2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

The bad boy of the oil-driven, real estate excess that led to the collapse of the automotive industry is back.

GM got blasted for producing mammoth V8 oversized gas-guzzling SUV’s that the poor unsuspecting public seemed to be buying in droves. The fact that they were rolling off dealer lots right up until the banks started repossessing them matters little to the pundits looking to assign blame to anyone but the individuals living beyond their means.

For anyone still looking for bling, the obvious downside of the Escalade was its notorious appetite for fuel following the surge in fuel prices in 2008. Well GM figured that the Escalade would be an ideal candidate for its 2 stage Hybrid technology given the public fascination with the Escalade and the need to reduce oil consumption. The GM hierarchy figured that as trucks made up such a large segment of the automotive market and used more fuel than smaller vehicle, the most significant cuts in oil usage would be achieved through cutting the consumption of the popular gas-guzzlers.

Cadillac Ecalade Hybrid

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

The 2009 Escalade Hybrid is the fruit of their labour and the result is a surprise to say the least.

Visually the Escalade is the same blend of high angled sheet metal with liberal doses of chromed trim that the regular model has become. The differences start with what the chrome signifies. Look closely and the large chrome vents on the front fenders which are filled with the word “Hybrid”, which amusingly is more noticeable than the regular smaller text “Escalade” that fills the spot. Our tester had the word “Hybrid emblazoned in applied stickers on the front Windshield, rear glass lift-gate and the bottoms of the front driver and passenger doors. Hopefully, there was little chance I was going to be accosted by Greenpeace fanatics in this monster.

Cadillac Hybrid

Cadillac Hybrid Emblem

The truth was, as I drove the vehicle I was met with a healthy dose of cynicism from other drivers and lookers-on as to the whether this was really a hybrid and even if it was, what would it matter on such a large vehicle.

Mechanically the Escalade Hybrid is powered by a 6.0L multi-displacement V8 engine as well as two 80HP electric motors built into transmission. In low demand situations, the vehicle runs on the battery-powered electric motors till more oomph is required. Then the gas engine fires up and adds motivation. However, with the gas engine providing only as much as needed, and the battery supplying power throughout the full operating range, the engine will throttle back to 4-cylinder operation. This occurs not only on highway usage, but also around town in most applications other than initial acceleration off the line.

So to answer all the naysayers ridiculing the hi-tech leviathan, I have to report that the fuel economy testing done was surprising to say the least. With a typical V8 equipped vehicle yielding 16-18L per 100 kms, our fuel calculations showed the big red transport sipped fuel at a rate of 12.5L per 100 kms roughly about the same as a mid-size V6 sedan in city driving. This translates into about a 40% reduction in fuel consumption.

In terms of driving dynamic, Cadillac engineers have done a wonderful job mitigating the typical issues encountered on other hybrid models, such as the all or nothing nature of the regenerative brakes and the smooth integration of the hybrid power supplement.

Overall I was more than pleased with the effort until I found out what it cost. Our tester came fully loaded, as you would expect an Escalade to. However the price as tested including a destination charge of $1420, retractable running boards, Infrared Red paint, Rear seat entertainment $2295 and $100 excise tax, which tipped the scales at $97,415 before taxes. I began to feel slighted. Was this an effort by GM to keep Cadillac, its premier brand, in the hands of the corporate elite, Rap stars or lottery winners?

Well, what happened next provided me with the warmest and fuzziest feelings for this gentle giant of a vehicle. What better way to test a large SUV than to pack up and head out for a road trip? Well a short overnight trip to Niagara Falls was as far as we could venture given our schedule. As we toured the Niagara Parkway heading to our hotel I was giddy as the sight of this chromed monster rolling along in sightseeing traffic, running only on battery power at 30 kms/hr. It was just our little secret as I am sure everyone else was still heaping scorn on me. I cared little as I watched the tachometer pegged at “OFF”.

Eventually we arrived at the Hilton Hotel for check-in and I was somewhat miffed at having to pay just under $24 for valet parking. I guess if we were living the Escalade lifestyle, we were obliged to dig deep and do our park for the economy. As I handed the keys to the valet desk, I reluctantly offered “Cadillac”, to be met by “Model?”. “Uhhh Escalade, ……. But it’s a Hybrid so don’t judge me”. The valet captain then floored me, “well you don’t pay for parking” “WHAT?” “Yes sir, no charge for parking a Hybrid at our hotel”.

With a spring in my step and a smile on my face, I strode through the lobby and up to the room, knowing that at that rate, I only had just over 4000 more nights of free Hilton parking to pay for my shiny new environmentally friendlier Escalade.

About the Author

Rod Cleaver has a varied background including 10 years with CAA Central Ontario. He has been an Automotive journalist for the past 5 years, including his current post as the Automotive Editor of a local community newspaper.