Orlando Sentinel's view

With apologies to Mrs. Fox, my English teacher, I do know the meaning of the word “practical,” yet I insist upon applying it to the $60,000 2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT.

Bear with me, Mrs. Fox. The EXT will carry five adults in the sort of leather-clad, wood-trimmed comfort you would expect from a Cadillac — rear-seat passengers can even tune into the DVD player and listen in on wireless headphones. With all-wheel drive, the EXT will go most anywhere you want, though few off-roaders would be willing to scratch that glossy black paint. With a covered bed in the back, you could carry horse manure and still look stylish. And since that cover is watertight, you would probably still smell stylish, too. With a 6.2-liter V-8 under the hood, matched to the latest six-speed automatic transmission, you could tow a 7,600-pound trailer. And with 403 horsepower, you could probably surprise some punks at the drag strip.

That’s the argument for practical. I fully acknowledge that the EXT weighs nearly 3 tons, gets 13 miles per gallon in the city, prefers premium gasoline, lists as equipped for $60,485, and with an overall length of 222 inches, is more than 5 feet longer than a Toyota Yaris hatchback.

So let’s agree on this one point, then: The 2007 Cadillac Escalade EXT is the most practical of the three Escalade models, OK? OK.

The EXT is, after all, an ultra-deluxe version of the Chevrolet Avalanche, while the regular Escalade is an upscale Chevrolet Tahoe, and the Escalade ESV is the nicest Chevrolet Suburban ever built. Although I’m not sure who would use the Escalade EXT for work, it’s certainly capable.

Like the Avalanche, the Escalade EXT has the innovative “Midgate,” a panel behind the rear seats that can be folded into the cabin, enabling the cargo area to expand from 5 feet to 8 feet, for a total of 101 cubic feet of covered cargo room. This is not a good idea for carrying horse manure, though. A lockable tonneau covers the cargo bed, or it can be removed entirely in three segments if you have something tall that needs to ride in the bed.

Inside, the test EXT was absolutely loaded, with heated and cooled front seats and a navigation system that is linked to OnStar, and features turn-by-turn directions available from a live person who is not your mother-in-law. Stereo is Bose surround-sound.

Under the hood, that all-aluminum 6.2-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission differentiates the Escalade EXT from the Chevy Avalanche, which has, as the largest available engine, a 6.0-liter, 366-horsepower V-8, and a four-speed automatic transmission. Both those engines are powerhouses, but the Cadillac’s six-speed transmission manages that power better.

Practical? Yeah, it’s a stretch. But no other vehicle I know of can serve so many masters.

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