2011 Escalade New Car Test Drive
The Cadillac Escalade is big and powerful, capable of towing trailers of up to 8300 pounds. Escalade seats seven in its most popular configuration. It's a stylish truck, with a bold and sculpted look. Escalade comes in three body styles: Escalade, ESV, and EXT.
The standard Escalade is a full-size sport utility sharing the same architecture and roughly the same dimensions as the Chevy Tahoe.
Escalade ESV is a long-wheelbase version of the Escalade. Similar in size to the Chevrolet Suburban, the ESV is 21 inches longer than the regular Escalade. That adds up to more third-row seating room and nearly triple the cargo space behind the third-row seats. Plus, middle passengers get windows that roll all the way down. The wheelbase is 14 inches longer, which makes for a smoother ride.
Escalade EXT is a five-passenger luxury SUV with a short pickup bed. The EXT is Cadillac's version of the Chevrolet Avalanche and features the clever Midgate that converts the rear seats into additional pickup space. A removable window and Midgate behind the rear seat make for versatile hauling options, including a pair of dirt bikes, 101 cubic feet of lockable space, or 4x8 building materials. Its combination of luxury and capability makes for an interesting hauler or tow vehicle.
All Escalade versions are roomy and luxuriously appointed, letting them haul family or friends or business associates in real comfort. The engine supplies serious power for surprisingly quick acceleration. On the road, all Escalades are smooth and stable. They ride smoother than a standard Tahoe or Suburban yet at the same time are taut and well-controlled for surprisingly good handling by full-size SUV standards. The Escalade models deliver the comfort and amenities of a luxury sedan, including automatic climate control, heated leather seats, navigation, rearview camera, premium Bose audio, ultrasonic parking assist, and power-adjustable pedals. DVD entertainment systems and a moonroof are also available. For 2011, the standard OnStar system has upgraded voice recognition software.
Built on GM's full-size truck platform, the Escalade comes with a 403-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management, which shuts off half the engine's cylinders in certain conditions in order to reduce fuel consumption. All Escalade models make excellent tow vehicles. They share their platforms with the Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, and Silverado. Escalade gets an EPA-estimated 13/18 miles per gallon City/Highway.
The Escalade Hybrid is notably easier on fuel than the standard Escalade, with EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20/21 mpg City/Highway. Available only in the standard Escalade body style, the hybrid gas-electric powertrain shares technology with the Tahoe/Yukon two-mode hybrids.
Meanwhile, a luxurious Platinum option is available for all three Escalade versions that includes every amenity Cadillac offers, including color-contrast-stitched Tehama leather with French seams and embroidered logos, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled cupholders, multiple DVD entertainment systems, and LED headlamps. Towing trailers doesn't get any more luxurious than this, and it offers luxurious cruising for passengers, as well. Our 2011 test vehicle was the ultimate: an ESV AWD Platinum, which explains the big price.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade comes standard with a 403-hp 6.2-liter V8 engine, a 6-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, and Autoride suspension. The Escalade Hybrid features a 6.0-liter V8 that develops 322 horsepower linked to two electric motors that take stored energy from the battery system and use it to power the vehicle in certain conditions.
The 2011 Escalade is available with rear-wheel drive ($63,160) or all-wheel drive ($65,710). Standard features include leather upholstery (all three rows); three-zone climate control; DVD navigation with rearview camera; Bose 5.1 Surround Sound, XM radio and NavTraffic; Bluetooth; rear park assist; power liftgate; 14-way power heated front seats; driver memory; adjustable pedals; 50/50-split removable third-row seats; power tilt wood-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel; HID headlamps; heated, power folding mirrors; rain-sensing wipers; roof rack; running boards; and trailer hitch and wiring.
Options include rear roof-mounted DVD entertainment ($1,295), 60/40-split rear bench seat with heaters outboard (no charge), a variety of wheel packages, engine block heater ($75). The Luxury Package ($6,115) includes heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, power fold-tumble second-row seats, moonroof, automatic high beams, Side Blind Zone Alert, 22-inch wheels, and Magnetic Ride Control.
The Escalade ESV 2WD ($65,765) and ESV AWD ($68,265) are equipped the same as the standard Escalade, except the rear entertainment system ($1,895) has two screens mounted from the ceiling.
The Escalade EXT ($61,885) is a pickup truck with a big five-seat cabin using ESV rear side doors. The EXT does not offer bucket rear seats, so the Luxury Package is less expensive ($5,180); otherwise the EXT comes with or offers everything available with the standard Escalade.
Escalade Hybrid 2WD ($73,840) and 4WD ($76,390) are equipped like the standard Escalade with the Luxury Package. The Hybrid comes with a 60/40-split rear bench seat only, to allow for the battery pack underneath it.
Escalade Platinum 2WD ($82,290) and 4WD ($84,790) and an Escalade ESV Platinum 2WD ($84,845) and 4WD ($87,345) include everything in the Luxury Package plus upgraded aniline leather with French seams, color-contrast stitching and the Cadillac logo embroidered in the front seats. Additional leather is used for trim on the dash, center console, and doors, complemented by unique wood and aluminum trim, door sills and floor mats. Platinum models also include LED headlamps, heated and cooled cupholders, and an independent DVD entertainment screen in each front seat headrest in addition to the one overhead.
Safety features on all Escalade models include anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes with EBD and Brake Assist; and StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover sensing. Passive safety features include front seat belts with pretensioners and load-limiters, dual front airbags, side airbags for outboard front seats, and side-curtain airbags that span all three rows of seats. Tire-pressure monitors and OnStar 9.0 are also standard.
The latest-generation OnStar system, with a one-year Directions and Connections service plan, includes the Advanced Automatic Crash Notification system, making crash data available to emergency services so they can potentially dispatch the appropriate life-saving personnel and equipment to crash scenes faster. If the vehicle is in a crash that activates an airbag, the OnStar system automatically notifies an OnStar Advisor, who will check on the occupants and summon emergency help. OnStar also can assist authorities in locating a vehicle if it is reported stolen or is off a paved road but still in contact with the satellites.