2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid: Luxury SUV Hip, Upscale and Eco-Friendly
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
A few months ago, I test drove and reviewed the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid in its “Base” trim, and at $72,000, I reported that it was an odd coupling of luxury with an attempt to be “green,” and that at that price, it was a deterrent to sales of a lavish vehicle that in its “green” form, it lost some of the interior niceties that one would expect from an upscale vehicle such as the Escalade.
General Motors and its press fleet reps took that to heart and asked me to test the upscale version of the genre, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade 2WD Platinum Hybrid, and I did so, during a week of steamy temperatures, rain and sunshine, along Mid-State Pennsylvania and Northwest Maryland highways, country roads and city streets. I can tell you that the upgrades (even at an additional $12,500), make some difference.
To recap what makes an Escalade an Escalade, and the hip buying choice for the rich and famous as well as the affluent and trendy who are not so famous, this luxury SUV, first introduced in 1999, has been a status vehicle since its inception. It quickly and enduringly became an in-car among the celebrity elite, including Adam Sandler, Shaquille O’Neal, Justin Timberlake, Pink, Fat Joe (his Terror Squad has purchased more than 20 Escalades) and Queen Latifah. Versions of the vehicle have appeared in J.Lo’s "Love Don't Cost A Thing” video and in such movies as “Matrix Reloaded” and “Gone In 60 Seconds.”
Any Escalade, in all its Platinum trim glory, would appeal to that crowd, but in an effort to stay current and to broaden its audience to the environmentally conscious and wealthy, GM added “green-friendliness” to the recipe and in 2009, the Escalade became a Hybrid.
As with the previously tested Base version, my test Platinum Hybrid was powered by a 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 engine and 2-mode hybrid propulsion electric system with a 300-volt emergency storage arrangement. The total output is 332 hp at 5100 rpm and 367 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4100 rpm. Since even identical engines and cars perform differently, I found that in my test Platinum, I got better response, power, performance and fuel economy in this more upscale version. While both vehicles were EPA rated at 20/21 mpg, my previously tested Base model averaged 18.5 mpg, but this Platinum edition averaged a stellar 20.4mpg for nearly 500 miles of mixed testing. While this still doesn’t qualify as a genuine “green-friendly” vehicle, it isn’t bad for a 3-ton monster that would drink fuel at 13mpg in non-hybrid form.
Performance-wise, the lower-scale version moved from zero to 60mph in 7.95 seconds during my track tests while this Platinum test ride covered the sprint for me in 7.8. Quarter-mile times also improved from 16.2 seconds in the Base model to 16-flat for the Platinum. Power in both models was smooth, quiet, responsive, steady and brawny when called upon, with excellent handling, steering, braking and confidence.
On the outside, this third-generation lux-ute impresses with its classic Cadillac grille and badge that are pure Caddy and set this vehicle apart from the rest by reputation and look. The “Hybrid” badge is classy touch, and signature front fender vent ports and layers of chrome accents make for a very stylish sports-ute. With Platinum you also get 22-inch chromed aluminum wheels and power running board.
While I still find the mating of an extravagant 6,000-lb. luxury SUV with hybrid to be an odd concept, the Platinum version is the quintessential top-of-the-line offering in all spheres. With that reasoning, it does follow that an $85,000 vehicle with the Cadillac name and its chic background would offer the best of the best in lavishness as well as performance, and to that end, hybrid does make sense.
Inside is also where the Platinum trim’s extras pay off. Both the Base and Platinum carry the same spaciousness, distinctive instrument panel, continuously lit and backlit gauges with white needles and blue light inlays, leather-covered seats, door trim and center console and a power-assisted rear liftgate that opens and closes with the touch of a button. The Escalade also features 14-way power front seats, DVD audio navigation system, rearview camera system, Bose 5.1 surround sound audio, XM Satellite radio, remote vehicle starter, tri-zone auto climate controls, power fold mirrors with heat, driver information system, heated washer fluid and Bluetooth hands-free capability. With Platinum you also get independent overhead screens in the rear head restraints, heated and cooled seat cushions, power sliding sunroof, Tehama Aniline leather and more inspired trim.
Safety-wise Escalade is at the top of its class with a 5-star rating in crash tests for frontal and side, driver and passenger, front and rear seats. GM has included such safety features as dual frontal air bags, head curtain side air bags for all seating rows, passenger sensing system, Stabilitrak stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring, side blind zone alert and ultrasonic rear park assist.
With a final sticker of $85,885, is the Platinum version of the Escalade Hybrid worth the money? If you have to ask, you probably are not the audience GM is seeking.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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