Cadillac created a new niche for itself in 2002 by borrowing a concept from Chevrolet and giving it the full luxury treatment. Chevrolet had already launched its Avalanche, and Cadillac followed with the Escalade EXT, which blends the luxury cab of an Escalade sport utility vehicle 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. The EXT may be transformed into a pickup whenever necessary by simply dropping the midgate panel between the bed and the cabin; this turns passenger space into additional cargo area.
For 2005, the interior gets a premium instrument cluster and burled walnut trim. Touchscreen navigation includes a 6.5-inch screen, and GM's OnStar communication system gains upgraded hands-free capability. A new 60/40-split rear bench is installed. Standard features include XM Satellite Radio and a tire-pressure monitor.
The Escalade EXT's styling closely resembles that of the regular Escalade. The headlights are incorporated into a single unit with rectangular parking lights and halogen fog lamps. The company's 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 inches long overall, 79.5 inches wide and 76 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 EXT's cab. The midgate extends the bed from 5 feet 3 inches long to 8 feet 1 inch, 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. Removing the rear window creates more cargo space and allows better air circulation; the window stows onboard. Luxury amenities include a premium version of OnStar.
Under the Hood
Like the regular all-wheel-drive Escalade and the Escalade ESV, the Escalade EXT uses a 6.0-liter V-8 that produces 345 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque. 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 7,300 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 warns of objects to the rear while backing up.
Everything in the Escalade EXT functions as promised, and its performance rivals that of a regular Escalade. But the utility of the pickup bed at the back is debatable. Even more than a standard Escalade, the EXT comes across as an example of sheer excess at a time when oversize vehicles are losing favor.