Last year, Cadillac created a new niche for itself by borrowing a concept from Chevrolet and giving it the full luxury treatment. Chevrolet had launched its Avalanche sport utility truck in mid-2001, and Cadillac followed with the Escalade EXT, which reached dealerships early in 2002. One of many crossover models to hit the market that year, the Escalade EXT blends the luxury cab of the Escalade sport utility vehicle with the cargo bed of a pickup truck. Ford actually introduced the idea earlier with its Explorer Sport Trac.
Why mix two kinds of vehicles into one consolidated model? Researchers learned that 23 percent of Cadillac owners and 20 percent of luxury-car owners in general also possess a full-size pickup truck. So it made sense to let one Cadillac vehicle do the job of two. The Escalade EXT is exposing Cadillac to new generations and new categories of buyers [who previously] may not have considered a Cadillac vehicle, says Marketing Director Susan Docherty.
In the regular trim level, the Escalade EXT is a five-passenger SUV with full-time all-wheel drive (AWD). It packs the most powerful engine of any luxury SUV, and this power plant is also used in the Escalade ESV. The EXT may be transformed from its SUV-like form into a pickup whenever necessary simply by dropping the midgate panel between the bed and the cabin; this turns passenger space into additional cargo area. The only real direct competitor to the Escalade EXT is the Lincoln Blackwood, which also debuted in the 2002 model year; however, the Blackwood will fade away as the 2003 season begins.
Changes for 2003 echo those of the regular Escalade. New modifications include high-intensity-discharge headlights and the availability of XM Satellite Radio and a Panasonic DVD entertainment system. StabiliTrak, GMs electronic stability system, has been upgraded to four-channel operation. Power-adjustable brake and gas pedals are new, the mirrors now have turn-signal indicators, the instrument panel has been restyled, and second-row bucket seats are now optional.
The Escalade EXTs styling is close to that of the regular Escalade, which was revived as an early 2002 model. Although the EXT has a bold look and chiseled forms, its unmistakably Cadillac. The headlights are incorporated into a single unit with rectangular parking lights and halogen fog lamps. A wreath-and-crest insignia is mounted up front and on the liftgate. Cast-aluminum wheels carry 17-inch tires, and the functional rear step bumper contains a Class III trailer hitch.
The Escalade EXT has a 130-inch wheelbase, and it measures 221.4 inches long overall, 79.5 inches wide and 75.6 inches tall (to the top of its luggage rack). The cargo area can take the form of a carlike trunk or a trucklike bed.
Five occupants fit inside the Escalade EXTs cab. No tools are necessary to convert the reconfigurable midgate in minutes. The midgate extends the bed from 5 feet 3 inches long to 8 feet 1 inch long. 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
Like the regular AWD Escalade and the Escalade ESV, the EXT uses a 6.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 345 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 380 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. It teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Standard features include StabiliTrak and the Road Sensing Suspension System, which adjusts to various road surfaces. The EXT can tow as much as 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. Dual-stage airbags and a passenger-sensing system are new for 2003. An Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist system notifies the driver of objects to the rear while backing up.