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2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Review

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2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

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2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid-Should all Escalades be Hybrids?

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The national average price for regular gasoline is $3.08. Folks in many parts of the country are already paying $3.50 and more. A statement from GM at the 2011 Detroit North American International Auto Show is: “We are ready for $4 a gallon gasoline”. The general consensus among experts is that the price of gasoline will continue upward. Given the future on both fuel prices and reducing consumption, I think if you must drive a Cadillac Escalade, then the hybrid should be the only choice.

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The EPA Fuel Economy estimate for the Escalade Hybrid is 20 City mpg and 23 Highway mpg, both for the rear-wheel and all-wheel drive models. The EPA estimates for the gasoline-engine Escalade is 14 City mpg and 18 Highway mpg for the rear-wheel-drive model and 13 City mpg and 18 Highway mpg for the all-wheel-drive model. An approximate 50% improvement in City and nearly 30% in Highway fuel economy comes with the Hybrid. That’s significant.

A wonderful feature of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is the Auto Stop Mode, a stop/start system for the gasoline engine. Stop at a traffic light and the engine shuts off; dead silence from under the hood; the light turns green, step on the accelerator and the engine restarts seamlessly. Enter a parking garage; stop for the ticket; the engine shuts off; drive up the ramps and into a parking space purely on the battery-powered electric motor. Stop/start is expected to become more prevalent in all powertrains to conserve fuel and emit no tailpipe emissions.

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I drove a 2011 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Platinum Hybrid with a total vehicle price of $89,090. Wow! But it comes with everything. It would be easier to list what it doesn’t have. It can seat up to 8, tow 5600 pounds and has 16.9 cuft of cargo space behind the 3rd seat, or 60.3 cuft if you remove them and a total of 108.9 cuft behind the front two seats. Room for lots of precious cargo. (IMG_0802)

The two-mode hybrid power train is the combination of a 332 horsepower 6.0L V8, a 300-volt battery for the hybrid propulsion electric system and an electrically variable transmission. The hybrid system itself generates electric power used to propel the vehicle. When the brakes are applied or the vehicle is coasting, the electric motors within the hybrid system create electricity that is stored in the 300-volt battery. The standard gasoline engine Escalade is equipped with a 403 horsepower 6.2L V8. The Hybrid model is about 400 pounds heavier.

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The Cadillac Escalade Platinum has all the luxury comfort and convenience features one would expect and then some. Included are a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated and cooled cup holders, power adjustable pedals, power liftgate, power fold-and-tumble second-row seat for third row access, and DVD entertainment system screens integrated into the front-seat headrests allowing independent operation for different program choices for each passenger.

The Cadillac Escalade is really big. Therefore features like side blind zone alert, ultrasonic rear park assist, and a rear vision camera system help a lot. The retractable assist steps (running boards, to some) and power folding outside mirrors for those garage and narrow-street parking excursions are beneficial. For the price, the only feature I found lacking was a keyless access system.

The Cadillac Escalade rides on 22-inch chrome wheels and features Magnetic Ride Control. It is a real-time damping system that replaces conventional mechanical-valve shocks with electronically controlled shocks filled with a magneto-rheological fluid containing minute iron particles. Under the presence of magnetic charge, the iron particles align to provide damping resistance almost instantly. The system reads the road in millisecond intervals and changes damping in just 5 milliseconds.

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2011 Cadillac Escalade pricing starts at $64,110 with the Escalade Hybrid starting at $74,790. Platinum editions are $85,740 and $89,090, respectively, a $3350 difference. Using the EPA city estimates, the hybrid additional cost could be recovered in 3 years based on $3 per gallon and driving 15,000 miles per year. The Hybrid’s V8 requires regular fuel, whereas the non-hybrid has a premium recommendation but its not required.

Cadillac now has standard Premium Care Maintenance covering scheduled oil changes, tire rotations, filter replacements, and vehicle inspections for four years or 50,000 miles. I’m a proponent of standard maintenance packages since they greatly enhance the ownership experience. Yes the costs are rolled into the purchase price, but this can be less than paying as you go. Better care is provided by the servicing dealer and usually you can get a loaner vehicle at no charge.

The 2011 Cadillac Escalade uses the same platform architecture as the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon and is assembled in Arlington, Texas of 65% U.S./Canadian parts and 31% parts sourced in Mexico.

Other full size luxury SUV’s are on the market such as the Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX470, Infiniti QX56 and Mercedes-Benz Gl-class. The 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is the world’s first hybrid full-size luxury SUV and may be the best choice if you really need to regularly drive a full-size, 4-door luxury SUV to fulfill your most frequent vehicle uses.

Larry Nutson