken handles cost them over $500.
Others fumed that GM should use high-quality materials rather than plastic for a high-end luxury vehicle that costs upwards of $75,000.
2008 Cadillac Escalade
With 163 complaints, the 2008 Cadillac Escalade is another model year to avoid.
According to the NHTSA, these included 94 air bag-related complaints, 28 engine complaints, as well as power train issues (6), exterior lighting problems (13) and vehicle speed control (6).
It’s also apparent that the dodgy door handle issue from 2007 rolled over to the 2008 model.
Many Cadillac Escalade owners complained that their vehicles’ interior and exterior door handles broke (from both the driver and passenger sides). Angry drivers said this was not what they expected from a luxury SUV.
There were also issues with erratic instrument panels that resulted in the speedometer and/or other gauges working intermittently.
There were four recalls accompanied by 3 NHTSA investigations.
2015 Cadillac Escalade
Next comes the 2015 Cadillac Escalade with 71 complaints, seven recalls, and 1 NHTSA investigation.
Complaints ranged from engines to electronics to fuel and propulsion.
Vehicle shaking and a bumpy ride were also flagged – probably due to the automatic transmission issues and rough shifting that plagued the 2015 or newer Cadillac Escalade years.
Engine misfires are also a seemingly common issue with the 2015 Escalade.
Flashing check engine lights and P0300 (cylinder is misfiring or is randomly misfiring) and P0308 (faulty ignition parts: spark plugs, spark plug boots, ignition coils, and wires, or distributors) codes are the main issues drivers complained about.
2016 Cadillac Escalade
Transmission problems (2006-2016) were among the significant issues flagged by Escalade drivers, and Consumer Report also advises against this model.
Carcomplaints.com reported that Cadillac owners registered 81 complaints against the 2016 Escalade, which had three recalls.
Cadillac Escalade drivers claimed they experienced rough shaking while driving their luxury SUV.
A subsequent NHTSA investigation confirmed this, with one driver describing it as a “sudden push and a bang” when engaging the transmission.
Best Cadillac Escalade Years
The Cadillac Escalade has had its fair share of problems.
Still, it maintains its attraction as a full-size luxury SUV.
Here are the best model years for this classic car.
The 2002 model year Cadillac Escalade ranks as the best-year model according to customer satisfaction ratings compiled by ranker.com, which gives it an incredible 5.0 out of 5.0.
NHTSA awarded the 2002 Escalade a 3-star (out of 5) front driver-side safety rating and a 4-star front passenger-side safety rating.
Overall, the 2002 Escalade has a reputation for reliability and minimal repairs.
According to JD Power, the 2013 Escalade scored 79/100 as their overall score and an impressive 86/100 for reliability and quality.
The front driver side gets a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA, and the passenger side has a 4-star rating.
Only 14 complaints were registered against the 2013 Escalade, ranging from seat belts to visibility.
The 1999 model received an overall 4.9 rating.
When it comes to safety, NHTSA gave 4 out of 5 ratings for both the front driver and passenger sides.
What Do Cadillac Escalade Drivers Mostly Complain About
The most common complaints about Cadillac Escalades in the past five years include engine problems, transmission defects, ride quality, and suspension failure.
According to the Car Complaints website, transmission issues with the Escalade tend to come up, on average, at about 77,000 miles.
Figures from this site put the average cost for the repair at approximately $2,800.
Here are the defects that appeared in the respective Escalade model years:
- Random electrical shorts – 2002 model (40%)
- Tires leaking air and poor rim quality – 2010 model (40%)
- Transmission faults – 2016 model (40%)
- No headlights and moisture in lights – 2008 model (60%)
- Door handles not working or breaking easily – 2007 models (100%)
Is Cadillac Escalade a reliable SUV?
The Cadillac Escalade, which debuted as a full-size SUV in 1999, has generally been well-received by consumers.
This vehicle’s second and third generations have high reliability scores and favorable consumer ratings.
However, Escalade models in the fourth and fifth generations haven’t scored as well.
How safe is the Cadillac Escalade SUV?
The Escalade features a number of active and passive safety features.
The NHTSA ranks this SUV among the safest in its class.
How durable is the Cadillac Escalade?
The 2013 Escalade is known for lasting longer than most other model years.
Some owners have reported that it regularly makes it to 200,000 miles; others have gone even farther with proper and regular maintenance.
Are Cadillac Escalades expensive to maintain?
On average, Cadillac oil changes cost between $130 to $150, while labor accounts for $40- $50, and the rest for parts.
A Cadillac’s average annual maintenance costs range between $1,041 and $1,125.
What about warranty on the Escalade?
Cadillac backs each Escalade with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty and a 6-year/70,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.
The Cadillac Escalade has remained a loved car through the ages, and although it has seen some tough years, it has also enjoyed a lot of success and achieved high ratings.
If you are interested in purchasing a Cadillac Escalade, we hope this guide has given you a better idea of which Cadillac Escalade years to avoid.