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.
A sliding load floor that holds about a half-ton of cargo has been added to 2006 models, and a power-sliding tonneau cover is newly optional.
Optional equipment includes touch-screen navigation and a DVD-based backseat entertainment system that features a 7-inch flip-down screen. General Motors' OnStar communication system, XM Satellite Radio and a tire-pressure monitor are standard.
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).
Five occupants fit inside the Escalade EXT's cab, which includes a 60/40-split rear bench seat. 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.
Removing the rear window creates more cargo space and allows better air circulation; the window stows onboard. Luxury amenities include a premium version of the OnStar communication system and a seven-speaker Bose sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer.
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 the StabiliTrak electronic stability system and a Road Sensing Suspension System that adjusts to various road surfaces. An 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.
Functions on the Escalade EXT work as promised, and its performance rivals that of the 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.