The Cadillac Escalade is a bit of a curious beast in that it is loved equally by families and rappers. Of course families love schlepping the kids to and from activities in a style that says I’ve arrived, while the gangsta crew wants da biggest and baddest all pimped out wit dubs yo. Ok, so I’m lame, but you get the idea. Enter the Escalade Hybrid. Big, mean and green and sporting some killer chrome 22’s, it might be the perfect ride for this somewhat offbeat family to cruise to a dance competition in Buffalo. Yes, it was one of the kiddies dancing, not me.
Since I was in San Fran, Mrs G picked up Big Red so my introduction involved packing the beast for a long weekend away. There were 6 of us along for the ride, and a need to keep the teenagers and the annoying little brothers separated meant that all seats were coming along for the ride in the upright position. It also meant that the space allotted for stuff was seriously limited. While the center and rear rows of seating are easily removed and reconfigured, the 8 passenger Slade is either an awesome passenger hauler or a gargantuan gear hauler, not both. All that being said, if it were only the 5 of us, we’d remove the rearward seats and have a cargo bay big enough to swallow 2 weeks worth of camping gear and our giant hairball of a dog.
Climbing behind the wheel brings a number of delights. The first thing one notices is the incredibly cool power retractable side step rails. Open a door and these full length steps lower themselves to allow easier cabin access for the vertically challenged. As the Escalade isn’t really all that tall, I found they actually got in my way but the rest of the crew used them. There is no denying that kids and adults alike love seeing them in action. In the front and 2nd row, the premium leather seats are heated which counts in Ontario. The front seats are massively comfortable and the 2nd row bench is wide enough & has enough leg room for 3 adults while the 3rd row is better suited for kids if only because access is a bit tight.
Our tester came with the rear seat entertainment center which includes an 8″ LCD screen with inputs for auxilliary devices like the Playstation that came along with us. At $2,295 this is not a cheap option, but it works really well and is fully integrated with the 10 speaker Bose surround sound system. When the vehicle is in Park, the movie also appears on the Navi screen up front. Very nice for Mom & Dad’s date night. While 4 pairs of wireless headphones would have been nice for this trip, the sound is so good that enjoying a movie we couldn’t see up front was a treat. Believe it or not, there is some pretty decent tunes in the movie Twilight and the Bose system brought them to life. While we’re on the topic of techno goodness, the Escalade comes with just about every toy one would expect at this level. Bluetooth, rain sensing wipers, park assist, rear view camera, blind spot assist and a whole host of other goodies make for a techno playground.
While the inside is more traditional, the outside has been treated to some serious bling. I say tastefully treated, but your view may vary. The massive chrome grille, jeweled front lamps, LED rear lamps are just the starting points. There are strong hits of chrome on the fender vents, body side mouldings, door handles and roof rack and then of course there is the massive bling: chromed 7 spoke 22″ rims. These things catch everyone’s eye. We didn’t have time to wash the truck before we took photos, and yet the rims left wicked reflections on the pavement in most of the photos. Driving through the Ghetto, folks on street corners watched the wheels like a bass follows a Rapala. Obviously we didn’t stop to wait for the fish to hit the bait.
Beyond style, the Escalade Hybrid’s reason for being is to make life with an SUV a little less dependent on dino juice. To simplify things somewhat, the 2 mode hybrid combines a traditional V8 gas engine with electric motors mounted in the transmission. The motors are powered by a big battery that is recharged by those same motors when braking or coasting. It is all pretty advanced technology that works seamlessly. The fun of this drivetrain actually lies in attempting to keep the gas engine off and driving on electric power only. The only other clue that something funny is going on is a bit of an electric motor whine when the system is charging. Economy is further helped by an Active Fuel Management system that shuts down 4 of the 332 horsepower 6.0L V8’s cylinders when cruising. Again a seamless operation that the driver isn’t ever aware of.
The big question is: Does all of this technology actually make a difference in the real world? The answer would be a resounding yes. According to the onboard info center we averaged 12.7 l/100 km during our trip. On the way down, we had the cruise control set to just over 120 kmh and 110 on the way back. Not exactly optimum for an economy run, but certainly real world. To put that 12.7 number into perspective, a couple of years ago we reviewed the Chrysler Aspen which had a comparable 335 horsepower and weighed a full 1000 pounds less than the green Slade. That monster consumed a whopping 18.9 l/100. Pretty impressive stuff!
To put all of this great stuff in your garage is not an inexpensive proposition, with our tester ringing in at $95,995 CDN. Of course consumers looking to show their green side while still having utility that exudes uber hip can’t go wrong. Want the green and the utility but don’t want the whole world to wonder what radio star has rolled into town? Perhaps the Escalade’s brother, the Yukon Hybrid would be a good choice at some 20 grand less. Either way, these haulers offer comfort and capability that far surpasses many smaller SUV’s while getting far better fuel economy. The Escalade Hybrid is a definite winner.