2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Expert Review

You'll Like The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid If...

If your driving life demands plenty of room for people plus cargo, along with luxury amenities and a brash aura, the Escalade could be your breed of SUV.

You May Not Like The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid If...

Full-size dimensions translate into big dollars at the gas pump. If fuel economy is more important than towing ability, you may want to check out the Escalade Hybrid.

What's New

A hybrid model joins the line later in the model year promising a 50-percent improvement in city fuel economy. New features on the gasoline-only Escalade include power tilt steering wheel, Side Blind Zone Alert, an OnStar navigation enhancement and, exclusive to the Platinum Series, LED headlights.

Interior Features

Seating is available for six to eight passengers. No exposed fasteners are visible, close-out panels conceal seat hardware, pillars are fabric-wrapped and the instrument panel's low and forward placement provides more interior room. The seats have sculpted backs to enhance interior space, and both recline and seat-track travel are quite generous. Second-row feature a power assisted fold and tumble feature. Gauges are large enough, but blue pointers impair readability. Sadly, there's no driver's grab handle, and the passenger handle is a long reach.

Exterior Features

The Escalade's clean, proportional exterior places an emphasis on precision, with glossy paint, tight fitting body panels and real feel of solidity and craftsmanship. The huge chrome grille wears the new face of Cadillac and is flanked by triple-stack headlamps. A unique D-pillar treatment and doors that wrap over the rocker panels complete the look. Ventiports adorn the front fenders and the windshield is steeply raked for both style and aerodynamic efficiency. The wide track is complemented by a coil-over-shock suspension and a boxed frame for greater torsional stiffness. Standard wheels and tires are 18-inch, but hard-to-miss 22-inch versions are available.

Driving Impressions

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade's performance is energetic, but not exactly dramatic; hitting the gas at lower speeds doesn't always produce vigorous response, while engine noise during acceleration doesn't sound exactly Cadillac-like. Automatic-transmission shifts are impressively smooth, though on upgrades it sometimes seems uncertain what to do next. Handling isn't really truck-like but, in curves, it doesn't feel like a sports car, either, although the steering feel is more pleasing and precise than with previous Escalades. Expect a smooth ride on good surfaces, although minor bumps will get through, especially with the larger-diameter tires and wheels.

Pricing Notes

With all-wheel drive, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $64,500, while the two-wheel-drive version starts around $62,000. The Escalade's pricing places it well above the Lincoln Navigator, BMW X5 and Infiniti QX56, and far below the Land Rover Range Rover HSE and Lexus GX 470. Fair Purchase Prices, which represent what consumers are actually paying, are updated frequently, so be sure to click on Fair Purchase Prices to compare. The 2009 Escalade trumps the Lincoln Navigator when it comes to resale values, but unfortunately falls behind those of the BMW X5 and Lexus GX 470.

Notable Equipment

A power rear liftgate heads the list of standard features in the amply-equipped 2009 Cadillac Escalade. Compatibility brackets, built into the front frame, are intended to reduce damage to other vehicles in certain collisions. Side-curtain airbags include tethers for enhanced rollover protection, front seatbelt pretensioners activate in rear impacts – said to be an "industry-exclusive" feature – and the StabiliTrak stability control system incorporates rollover mitigation technology. Audiophiles can enjoy Bose 5.1 Digital Surround Sound, while everyone benefits from Cadillac's Auto Ride suspension. Integrated tow hooks are standard. A tap-up/tap-down manual mode for the transmission works easily and promptly, using buttons on the column-mounted gearshift lever.

Notable Options

Power fold-and-tumble second-row seats are convenient to operate and cooled seats are offered in all models as part of the Ultra Luxury Collection package. Rear parking assist is available, along with a rearview camera; both are incorporated into a package that also includes Cadillac's navigation system. Power-deployable running boards are another appealing option as is the Side Blind Zone Alert warning system. When properly equipped, an all-wheel-drive Escalade can tow up to 7,700 pounds; good news for boaters and RVers.

Favorite Features

Manual-mode Transmission Operation

Placing the + and - (upshift/downshift) buttons on the column gearshift might not seem like a good idea at first, as most vehicles with a manual-shift provision have a floor lever. Even so, these buttons are easy to find and use, and the transmission responds with satisfying promptness.

Power Fold-and-Tumble Second-row Seating

Third-row access is a serious issue in big SUVs and an easy-folding second-row seat can save a lot of irritation. This feature operates with buttons on the console and door pillar.

Under the Hood

Cadillac's V8 engine now displaces 6.2 liters and generates significant horsepower and torque. With its two overdrive ratios and wide gear-ratio spread, the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission is said to be nearly equivalent to a seven-speed. The manual-shift mode uses column-lever buttons.

6.2-liter V8

403 horsepower at 5700 rpm

417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/19

Editors' Notes

Fast-living rappers and bling-dazzled celebrities swooned over the original Escalade, but, in addition to more power and a greater length, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade stresses finesse over flashiness. Refinements are easily noticeable inside and out, and the newest Escalade behaves more admirably on the road than its predecessor. Marketers claim segment-leading horsepower and torque for the "Gen IV" 6.2-liter V8 and, at 60 mph, the engine cruises along at just 1500 rpm.

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