BY Rory Carroll | autoweek.com What is it? Following the Mini…
The Challenge: Proving “Green” in an Escalade
I have driven some good-sized SUVs in my day, but, after nearly a decade of metropolitan living, I admit that even I have found it difficult to believe that we need to drive utility vehicles as super-sized and overstuffed as the furniture we cram into our houses. And I wasn’t quite on board with the ‘put a hybrid drivetrain in it and it’s automatically green’ mentality. That’s why I requested to check out the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid for a week.
My husband, Mark, and I had a trip planned to Asheville, North Carolina for a dear friend’s wedding. I figured that 960 miles and eight hours of driving would be the perfect opportunity to test the Escalade Hybrid’s comfort, swagger, and fuel efficiency.
One tank, 430 miles – in an Escalade
The first leg of our excursion landed us in Hickory, N.C. – my hometown. A quick overnight stay with my parents allowed us to say hello and to do some furniture shopping. I was surprised that the Escalade Hybrid got us there on one tank – that’s 430 miles in a three-ton truck without stopping to fill up. We averaged 18-19 miles per gallon on our way there – pretty impressive for an Escalade, but not mind-blowing.
Driving Impressions full of luxury
The Cadillac Escalade is a vehicle of girth, yet it doesn’t ride like a ‘big truck’. It is surprisingly smooth – like a boat on a calm, glassy lake. It is neither cumbersome to navigate nor maneuver, but rather, the Escalade Hybrid glides along the highway with ease. I even found it easy to parallel park in the city limits, thanks to the large side mirrors and backup camera.
The driver and passengers get almost an equal amount of enjoyment from the ride. I say “almost” because the driver is the only one who can’t sit in the back, watch DVDs and truly veg out on a long road trip.
This Escalade came stocked with a luscious chocolate-brown leather interior as part of its Platinum package. I found the rich interior perfectly paired with the truck’s pearl white exterior, making this Escalade a white chocolate truffle with a dark chocolate center – simply delectable.
“Whether city or highway travel, I loved driving everywhere in this car. I found myself making excuses to drive it.”
There is no color more beautiful on the Cadillac Escalade than White Diamond Tricoat. I don’t know how a paint color in itself exudes luxury, but this does it. The chrome accents from nose to tail, however, straddle a fine line between classy and gaudy.
The technology of the Escalade Hybrid’s drivetrain is fascinating. It only uses all eight cylinders when it needs to, and it runs in EV mode when rolling at parking lot speeds. You don’t hear it coming. Imagine not being able to hear an SUV of this stature as it’s cruising through a small downtown street. This is where I geeked out.
The car’s entertainment and navigation system was simple and straightforward to use. We relied on it to get us around Asheville for wedding events and to our hotel. It never steered us wrong.
The only technology that I found disappointing was the in-car Bluetooth. I had a few business calls to take while on my way down, and the microphones just did not match up to the quality of the rest of the car. Everyone I spoke with said it was as though I was talking from far away and the sound quality was fuzzy. I’d expect more from a ride with a $85,000 price tag, especially when I can make calls in an entry-level car that sound much better. It may have been an isolated issue with this particular vehicle, but it’s worth noting.
My favorite feature overall, is the automatic step rail. I’m 5’7” and don’t usually have difficulty getting into vehicles high off the ground, but the Escalade swallowed me. The fact that Cadillac put thought into having the step rails appear perfectly in place upon opening the door is genius. Any person of any size can now drive this car comfortably. At just 5’2″, even my mom could get in and out of this Cadillac easily.
Who is the Escalade Hybrid for?
I think the Escalade falls into two categories of buyers – businessmen who travel a lot and take their families on long road trips during the weekends and summertime and people who like to cart a lot of their friends around to cruise the streets in style.
A few final thoughts
I came away from this driving experience asking one major question – why aren’t all full-size SUVs built with this hybrid technology? It just makes sense. If we can conserve fuel and cylinders when they’re not needed, then we should. I love a V8 power hauler as much as the next car gal – especially one that can seat the whole fam comfortably – but the Escalade Hybrid opened my eyes.
To answer my earlier challenge, it is possible to be green in an Escalade. You’re not going to get Prius mileage, but if we’re coming from the perspective that every little bit helps, and you need a seven-seater to cart your family around, then why not go for the full effect of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid?