2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Expert Review

3.6 Overall Score
Performance 2.9 Comfort 3.8 Styling 3.5 Value 3.1

Editor's Overview

Among the rest of the full-size SUV crowd, the Cadillac Escalade stands out like a ruby in a diamond chest. Although it's just as capable as the rest in terms of towing and sheer luxury, it makes its mark by being possibly one of largest and most flashy cars not only in its class, but on the road.

You'll Like The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid If...

If you are looking for a capable, full-size luxury SUV that isn't shy about attracting attention, the 2012 Cadillac Escalade belongs in your driveway - since it probably won't fit in your garage.

You May Not Like The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid If...

If exorbitant cabin space and impressive towing capability are nonessentials in your next vehicle purchase, there are plenty of practical alternatives that are a bit more refined and subtle from Lexus, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

What's New

Cadillac Escalade models receive a few modest updates for 2012, highlights of which include two new exterior colors for Escalade SUV models (Radiant Silver Metallic and Crystal Red Tintcoat), a new center console design, and navigation system enhancements.

Interior Features

The 2012 Escalade's interior takes Cadillac luxury to its extreme end. The interior is so solidly wrapped in sound-deadening materials one can almost hear a pin drop. Comfort levels rise to new heights on Escalade SUV Platinum trims with such items as heated and cooled cup holders, a heated steering wheel and Tehama aniline leather seating surfaces for all rows. Even the base 8-passenger SUV models and 5-passenger EXT variant are lavish beyond reason, with leather trim blanketing the seats, doors, steering wheel and center console, and with the interior pillars wearing rich-looking fabric.

Exterior Features

From its massive signature Cadillac grille to its chrome-clad fender vents to its enormous available 22-inch chromed-aluminum wheels, there is nothing subtle about the 2012 Cadillac Escalade. Its road presence is made all the more apparent by the sharp-edged lines, flush-mounted headlights and long, tinted side-glass panels. Stepping into the Escalade requires a hike up, but thankfully, every Escalade model offers standard assist steps for suitable ingress and egress from the vehicle. The Hybrid model boasts a distinctive front end featuring unique upper and lower grilles accompanied by a slew of Hybrid badges.

Driving Impressions

Due to its sheer size and weight it should come as no surprise that the 2012 Cadillac Escalade lacks razor-sharp agility and steering. However, we feel the Escalade delivers the smoothest and most comfortable ride offered on a body-on-frame vehicle. Thanks to a host of electronic stability, traction and suspension controls, winding roads that would have lesser SUVs heaving and tossing are simply tamed. All the electronic goodies in the world, however, can't help make the Escalade easy to park. As for power, the 6.2-liter V8 (standard in everything but the Escalade Hybrid) is as smooth as glass and has what feels like an endless reserve of torque on hand. If you need to tow a boat or horse trailer, the Escalade's V8 suddenly becomes indispensable. The heart of the Escalade Hybrid is a 6.0-liter V8 that feels as responsive and powerful as the conventional V8, yet it returns a 33 percent improvement in city fuel economy.

Pricing Notes

The 2012 Cadillac Escalade SUVs have a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) ranging from around $64,000 for the base model to nearly $90,000 for a fully-loaded AWD Hybrid model in Premium trim. The EXT truck also starts around $64,000 and tops out just under $74,000 for the fully-optioned Premium version. To get a better idea of what people in your area are paying for their Escalades, check out Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price in the "What should I pay for my new car?" section on our homepage. While the sticker prices of Escalade SUV models remain considerably higher than those of the Lincoln Navigator, they are not far off from comparably equipped versions of the Land Rover Range Rover HSE and the Lexus LX 570. The Escalade EXT's closest competitor, the Ford F-150 SuperCrew Platinum Edition with 4-wheel drive, is priced in the mid-$40,000 range but can't match the EXT in terms of luxury or horsepower. The 2012 Escalade SUV lineup equals the Lincoln Navigator and Land Rover Range Rover when it comes to resale values, but unfortunately falls behind those of the LX 570. As for the EXT truck, we project it will retain a resale value lower than the F-150 Platinum Edition and its corporate stablemate, the Chevrolet Avalanche.

Notable Equipment

The 2012 Cadillac Escalade's comprehensive standard equipment begins with road-sensing suspension, automatic rear leveling for heavy loads, a power liftgate, and remote vehicle starting. Inside, you will find leather-trimmed 14-way power heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, DVD navigation with a rear backup camera, Bose Surround Sound, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and OnStar with spoken turn-by-turn directions. Additional safety and convenience features include six airbags, OnStar emergency assistance, a sonar proximity warning system for difficult parking situations, and a specialized stability control system with roll-over mitigation.

Notable Options

With so much standard equipment and a variety of trims, 2012 Cadillac Escalade models offer an abbreviated list of options. Available equipment includes all-wheel drive (AWD) for Escalade SUVs (standard on the EXT truck), 22-inch chromed-aluminum wheels, power retractable running boards, a power sliding sunroof, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring and an automatic high-beam system, which detects the headlights of oncoming traffic and automatically switches between high and low beams accordingly.

Favorite Features

Remote Vehicle Start

This is one of those standard features that you may not want to live without once you've become used to it, especially in hot summer or cold winter weather. A touch of the key-fob button from afar can start the engine and begin cooling or heating the cabin before you're even inside.

Power Fold-and-Tumble Second-row Seat

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 interior door pillar.

Under the Hood

The 2012 Cadillac Escalade features a potent 403 horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management, which deactivates half of the cylinders under light loads for increased fuel economy. The Escalade's 6.2-liter engine is also E85 (ethanol/gasoline fuel blend) compatible. The Hybrid model boasts a more-efficient 6.0-liter V8 combined with a 300-volt battery pack as well as the conventional engine's gas-saving Active Fuel Management technology.

6.2-liter V8

403 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm

417 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/18 mpg (rear-wheel drive, gasoline), 13/18 mpg (AWD, gasoline), 9/13 mpg (EXT/ESV model with AWD, E85), 10/15 mpg (Standard Escalade model with rear-wheel drive, E85), 10/14 mpg (Standard Escalade model with AWD, E85)

6.0-liter V8 hybrid

332 horsepower @ 5,100 rpm

367 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/23 mpg

Editors' Notes

While the automotive landscape continues to shift towards smaller, lighter and more-efficient vehicles, the full-size luxury SUV segment remains relatively unscathed by this recent market shift. The Escalade nameplate remains as popular as ever, and the 2012 lineup satisfies America's appetite for excessively large vehicles with four capacious offerings, including the classic Escalade and its more efficient Hybrid accomplice, a long-wheelbase ESV variant, and the versatile, yet stately, EXT open-bed truck. Despite its inherent impracticality, the 2012 Cadillac Escalade makes a case for itself by offering one of the most spacious, extravagant and comfortable rides available.

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