I’m amazed at what seems to be a considerable amount of variance between the two-mode hybrid system in this Escalade, and the one fitted to the GMC Sierra Hybrid that was also in our press car fleet. The GMC seemed quite apt to slip into EV mode, while the Caddy was all too eager to fire up its 6.0-liter V-8.
Oddly enough, this symptom is exhibited even during light driving. The Sierra could reach approximately 30 mph on electricity alone, but the Escalade could only reach 20 mph (23 on one downhill stretch). I also seem to recall GM claiming that its two-mode hybrids use the electric motor for reverse – odd, then, that backing out of parking spots would almost always trigger the combustion engine to start.
Perhaps this performance was due in part to our brisk weather, or perhaps the Escalade’s battery pack wasn’t fully charged (I couldn’t tell, as GM doesn’t provide the driver with any sort of battery status information). Still, I was underwhelmed, considering the Sierra Hybrid blew me away with the same powertrain.
One area I would love to see improved on all two-mode hybrids is the maximum speed attainable using the electric motors. 25 mph may be sufficient for small neighborhoods and parking lots, but most of the “low-speed” sectors of my neighborhood are rated at 30 to 35 mph. Driving ten under the speed limit may make the most of your hybrid’s green abilities, but it certainly won’t make you popular with other drivers.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I averaged 15.2 mpg commuting to work and about 17 on the highway. That’s disappointingly short of the EPA’s 20/21 numbers. The sudden return to winter temperatures this weekend surely didn’t help the batteries, but frankly, I don’t see how anyone could achieve those numbers on a consistent basis. To get to my paltry results, I had to set cruise at 70 mph on the highway, and I was often 10 mph below the speed limit when puttering around Ann Arbor (quite inadvisable, since most drivers travel between 5 and 10 mph over the speed limit). I wasn’t quite hypermiling, but I certainly did more than the average driver would do to save fuel.
The fault is not with the hybrid technology. I am extremely impressed by the electric motor’s ability to propel the Escalade’s 6000 pounds at speeds up to 20 mph – something difficult to do even in the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The problem is that no amount of two-mode wizardry can turn a heavy, brick-shaped, V-8-powered truck into a fuel sipper.
When it comes to its traditional strengths – power, utility, and in-your-face luxury – the Escalade is better than ever. The interior in particular is a vast improvement from the last generation’s poorly camouflaged pickup truck cabin. It also steers surprisingly well for something this big, although the mushy regenerative brakes are less confidence inspiring.
Bottom line: the Escalade is still a very good luxury truck, but it’s not that inspiring a hybrid.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The two-mode hybrid system doesn’t seem to be as well-integrated in this vehicle as it is in the GMC Sierra Hybrid that we also drove recently, mainly because the Escalade’s brake pedal feel was disconcerting. Sometimes it was too mushy, and other times it was too grabby. Other than that, though, the Escalade Hybrid sails along the freeway with alacrity and is quite nice to drive.
The huge “HYBRID” decals along each side of the vehicle are beyond ridiculous. Thankfully, it looks as if they could easily be peeled off without damaging the vehicle. The “hybrid” badges on the air vents on the front fenders are also big, but they’re not nearly as noticeable. I’m sorry, but it’s rather disingenuous to parade around in a $75,000, three-ton luxury Cadillac SUV and plaster yourself in badging that says, “Hey, look at me! I’m saving the environment!” Prius owners will probably throw eggs at you.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Like Joe D., I also noticed the Escalade Hybrid’s strange-feeling brakes. The Sierra Hybrid’s brakes felt perfectly normal, but the, uh, earth-saving Caddy’s felt almost like unpredictable early Toyota hybrid brakes. I also agree with DeMatio’s appraisal that this is a bit of a poseur’s hybrid. But I must point out that the EPA believes that this powertrain significantly improves the two-wheel-drive Escalade’s fuel economy by up to 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway (12/19 mpg versus 20/21 mpg, although the gasoline-only version uses an engine with 0.2 liter more displacement).
On my 45-mile commute, though, I averaged less than 16 mpg, according to the trip computer – even more disappointing than what I got in the Sierra (which admittedly weighs less). However, as with the Sierra, the transitions between gasoline and electric power were nearly seamless, so the hybrid ‘Slade drives like a normal Caddy SUV (surprisingly sporty handling included), its brakes notwithstanding.
Aside from the fancy powertrain, this Cadillac featured handy power-lowering running boards (imperative for me to climb into this monster), a comfortable and attractive cabin, sharp beige paint, and super-blingy twenty-two-inch wheels.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2009 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Hybrid
Base Price (with destination): $74,185
Price as tested: $75,280
Power Retractable Assist Steps $1,095
Fuel Economy: 20 / 21 / 20 (city/hwy/combined)
Size: Vortec 6.0L V-8
Horsepower: 332 @ 5100 RPM
Torque: 367 @ 4100 RPM
Weight: 6016 lb
22 x 8 in Chromed Aluminum Wheels
P285/45R22 blackwall touring tires