The Escalade Hybrid base model has an MSRP of $73,425. My rear-wheel-drive test car had the top-of-the-line Platinum trim and cost $86,175, which is the price of a small house in some parts of the country. It's a lot of money, but it'd be worth it after considering how much easier this SUV made my life. That's assuming I had that kind of dough to spend on a car.
Sure, the Escalade is a humongous SUV, but it's something I could get used to driving if I needed all that space on a regular basis. Considering its size, it has a pretty tight turning radius, so pulling a U-turn at the end of the carpool lane was never an issue. Not only is this a large SUV, it's also tall and you get a bit of the roly-poly feel you'd expect when cornering.
Accelerating in the Escalade Hybrid is a surprising treat, though. You'd think it'd feel heavy and sluggish, but it doesn't. It's quick on its feet and responsive; the SUV's hybrid-ness is seamless enough that the average driver wouldn't even notice it switch from gas to electric power and back again. Braking felt a little heavy, but what do you expect when trying to stop that much metal?
Nobody can doubt the sex appeal and versatility of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. You can roll onto a Hollywood lot with the stereo's base booming or a school parking lot and feel at home. My test car was decked out in Silver Lining paint, a pearly light silver color that was all class and no clash.
With the blingy-but-not-overdone hybrid badging on the outside, I wasn't scowled at for driving such a fuel beast. The Escalade Hybrid has a 332-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 engine that's paired to an electric motor, which allows the SUV to stop and cruise at slow speeds on electric power only. The Escalade Hybrid's 2-Mode Hybrid technology improves the SUV's fuel economy significantly in city driving over its non-hybrid model, which gets an EPA-estimated 14/20 mpg city/highway. Don't get too excited, though, this is no Toyota Prius. My rear-wheel-drive Escalade Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 21/22 mpg.
Approaching the Escalade Hybrid is like having the red carpet rolled out for you. Opening any of the doors also folds out the power-retractable running boards, so passengers young and old can climb in easily. The grab handle placement on the inside of the B-pillar helps even more. Have an armful of kids and groceries to load up? A press of the key fob opens the liftgate automatically for you. Want to cool the car down before Grandma gets in? Another press of the key fob starts the car and adjusts it to your preferred temperature settings.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The inside of the Escalade Hybrid is what really stands out as great — well, mostly great. In the front there's plenty of storage to keep family life organized. The in-door storage with a bottleholder in both front doors are great junk collectors. A huge, cavernous center console is large enough to stash a laptop, but I used it to keep the two wireless headphones tucked away.
My favorite feature of all is the heated and cooled cupholders. With the push of a button, your tall soy decaf caramel Frappucino will stay icy that much longer. Want your booty cool, too? Heated and cooled front seats are standard.
In the second row, two cupholders are in the center armrest and two more are stashed at the base of the center console. Heated seats are in the second-row outboard positions. Although the second row doesn't slide back and forth, there's so much legroom back there that my daughters used it as their personal changing room when we headed downtown to the theater after they got out of dance-team practice. Not while I was driving. Safety first.
Access to the third row could definitely use improvement. The second-row outboard seats fold first and then tumble forward to create a passageway. However, the tumbling action requires a bit of muscle power, something kids won't be able to accomplish on their own. For $80,000-plus, I want this to be power-folding. The third row is built for little ones with little legs. I sat back there and had my knees up to my chest. However, there's enough width to comfortably accommodate three kids.
The second- and third-row passengers will be thrilled by the entertainment options in the Escalade. My test car came equipped with not one but three screens for watching DVDs or playing video games; it had an 8-inch flip-down overhead screen in the second row and two 7-inch screens in the back of the front seat head restraints.
The cargo space behind the third row is puny; there's enough space for a light grocery run and an umbrella stroller, but not much more than that. Expanding the cargo space isn't simple, either. You can fold the back of the third row down, but this doesn't create a flat surface. To get more usable cargo space you have to tumble it forward like the second-row seats. Who wants to struggle with that? Many competitors have a fold-flat third row; surely Cadillac can figure out how to do it, too.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
There's so much space in this car that an indefinite number of child-safety-seat configurations is possible. While there are only two sets of easy-to-use Latch connectors in the second row (center and right outboard positions), there's plenty of legroom for rear-facing infant-safety seats, and there's enough width in either the second or third rows to really pack the car seats in. The seat belt buckle receptors are all on flimsy bases (a pet peeve), but the wide seats allowed room for little ones in booster seats to buckle up on their own with enough space to maneuver their little hands.
The Escalade Hybrid doesn't skimp on standard safety features. It has antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system with anti-roll control. It also has standard front- and side-impact airbags for the first row and side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats.
In such a large SUV, blind spots can really be a problem, so I appreciated the standard blind spot warning system. A lighted icon on the side mirror alerted me if there was a car in my blind spot, while a standard backup camera and ultrasonic park assist system gave me an extra set of eyes in the back of my head. I'd have loved park assist for the front of the car, as well.
Because it's a GM product, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is equipped with my favorite safety feature of all time, OnStar communication system, giving you access to a live guardian-angel-like operator to help out in any number of potential safety, maintenance or concierge scenarios.
Get more safety information about the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid here.
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