Cadillac created a new niche for itself two years ago by borrowing a concept from Chevrolet and giving it the full luxury treatment. Chevrolet had already launched its Avalanche sport utility vehicle in mid-2001, and Cadillac followed with the Escalade EXT; it reached dealerships early in 2002. One of several crossover models to hit the market that year, the Escalade EXT blended the luxury cab of the Escalade SUV with the cargo bed of a pickup truck.
In its regular form, the Escalade EXT is a five-passenger SUV with full-time all-wheel drive. It packs the most powerful engine of any luxury SUV and is identical to the one 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 Escalade EXT gains XM Satellite Radio, a trailering package and a tire-pressure monitor as standard equipment for 2004. In addition, a sunroof and a backseat entertainment system can now be combined.
The styling of the Escalade EXT closely resembles that of the regular Escalade, which was revived as an early 2002 model. Even though the EXT has a bold look and chiseled forms, its unmistakably a Cadillac. The headlights are incorporated into a single unit with rectangular parking lights and halogen fog lamps. The companys wreath-and-crest insignia is mounted up front and on the liftgate. Cast-aluminum wheels carry 17-inch tires.
The Escalade EXT is built on a 130-inch wheelbase and 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. Tools arent necessary when converting the reconfigurable midgate, and it takes just minutes to transform. The midgate extends the bed from 5 feet 3 inches long to 8 feet 1 inch long, and it 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 onboard. Luxury amenities include a premium version of GMs OnStar communication system.
Under the Hood
Like the regular all-wheel-drive Escalade and the Escalade ESV, the Escalade 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. The engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Standard features include StabiliTrak and a Road Sensing Suspension System that adjusts to various road surfaces. The EXT can tow as much as 7,400 pounds.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, antilock brakes and programmable daytime running lights are standard. Dual-stage front airbags operate with a passenger-sensing system. Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist notifies the driver of objects to the rear while the vehicle is backing up.