2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

In a league of its own

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

Long ago the name Cadillac was synonymous with luxury, affluence and quality. Driving a Cadillac meant you were successful, financially secure and appreciated the finer things in life. Fast-forward to modern day and it’s unlikely that many people can put their finger on what exactly Cadillac is or what driving one means.

FAST FACTS

1. The Escalade is the first production hybrid to ever wear a Cadillac crest.

2. Escalade’s Two-Mode Hybrid system combines a 6.0L gas-powered V8 with two 60-kilowatt motors and a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride Energy Storage System (ESS).

3. City fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg versus the 12 mpg of its 6.2L petrol-powered sibling.

Without a doubt, Cadillac’s most popular and widely recognizable nameplate, the Escalade, has been made famous by appearing in rap videos and the driveways of professional athletes.

The Escalade Hybrid represents a fascinating dichotomy as it combines lavish comfort and grandiose dimensions with green technology designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Less likely to be concerned with fuel prices than the majority of the population, those who purchase the Escalade Hybrid will likely do so either to reduce their carbon footprint slightly, without compromising status and comfort, or to save face from those who frown upon driving a gargantuan SUV that seats eight and tips the scales at 6,161 lbs.

TWO-MODE HYBRID USES V8, TWO ELECTRIC MOTORS AND BATTERIES

Thankfully, the Escalade compensates for its hefty proportions by offering a robust 6.0-liter V8 that makes 332 hp at 5100rpm and 367 ft-lbs of torque at 4300 rpm, which is significantly less than its strictly petroleum-powered sibling but certainly not anemic at any speed.

The first hybrid to ever wear a Cadillac wreath and crest, the Escalade’s Two-Mode Hybrid system combines the aforementioned gas-powered V8 with two 60-kilowatt motors and a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride Energy Storage System (ESS) along with an Electronically Variable Transmission (EVT). Not only is this system capable of propelling the vehicle at lower speeds, but it is also used in conjunction with displacement on demand, which allows the vehicle to operate in four-cylinder mode under certain driving conditions where the power of all eight cylinders is not required.

Unlike previous attempts at this advanced fuel saving technology, the transition between four and six cylinders is undetectable, as is the transition to hybrid mode. Paying close attention to learning the behavior of the Escalade’s various systems and discovering what technology is being used to optimize fuel savings will allow a driver to alter his or her driving habits accordingly. This, in turn, will allow drivers to further minimize the impact on environment and wallet alike.

A host of other technological features make navigating busy city streets and tiny parking spots feasible, at least in theory. The side blind zone alert lights that appear on the giant side mirrors, rearview camera system and ultrasonic rear parking assist system were all welcome additions to prevent scratching off the hundreds of gallons of high gloss paint it must have taken to cover the truck from top to bottom.

EXCESSIVE “HYBRID” BADGING

Along with all that premium paint, the Escalade is covered in a whole foundry worth of chrome and badging. While some owners may revel in the Hybrid badges pasted across various parts of the exterior, I think it is terribly gaudy. Being socially aware is commendable, but pasting nine ‘Hybrid’ logos across the vehicle’s exterior alone seems akin to tattooing ‘against animal testing’ on your forehead. And back. And arms. And legs. You get the idea.

EXCESSIVE USE OF PLASTIC IN A PREMIUM VEHICLE

I was sorely disappointed by the Escalade Hybrid, but it had nothing to do with the hybrid system. The technology works seamlessly, capably and effectively. The interior however, leaves much to be desired.

Consisting of plastic made to look like brushed aluminum, plastic meant to look like leather and plastic vaguely reminiscent of glossy wood, the majority of the interior not only contrasts with the quality of the exterior fit and finish, it simply looks downright cheap for any vehicle – let alone one that costs nearly six figures when fully loaded. It defies comprehension how GM could let this slide for their flagship vehicle in 2009 when it has been a unanimous grievance by the press and public alike across their entire fleet since the 1990s. If they don’t get it by now, my thoughts are that they never will. But I digress.

While the interior does share many pieces with stable mates and siblings Yukon and Tahoe, I wish that the dash-mounted controls had been carried over. Whether you want to change the Bose sound system from XM satellite radio to a CD, or turn on the heated/cooled seats, or adjust the dual climate control, the driver’s attention is stolen away from the road for far too long. The many various controls are both poorly located and labeled, making even the smallest adjustments a big hassle while driving.

AT HOME ON THE OPEN ROAD, BUT FUEL-SAVINGS IN THE CITY

Aside from the aforementioned grievances, the Escalade Hybrid is generally a treat to drive and even nicer to be chauffeured around in. Despite its size and stature, it actually feels like a smaller vehicle than it is. Hardly as nimble as a Lotus, it does have an incredibly tight turning radius and is easily maneuvered around town. Out on the open road is where the Escalade feels most at home but sees the largest fuel savings when driven around town. City fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg versus the 12 mpg of its 6.2-liter petrol-powered sibling. Highway fuel economy for the Hybrid is rated at 21 mpg.

THE VERDICT

The Escalade is touted as the only large premium SUV with hybrid technology currently on the market, so it seems the obvious choice for those looking for a vehicle with such attributes. There are far more differences between the Escalade and its Denali, Yukon and Tahoe siblings than years past where they shared nearly everything aside from body cladding, grills and badges. Unless you really crave the added prestige that comes with the chromed and crested Cadillac Hybrid and consistently need seating for eight, chances are the added benefits of the Escalade really don’t justify the base price of $74,085 ($94,295 CDN), which easily ascends towards the heavens when optioned out.

PLUS

Turning radius and maneuverability Supple ride without being billowy Backup camera and blindspot indicator

MINUS

Trademark GM plastic interior shared with Yukon and Tahoe Lag between gears under hard acceleration Poorly arranged and located dash controls