Cadillac has created a new niche for itself by borrowing a concept from Chevrolet and giving it the full luxury treatment. Chevrolet launched its Avalanche sport utility truck in mid-2001, and Cadillac follows with the Escalade EXT, expected at dealerships in January 2002. One of the many crossover vehicles to hit the market this year and introduced in January 2001 at Detroits North American International Auto Show, it blends the luxury cab on an Escalade sport utility vehicle with the cargo bed of a pickup truck. Ford introduced the idea earlier with its Explorer Sport Trac.
Researchers learned that 23 percent of Cadillac owners have a full-size pickup truck, as do 20 percent of luxury car owners in general. So, why not let one Cadillac vehicle do the job of two? In the regular trim, its a five-passenger SUV with full-time all-wheel drive and packs the most powerful engine of any luxury SUV. At a moments notice, said Cadillac General Manager Michael OMalley, the EXT may be transformed into a pickup by dropping the midgate panel between the bed and cabin to turn passenger space into additional cargo area. One competitor is the Lincoln Blackwood, which also debuts in the 2002 model year.
Styling is closely related to the regular Escalade, which was revived as an early 2002 model. The Escalade EXT has a bold look and chiseled forms, but is unmistakably Cadillac. Headlights are incorporated into a single unit with rectangular parking lights and halogen fog lamps. A new wreath-and-crest insignia is mounted up front and on the liftgate. Cast aluminum wheels carry 17-inch tires, and a functional rear step bumper contains a Class Three trailer hitch.
With a wheelbase of 130 inches, the Escalade EXT measures 221.4 inches long overall, 79.5 inches wide and 75.6 inches tall (to the top of its luggage rack). Cargo space can take the form of a carlike trunk or a trucklike bed. Three colors are available: Pewter, Sable Black and White Diamond.
Five occupants fit inside the Escalade EXTs cab. No tools are needed to convert the reconfigurable midgate in minutes, which extends the bed from 5 feet 3 inches to 8 feet 1 inch. The midgate folds into the interior of the cab to create enough space to stow a 4-by-8-foot panel. A three-piece cargo cover and a lockable tailgate protect items. The rear window removes to create more cargo space or allow air circulation, and it stows on board. Luxury amenities include a premium version of GMs OnStar communication system with Personal Calling and Virtual Advisor, which provides access to e-mail.
Under the Hood
The Escalade EXT uses the same 6.0-liter V-8 as the regular all-wheel-drive Escalade. This engine produces 345 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and makes 380 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. It teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. GMs StabiliTrak electronic stability system and Road Sensing Suspension System, which adjusts to various road surfaces, are standard. The EXT can tow up to 8,000 pounds, and Cadillac claims it can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds.
Side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and programmable daytime running lights are standard. An Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist system notifies the driver of objects to the rear while backing up.