A few months ago, I took a look at the 2021 Buick Envision, which now supports wireless CarPlay as part of the Buick Infotainment System offered by GM. I've been a fan of GM's infotainment systems for a while now, as I find they have an intuitive, modern interface that keeps things simple and comes closer to replicating a smartphone feel than systems from many other manufacturers.

2021 escalade
I've subsequently had a chance to try out another GM vehicle with wireless ‌CarPlay‌, and that's the 2021 Cadillac Escalade with its high-end OLED Infotainment System, an all-new system that bears essentially no resemblance to other current GM infotainment systems.

Hardware and Native Infotainment

2021 escalade dash
Cadillac markets the Escalade as having an industry-first 38 inches of curved OLED display in front of the driver, although this is actually made up of three separate displays: a 16.9-inch infotainment screen, a 14.2-inch instrument cluster screen, and a 7.2-inch "control panel" screen to the left of the instrument cluster. The setup is standard across all trims of the Escalade.

2021 escalade siriusxmNative Audio app with SiriusXM

All three screens are curved OLED displays, which makes for vivid colors and outstanding contrast with deep blacks. Cadillac says the screens offer twice the pixel density of a typical 4K television, and they certainly do deliver sharp text and graphics.

2021 escalade clusterAll-digital instrument cluster

The design of the triple-display layout is such that the screens taper off a bit at the left and right edges, which means the infotainment system is designed around non-rectangular interfaces that complement the shape of the physical screens. It's a very cool look, but as we'll see in a bit, it introduces some issues.

2021 escalade consoleCenter console with rotary infotainment system controller, volume knob, and buttons

The Escalade is a big vehicle with big screens on a big dashboard, so in addition to the touchscreen for the main infotainment display, Cadillac also includes some controls on the center console. That includes a rotary controller to navigate the interface in both the native system and ‌CarPlay‌, a volume knob, and some buttons to quickly jump to popular functions.

2021 escalade home carouselHome screen carousel layout when using rotary controller

One neat trick with the native system is that in some spots the interface optimizes itself based on whether you're using the touchscreen or the rotary controller. For example, the home screen of the native system switches to a carousel view that feels natural to navigate with the dial, but once you reach for the screen with your hand, it switches to a more traditional grid view.

CarPlay

2021 escalade carpley home‌CarPlay‌ home screen

‌CarPlay‌ functions in either wired or wireless mode, and wireless setup was very easy as expected. But once ‌CarPlay‌ pops up on the infotainment screen, a problem immediately becomes apparent: It's not optimized for the shape of the display. ‌CarPlay‌ remains a traditional rectangular screen shoehorned into this oddly-shaped display, leaving significant areas of the display unused. Granted, those areas are a nice deep black thanks to the OLED technology, but it still looks funny.

2021 escalade carplay dashboard‌CarPlay‌ dashboard screen

With the shape constraints, you end up with a fairly typical-sized ‌CarPlay‌ screen of around 8.5 inches on the diagonal even on a massive 16.9-inch display. It's not a widescreen interface, so you don't get the expansive view on navigation apps like you do with systems that support wider aspect ratios for ‌CarPlay‌.

2021 escalade carplay now playing‌CarPlay‌ "Now Playing screen

That said, the ‌CarPlay‌ interface does look great on the OLED display, with deep blacks and vivid colors that really pop. I just wish it could fill up more of that huge display. The Escalade does not support second-screen Apple Maps navigation prompts in either the instrument cluster or head-up display, but that's not totally surprising given that only a few automakers have started supporting it so far.

2021 escalade carplay maps‌Apple Maps‌ in ‌CarPlay‌

GM does make it easy to hop back and forth between ‌CarPlay‌ and the native infotainment system, thanks partly to some hardware controls on the center console. If you're in ‌CarPlay‌, a quick press of the home button takes you to the native system, while a longer press-and-hold gets you back into ‌CarPlay‌.

Wireless Phone Charger

In addition to wireless ‌CarPlay‌, the Escalade includes a wireless phone charger as standard equipment, which is a welcome inclusion and certainly expected given the sticker price of the vehicle and all of the other technology in it. Cadillac has used a space-saving vertical design for its charger, and I found it worked quite well. Inside the charging cavity is a pair of flexible domes that give way to allow the phone to slide in but then hold the phone firmly in place against the vertical surface.

2021 escalade wireless chargerVertical wireless phone charger in center console

This is a fantastic setup that keeps things secure and ensures that you get perfect alignment every time, unlike some of the pads I've used in other vehicles where getting the phone situated just right for charging can be a little finicky.

I will say that my iPhone 12 Pro Max with an Apple leather case on it just barely fit in the charging slot, so keep that in mind if you're using a Pro Max phone with a more substantial case or an Android phablet that's even larger than Apple's largest offering.

Cadillac says the wireless charger supports up to 15W of charging power, which is fantastic for a vehicle charger, although iPhones are undoubtedly limited to 7.5W since this isn't using Apple's MagSafe standard. Still, it's great to see improvements on the charging front after experiencing some of the early days of vehicle wireless chargers that could barely charge at a trickle.

Ports, Connectivity, and Seatback Entertainment

If you want to go the wired route, the Escalade comes absolutely loaded with USB ports. There is a set of USB-C/USB-A ports for charging and data located prominently on the center console, and another set also for data and charging inside the center console compartment.

2021 escalade second rowSecond row charging, AC power, and connectivity ports

For second-row passengers in the captain's chairs, each side has access to a USB-C port and an HDMI port that provide connectivity for the seatback entertainment systems. There's also a 120V outlet for powering various electronic devices. Third-row passengers aren't left out either, with a USB-C charging port located on either side.

2021 escalade rear screen homeSecond-row entertainment system main screen

The seatback entertainment system for second-row passengers supports a variety of inputs such as HDMI, USB video, and Miracast for non-Apple devices, and it also provides access to the navigation system to let passengers get involved in the journey such as by looking up destinations and passing them to the main screen for the driver to accept and plot a route for. The system doesn't include any built-in games, however, which is something my kids were disappointed to learn after experiencing Chrysler's seatback system in the Pacifica.

2021 escalade rear screen mapSecond-row entertainment system map app

Instrument Cluster

Getting back to the native infotainment system and the rest of the technology available to the driver, there's an impressive array of options available in the instrument cluster, including a full map view that includes an augmented-reality navigation view that will overlay upcoming turns and POI labels on a live video feed to help guide you along your route.

2021 escalade ar viewAR navigation in instrument cluster

My test vehicle was also equipped with a $2,000 thermal night vision mode that displays what's in front in a black and white thermal view, potentially helping you identify wildlife or pedestrians on dark roads before they become visible to the naked eye.

If that's not enough information overload, there's also a head-up display to provide glanceable information without having to take your eyes off the road. It's a pretty standard system as head-up displays go, offering a look at your speed, turn-by-turn directions from the native navigation system, driver safety alerts, and a few other tidbits.

The small third screen to the left of the driver offers a few types of functionality, including at-a-glance views of trip metrics, controls for setting the view (gauges, map, AR, night vision) on the main instrument cluster screen, and settings for the head-up display.

Climate Controls

The climate control system on the Escalade is thankfully largely hardware-based, with a row of physical buttons underneath a thin digital display. I wish there was a bit more differentiation among the buttons or some rotary knobs for the temperature and/or fan speed to make it easier to adjust settings by feel, but at least I didn't have to go digging into the main infotainment system for basic climate controls.

2021 escalade climate controlsClimate controls

Wrap-up

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade is by no means a cheap vehicle, as is obvious from the moment you step into it, if not from the outside. Pricing starts at a little under $80,000, and it's available in five trims: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, Premium Luxury Platinum, and Sport Platinum, with optional four-wheel drive. My test vehicle was a 4WD Sport trim with a number of other options that pushed the sticker price all the way up to nearly $107,000. If you go all-in with the extended-length ESV version and all of the available options, you could even push it beyond $120,000.

Consequently, a premium infotainment experience is to be expected, and Cadillac definitely delivers here with the massive OLED display system included on all trims. The native system works well and looks gorgeous, with multiple options for controlling the system and lots of bells and whistles like the AR navigation view and optional night vision feature.

That said, the ‌CarPlay‌ experience on this system is a bit of a disappointment, with the oddly shaped main infotainment screen significantly impacting the usability of ‌CarPlay‌ by limiting it to a fairly standard-sized window in a traditional aspect ratio. ‌CarPlay‌ looks great on the OLED display and it works well with both wireless connectivity and a handy wireless charger to keep your phone topped up, but it's a shame it can't take advantage of the palette it's presented on.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

Top Rated Comments

w5jck Avatar
7 months ago
Wow, that is a butt ugly SUV! :oops:
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
justperry Avatar
7 months ago

Wow, that is a butt ugly SUV! :oops:
I can't even fathom people liking/buying this monstrosity, what a fugly design.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
icymountain Avatar
7 months ago
12.5mpg ? I did not expect it to be great, but still did not imagine it could be so bad...
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JDHiro Avatar
7 months ago
That will be fun when your car has burn-in.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Freida Avatar
7 months ago
who designs these ugly monsters? The interior is giving me headache from all these buttons etc. Terrible design
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
danny1305 Avatar
7 months ago

That will be fun when your car has burn-in.
There’s always gotta be one of these guys…always
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

2022 lexus nx

Review: 2022 Lexus NX Brings an All-New Infotainment Experience With Wireless CarPlay and Built-In Apple Music

Tuesday November 30, 2021 11:53 am PST by
Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus are starting to roll out an all-new infotainment system with large touchscreens, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, and more, and I recently had a chance to go hands-on with one of the first vehicles to get the new system, the 2022 Lexus NX. My test vehicle was an NX 450h+ AWD plug-in hybrid priced at nearly $60,000 that comes with a spacious 14-inch main...
tiguan 2021 exterior

Review: 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan Adds Wireless CarPlay With Multi-Screen Support for Apple Maps Directions

Friday May 7, 2021 11:25 am PDT by
With wireless CarPlay becoming more and more common among car manufacturers, Volkswagen is another brand that has embraced the technology and I recently had a chance to test out the German automaker's implementation in the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan. The 2021 Tiguan is available in five trims, starting with S trim at a little over $25,000 and going up to the SEL Premium R-Line at just about...
2022 civic

Review: 2022 Honda Civic Adds Available Wireless CarPlay

Tuesday December 28, 2021 11:49 am PST by
Wireless CarPlay is seeing increasing adoption across car manufacturers, and one of the most recent to adopt the technology is Honda, which debuted it in the 2021 Accord and has now expanded it to the Civic for 2022. I recently had a chance to spend some time in the new Civic, which delivers a familiar infotainment experience with several handy additions. My test vehicle was a top-end...
2022 mdx

Review: 2022 Acura MDX Adds Wireless CarPlay to a Touchpad-Driven Infotainment System

Monday September 13, 2021 12:33 pm PDT by
The Acura MDX is Honda's luxury-brand three-row SUV, and with the recent launch of the 2022 model, the MDX now supports wireless CarPlay. The MDX is Acura's first vehicle with wireless CarPlay, and I recently had a chance to check out the updated model and some of its new features. The MDX starts at $47,200, but my test vehicle was equipped Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, Technology...
2022 golf r blue

All-New Golf GTI and Golf R Headline VW's 2022 Lineup With Wireless CarPlay on Many Trims

Tuesday December 14, 2021 1:16 pm PST by
Volkswagen has been working on rolling out support for wireless CarPlay across its lineup, and the carmaker recently invited me out to Asheville, North Carolina, for a look at the redesigned Mk8 Golf GTI and Golf R hatchbacks, as well as the refreshed Jetta and the rest of the 2022 lineup. 2022 Golf R Given that I've previously looked at VW's MIB3 infotainment platforms with wireless CarPlay...
2021 mach e

Review: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Brings Wireless CarPlay to a Huge Infotainment Display

Wednesday November 17, 2021 11:28 am PST by
One of the hottest electric vehicles at the moment is Ford's Mustang Mach-E, and I recently had a chance to spend some time in a 2021 model in First Edition trim to test out all of its features including the SYNC 4A infotainment system on a massive 15.5-inch portrait display with support for wireless CarPlay. I went hands-on with the 2021 F-150 hybrid with SYNC 4 a few months ago, but the...
2022 wagoneer

Review: 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Offers Wireless CarPlay and Up to Nine Screens

Tuesday September 7, 2021 11:52 am PDT by
One of the splashier car introductions for this year is the relaunch of the iconic Jeep Wagoneer brand as an all-new full-size SUV to compete against the likes of the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator. The new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer is also available as a Grand Wagoneer, but rather than being a larger version of an already large SUV, the "Grand" designation is used to represent higher trim...
buick envision 2021

Review: 2021 Buick Envision Adds Wireless CarPlay to a Solid Infotainment System

Tuesday April 13, 2021 11:21 am PDT by
With more and more car manufacturers starting to introduce support for wireless CarPlay, the convenience of having easy access to some of your iPhone's functionality in a dashboard-friendly interface without needing to deal with cables is becoming accessible to an increasing number of car buyers. GM is one of those manufacturers that has started to embrace wireless CarPlay, and I recently...

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

Review: M1 Max MacBook Pro After Three Months

Wednesday January 19, 2022 11:30 am PST by
It's now been a few months since the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro models launched in October, and MacRumors video editor Dan Barbera has been using one of the new machines since they debuted. Over on the MacRumors YouTube channel, Dan has shared a three month review of his MacBook Pro to see how it has held up over time and how it's changed his workflow. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube ...
airpodsinear 1

AirPods Save Woman's Life With Feature Everyone Should Know

Friday January 21, 2022 2:13 am PST by
Apple's AirPods have been credited with saving a woman's life after a potentially fatal fall, People reports. When a 60-year-old florist in New Jersey tripped and hit her head in her studio, she lost consciousness and awoke heavily bleeding. With nobody around to call for help, she realized she had her AirPods in, and used a "Hey Siri" command to call 911. An operator was able to stay on the ...
iphone se 2020 top

New iPhone SE Likely to Launch in April Based on Production Timeframe

Wednesday January 19, 2022 6:44 am PST by
Apple suppliers will begin producing display panels for the third-generation iPhone SE this month, with final assembly of the device likely to start in March, according to information shared by display industry consultant Ross Young. Based on this production timeframe, Young believes the third-generation iPhone SE is likely to launch in the second half of April, or perhaps in early May at...
iphone 13 earpods

Apple to Stop Including EarPods With Every iPhone Sold in France From Next Week

Friday January 21, 2022 3:21 am PST by
Apple will no longer include EarPods with every iPhone sold in France, starting on January 24, according to a notice posted by a French carrier (via iGeneration). Apple was previously required to include EarPods in the box with the iPhone due to a French law that required every smartphone sold in the country to come with a "handsfree kit," but the law has now been changed in favor of reducing the ...
Spring 2022 Apple Products Feature

New iPad Air, Macs, and iPhone SE With 5G Likely to Be Announced at Apple Event This Spring

Thursday January 20, 2022 8:32 am PST by
Earlier this week, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted that Apple "will be holding a spring event" to announce a new iPhone SE and other hardware. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said the event is likely to occur in March or April. Gurman did not elaborate on what "other hardware" will be announced at Apple's purported spring event, but rumors suggest at least four products are...
appleeducation

Apple's US Education Store Now Requires Institution Verification to Buy Discounted Products

Wednesday January 19, 2022 2:22 am PST by
Apple is now requiring that customers in the United States verify that they're active students, teachers, or staff members at an educational institution in order to access education discounts on products. Previously, little verification was needed for customers to purchase products through Apple's education store in the United States. Apple's education stores offer models of the iPad and Mac ...
AirPods 3 New Firmware Feature

Apple Updates AirPods 3 Firmware to Version 4C170

Tuesday January 18, 2022 11:46 am PST by
Apple today released a new 4C170 firmware update for the AirPods 3, an update from the prior 4C165 that was made available in December. Apple does not offer details on what's included in new firmware updates for the AirPods‌, so we don't know what improvements or bug fixes the new firmware brings. There is no standard way to upgrade the ‌AirPods‌‌ software, but firmware is...
appleprivacyad cleaned

iOS 15 Patched Security Hole That Potentially Exposed Users' Private Apple ID Information to Third-Party Apps

Thursday January 20, 2022 3:32 am PST by
Apple patched two significant security vulnerabilities when it released iOS 15 that could have potentially exposed users' private Apple ID information and in-app search history to malicious third-party apps and allowed apps to override user Privacy preferences, Apple has revealed in a recent support document update. With most iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS updates, Apple provides a list of...
apple watch series 7 aluminum colors yellowbg

Apple Watch Charging Bug Fixed in watchOS 8.4 Release Candidate

Thursday January 20, 2022 4:01 pm PST by
The watchOS 8.4 release candidate that was seeded to developers and beta testers this morning addresses an ongoing bug that could cause some Apple Watch chargers not to work properly with the Apple Watch. Back in December, we reported on a growing number of charging issues that Apple Watch Series 7 owners were facing. Since watchOS 8.3, there have been a number of complaints about...