Where Green Meats Mean

Make no mistake about it–the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is one huge vehicle. It also carries the distinction of being the largest hybrid model on the market, a three-ton blend of ostentatious automotive display and environmentally friendly technology. Yes, now you can drive big and live large knowing that your vehicle delivers fuel economy that matches a Toyota Sienna minivan while offering more passenger room and better towing capacity than the standard people hauler.

Escalade: Mighty, Moving Fortress

Available in two- or four-wheel drive, Cadillac recently marked the Escalade’s tenth anniversary by introducing a hybrid model. Essentially a top-trim version of the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe, the Escalade is a French term describing the “act of scaling especially the walls of a fortification.” Perhaps Cadillac saw its own model as being a fortress itself, something that hasn’t been lost on the hip-hop generation, which originally propelled this sport/utility vehicle to fame. 

Bling aside, the hybrid Escalade draws attention to itself in ways that the straight gasoline models do not. Across the entire length of both sets of passenger doors, big HYBRID decal letters tell the world that you’ve gone green. And if that isn’t enough adornment, the side vent port holes, C pillars and lift gate have hybrid emblems, proclaiming to the world that this vehicle channels the same green consciousness as do the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

Room-Sized Proportions

Inside, the cavernous interior makes no trade-offs on room, offering generous seating for up to eight adult passengers. Legroom, headroom and seating space is at the top of its game throughout the Escalade, one of the few passenger vehicles available today with abundant and uncompromising interior room.

Front-seat passengers are treated to heated/cooled leather seating surfaces featuring 14-way power adjustment and four-way power lumbar support. Second-row passengers share a leather split-bench seat with heating option and the ability to fold 60/40 when additional storage space is needed. Third-row passengers are treated to a slightly larger three-person bench seat that can be folded, tumbled forward or removed. Removal, however, isn’t a simple task as the bulky seat’s 120-pound weight means two people will be needed to extract it through the lift gate.

Bluetooth and iPod Penalties Apply

Satellite radio, video entertainment and MP3-CD sound system are standard for the Escalade, but surprisingly Bluetooth support is minimal, which means you cannot download your phone’s contact list. This fault may be overlooked by the average driver, but for the technogeek who can get that and more in a $13,000 Kia–he won’t be so forgiving.

A touch screen panel is located in the dashboard’s center stack just above the buttons controlling music and three-zone cabin air–not the newest or most advanced layout for a luxury SUV, but adequate for the task. Perhaps the most important cabin features in the Escalade are its rearview camera object warning system, blind spot detection and OnStar navigation and emergency contact system.

Two-Mode Hybrid Technology

The question that some may ask about the Escalade is this one: why did General Motors choose to apply its new hybrid technology to a vehicle as large as the Escalade instead of offering it on its smallest Cadillac, the CTS sedan? For two reasons–to be one of the few automobile manufacturers to offer this option on its largest vehicle (the Lexus 460h being the other one) while giving customers who want to drive something big a fuel-efficient option. And unlike many hybrid configurations, you can still tow a boat or a camper with the Escalade Hybrid.

Without covering all of the engineering details of GM’s hybrid technology, the system delivers a combined 20 miles per gallon for the two-wheel-drive model, which translates into a 50 percent improvement in local fuel economy over the standard gasoline engine. The Escalade Hybrid’s engine is a 6.0L V8 with Active Fuel Management paired with an electronically variable transmission. This means when you’re coasting on the highway, half of the cylinders are deactivated to help boost fuel mileage but promptly reactivated the moment you push down on the accelerator.

Around town, the hybrid system works best especially when you’re holding steady at a speed below 32 miles per hour. Anytime you need to accelerate or call on more power than what the electric system can provide, the powerful engine kicks in to take over. This means that the driver who wants to maximize fuel economy will have to be light on the pedal and slow to press down on the brake, making sure that the electrical side of the hybrid system shoulders its part of the work. Yes, as you may have heard, your fuel mileage will fall in the middle of a Kansas winter as hybrid fuel economy drops off the colder it gets outside.

Safety and Convenience Items Galore

The Escalade’s massive size is perhaps the most important safety feature of the Cadillac–a near 17-foot long road warrior, that stands just over six feet tall and is six-and-a-half feet wide. But the SUV isn’t without accompanying safety items such as antilock brakes, stability control and traction control to help keep it from sliding into a ditch. Sitting on huge 22-inch wheels, Cadillac offers power remote running boards in its platinum package, which makes it easier to get in and out of the Escalade.

There is a near $10,000 price premium for the hybrid over the gas model, but a $2,200 federal tax credit is available ($1,800 for the four-wheel drive model). That credit plus generous GM discounts should bring your Escalade’s cost well below the $74,085 sticker for the standard two-wheel drive model, putting pricing within a much more reasonable range. However, if the Escalade is too much for your needs, an all new Cadillac SRX crossover seating five passengers, available in two- or all-wheel drive and weighing a full ton less than the Escalade is now available.

All Cadillac models offer a comprehensive warranty plan, which includes five years/100,000 miles on the powertrain and four years/50,000 miles for most covered repairs. And, as General Motors makes its way through corporate restructuring, your warranty is fully backed by the federal government.

words: Matthew C. Keegan

words: Courtesy General Motors and Wieck Media Services, Inc.