Well, that depends on what you expect of a Cadillac.
If you are expecting a full-size, body-on-frame, SUV experience – then this will be about the most impressively composed, high-tech version of that breed you’ve ever driven. Finding out that you can get fuel economy into the 20’s in day-to-day driving (caveat below) while still being able to tow almost 3 tons and being able to pack 2-3 little kids in the rear-most seat, and 3 average-sized adults in the second row will just be icing on the cake.
However, if you are looking for the BMW hunting heart of the new Cadillac in large SUV form…um, may I show you something else?
The Escalade hybrid drives as well as any big SUV has a right to with more body control than you can buy in a lesser GMT900-based SUV (though the magneto-rheological shocks are also available on the GMC Denali Hybrid).
There is a reason, though, that you don’t see that many on the roads that comprise the tCE test loop – nor do you see many big SUV’s up here, period. They are not well suited to mountain driving unless you happen to be pulling a camper up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The weight and high CG of this type of truck don’t mix well with all the sharp turns.
That said, in anything but full-on mountain driving, the Escalade is comfortable, quiet, but in no way sporty – making it a throw-back to Cadillacs of old (or at least Cadillacs of several years back). It would be the perfect vehicle for someone who needs a full-size tow vehicle but would like to save a few hundred gallons of gas during their ownership – with most of the Cadillac tech toys layered on top. However, if you have bought into the new direction Cadillac is taking – one where sporty driving is as much a part of the Cadillac mystique as comfort and features, then you’ll find yourself craving more.
However, if you are in need of a tow-capable vehicle and also are a fan of hybrids – you can have a lot of fun in-town. We found ourselves playing the standard hybrid tricks of, ‘how far can I get and how fast can I go on all-electric power’ (several blocks and 30mph, respectively, in our testing). So, for in-town driving, we found it to be an absolute hoot. It is also a kick to see how many levels up in a parking garage you can make it before the engine fires – in a few instances, we ran out of garage before we ran out of electric propulsion.
We did take note of one issue…’hybrid’ is not a silver bullet for fuel economy where you buy this technology and will see magical fuel savings with no further effort. If you drive this as you might any conventional car – there is a good chance you will never run in electric from a stop. Any more than a feather-light throttle foot will immediately engage the engine and negate most of the fuel economy benefit of the hybrid system. It helps to switch the DIC over into its instantaneous fuel economy display, which shows if you are in ‘auto-stop’ (i.e. electric drive) or V-8 vs. V-4 mode. Only by attempting to keep it in the auto-stop during take-off and V-4 on the highway will you see the better part of the hybrid benefit. If that sounds like torture to you – this isn’t the vehicle for you. Hybrid power allows you to do things no conventional car can do – but you have to be a willing participant.
Almost as fun as running in electric as long as possible was being able to sit in a parking lot, with the key to ‘on’ and enjoying listening to the entertainment options with the engine in ‘auto-stop’ but the A/C blasting (the A/C, like other accessories like power-steering, are electrically driven to allow for engine-off driving).
So, ultimately, the Escalade Hybrid is what it set out to be – the Cadillac of full-size, body-on-frame SUVs – just not the Art & Science Cadillac of SUVs. To the people who love them, that is all they could ever want.