2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 4WD Full Test

By dancurranjr On April 22nd, 2009

cadillac-escalade-hybridAre you the kind of person who orders a hamburger with four beef patties, four slices of cheese, grilled onions and secret sauce — and then tops it all off with a diet cola? If that’s the case, then the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 4WD might be the perfect full-size SUV for you.

The Escalade has really been a phenomenon for Cadillac, a breakthrough in introducing its values and models to new people. So probably it’s only natural that a Cadillac Escalade would be a choice for showing off GM’s latest technology.

Then again, as we approached the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 4WD, we thought, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Walking around it, we counted nine badges, decals and stickers that advertise the 3-ton SUV’s two-mode hybrid powertrain. There are more inside, too. It’s as if the Escalade Hybrid is apologizing for being an SUV instead of bragging that it’s meant to be a fuel-efficient utility vehicle.

Their Economy, Our Economy
OK, maybe we’re not being entirely open-minded about the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. You can make a case that the vehicles that consume the most fuel, like a Cadillac Escalade, are precisely the ones that should be made more efficient with a hybrid powertrain. Like we said about the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, “Since an SUV uses far more fuel annually than a small car, even a small improvement in a sport-ute’s fuel economy can make a big difference in gallons of fuel saved at the end of the year. After all, freight trains are diesel-electric hybrids, and they’re reported to transport 1 ton of cargo 436 miles on one gallon of fuel.”

The Escalade is certainly a candidate for efficiency. The 2009 Cadillac Escalade AWD is rated by the EPA at 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway, while the combined figure is 14 mpg. Ironically, the seemingly analogous 2009 Escalade Hybrid 4WD is exempt from EPA fuel-economy testing. That’s because the hybrid’s curb weight is 325 pounds heavier, and this puts this 4×4 in a higher, heavy-duty weight class where fuel economy testing isn’t required. As such, the Escalade Hybrid 4WD can’t even help improve GM’s CAFE score.

Sort of makes an EPA-based comparison of fuel economy between the 4WD Hybrid and AWD Escalades impossible, doesn’t it?

Fortunately we have our own fuel economy routine, and our 1,000 miles of driving in the Escalade Hybrid returned a real-world fuel economy average of 16.9 mpg. Our worst fill-up produced 14.1 mpg and our best was 22.2 mpg. Unscientifically speaking, these figures represent about a 15 percent improvement over the standard AWD Escalade, or about 180 gallons of gasoline per 15,000-mile year. But since the Escalade Hybrid costs $6,395 more than a comparably equipped conventional Escalade AWD, it will take you 18.3 years to recoup the price premium in fuel savings at current prices if you drive 15,000 miles per year. Even if the price of gasoline goes up to $4 per gallon, the payback term would be 8.9 years.

What You Get for $76,635
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 4WD comes with an extensive roster of standard features and it also includes at no charge other features that are effectively the same ones found in the standard, gas-powered Escalade’s $6,035 “PDW V8 Ultra Luxury Collection (with 22-inch wheels)” option. With no options added, this 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 4WD rang the register at $76,635.

There is a small selection of premium SUVs in this price range, but the Cadillac Escalade isn’t like the Lexus GX 470, Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz GL550 or Range Rover. Basically, it’s a truck.

The driver seat, though heated and cooled, is no more comfortable than the similar seats found in the Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon hybrids (they’re lighter than the seats used in their gas-powered counterparts). The steering wheel isn’t centered on your driving position, and though it has power tilt, it doesn’t telescope. Instead, the pedals move fore and aft, but these are meant to accommodate shorter drivers rather than enhance driver comfort.

The Escalade Hybrid comes with a standard navigation system, but the map is based on a DVD system rather than the hard drive system we adore in our 2008 Cadillac CTS long-term test car and it’s noticeably less sophisticated and slower to react. Coincidentally, there’s a very sharp edge on the plastic finishing plate around the Escalade’s display, exactly where you’d place your hand while attempting to poke at the touchscreen (which itself is reluctant to respond to inputs).

The Escalade’s 60/40-split second-row seat is roomy and comfortable (more so than the front row), and it features its own set of audio controls plus its own zone of the tri-zone climate-control system. But negotiating those heavy seats to gain access to the third row is cumbersome. It’s also a completely manual operation, unlike our 2009 Ford Flex long-termer with its automated second-row tumble feature. And don’t get us started with the 120 pounds of uncomfortable third-row seats that live above the Escalade’s live axle, which don’t stow flat, either.

Truth in Advertising
Once we set out for a drive, we were immediately impressed with the two-mode hybrid’s ability to propel the Escalade on electricity alone at low speed, and the Cadillac made it all the way up the three levels of our parking structure. Once on the street, however, we found the hybrid system busy and obtrusive.

Even the owner’s manual of the Escalade Hybrid warns you, “Your hybrid vehicle has several electric motors, including the motors in the transmission that help power the vehicle as well as the air-conditioning compressor, brake pump, coolant pumps and, within the Hybrid Energy Storage System, a cooling fan and electrical contactor switches. At times, you may hear these motors start up or stop, and they might produce a slight whirring, humming or blowing sound typical of electric motors. These are normal sounds found on a hybrid vehicle and may be more noticeable when the vehicle is operating in the Auto Stop mode with the engine off.”

In a word, yes. You will notice these sounds — all of them. You cannot ignore them. So noticeable is the fan in the rear of the vehicle that cools the battery pack that we thought the rear-zone AC was running.

Stop and Go
Driving the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid in stop-and-go traffic revealed a brake pedal that’s more akin to a digital device than a hydraulic one. As with almost all hybrids, the transition between the actuation of the regenerative brakes and operation of the mechanical brakes isn’t progressive or intuitive, and the Escalade always comes to a stop clumsily no matter how smooth you try to be.

The sensation produced as the powertrain transitions between operation by the electric motor, gasoline engine or combined electric-gasoline propulsion is far from imperceptible. More of a feeling than a sound, you get the impression that there are ripples or seams in the pavement when there aren’t. It’s kind of like pulling a heavy trailer, and there are momentary ebbs and flows of power and momentum, especially between partial- and off-throttle situations.

One of the only transitions that is seamless is the one that occurs at freeway speeds between V8 mode and the fuel-sipping V4 mode when half the engine temporarily sleeps. You can see when this happens on the instrument panel’s little display. The transmission itself is almost as seamless, but it should be, as it operates most of the time as a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In fact, the tachometer rarely exceeds 2,000 rpm up to about 60 mph.

Rated for Towing
The four fixed gear ratios within the stupendously complex multiplanetary gearset (hence “two-mode”) only come into play when load conditions require, or when the driver selects manual mode for holding a ratio while towing or negotiating a hill. In fact, the Escalade Hybrid with on-demand 4WD and a locking rear differential is rated to tow up to 5,600 pounds. This is a uniquely trucklike quality you won’t find in any other non-GM hybrid at this time. It even has a load-leveling rear suspension and magnetorheological dampers to better adapt to towing.

Even with those self-adjusting dampers, however, the Escalade’s ride quality suffers thanks to the high-fashion 22-inch wheels wrapped in tires with short 45-series sidewalls. You cringe each time a freeway expansion joint approaches, much less when a pothole appears unexpectedly. There’s a none-too-pleasant shudder through the entire vehicle for a period of time after the jarring event has passed. All that unsprung weight (the enemy of both ride and handling) that comes with this Escalade’s wheel-and-tire package is obvious even to the uninitiated.

The Bottom Line
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is not like other luxury SUVs because it’s meant to deliver actual utility, like towing a trailer or a boat. And it’s not like other hybrids, because it can tow a trailer or a boat. But is it worth it?

If you’re thinking of trading in your Escalade AWD for an Escalade Hybrid to save money on gas, not a bit. The fuel savings might be significant in the abstract, but they’re negligible in terms of lengthening the interval between your visits to the gas station. If you’re looking for a luxury SUV package, the Escalade Hybrid isn’t worth it either, because it actually diminishes the qualities you look for in the Cadillac brand.

If you must have a large, truck-based SUV and want the added fuel economy of a hybrid powertrain (not to mention a reduction in the social resentment that big SUVs inspire these days), then instead consider a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid 2WD for $52,000. It’ll ride better, tow up to 600 pounds more and save you $24,000.

SOURCE: Edmunds

A Review of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid SUV

By dancurranjr On March 13th, 2009

cadillac-escalade-hybridI don’t even know what escalade means. I used to think that it was Spanish for avalanche, but somebody told me that was not the case. Since then, I just assumed it meant big, obnoxious chrome-encrusted SUV featured in more hip-hop videos than Lil’ Wayne that spews toxic fumes like Rush Limbaugh. After a week of driving the ‘Slade Hybrid, I think I’m going to have to consult a dictionary, because that definition doesn’t work either.

I shouldn’t love this truck. I should hate it. I purposely do not own a car, and this all-black behemoth represents everything I hate about SUV culture: conspicuous consumption, insensitivity to our rapidly shrinking world and crowded cities, middle finger raised at global warming.

You could slap a cold fusion generator under Big Poppa Cadillac’s hood and the first two issues would still apply, but I was kind of wrong about that last one. Have you ever seen Godzilla vs. Megalon? Where Godzilla fights on behalf of the people of Japan against a giant rhinoceros/cockroach? Sure, Tokyo’s favorite monster still smashes a bunch of buildings and steps on some people, but he’s trying to be good. Same goes for this Hybrid Chromedaddy.

It’s still the scourge of parking lots and choked city streets, but I’ll be damned if I could get the needle on the fuel gauge to budge. It actually gets pretty decent mileage … for what’s essentially a glorified school bus. In mixed city driving I got between 20 and 25 mpg in the thing. Now if you’re riding solo, 20 mpg is nothing to brag about. But if you’re hauling an entire family of 6 — and the Escalade will hold them all comfortably — this Cadillac is, dare I say it, fairly efficient. That kind of fuel economy is on a par with the Honda Odyssey, and you don’t see looks of disgust on other parents’ faces when you pull up to the preschool in your Japanese minivan.

And you also don’t see your kids getting high fives when they climb out of an Odyssey either. Drop ’em off in this Caddy, and, little Timmy might start referring to his little friends as his entourage.

WIRED Decent pickup for a motorized bomb shelter. Extremely comfortable for up to eight people. Combined ABS and regenerative braking system do a terrific job of hauling the beast down from speed — we almost put a seatbeltless friend through the windshield (his own damn fault) when someone cut us off. TRICK motorized step makes it easy for Shorties to climb into your rolling condo. Plenty of cargo room if you remove the third-row seats.

TIRED You have to remove the third-row seats to get any decent amount of cargo space, and those seats must weigh 50 pounds each. Thing has a car phone. No, not Bluetooth, but an actual phone built into infotainment system (it’s actually just Onstar, but there was no other option for hands-free calling). What is this, 1989? Cadillac — God love ’em — uses the fact that this is a hybrid as an excuse to bling up the truck even more: Hybrid badges are plastered on every hard surface, on the sides of the door, even the windshield. It’s OK, though — they’re decent hippie repellents.


Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Test Drive and Review

By dancurranjr On February 27th, 2009

escalade-hybridThe bottoms of the doors are boldly emblazoned with “HYBRID” in a badly tracked font, letting the world know you’re not a totally selfish knuckle-dragger. In fact, Cadillac’s Escalade Hybrid carries so much prominent badging that you get the impression it’s a rolling apology. Hey, if it gets you a thumbs up instead of being flipped the bird, it’s all good.

The biggest immediate concern, of course, is what kind of fuel economy this electrically enhanced full size traditional SUV returns. Let’s temper our results by saying that the weather was cold when we drove this big Caddy, and hybrid mileage isn’t quite so amazing when frigid breezes are blowing. The two-mode hybrid system that General Motors has developed for its big trucks is a smooth operator, and the V8 is equipped with seamless cylinder deactivation for an extra economy edge, too.

The Escalade lends itself to extended highway running. The seats are very comfortable, trimmed in the expected leather. Overall, the interior is nicely done, and the materials are mostly high quality. The design of the dashboard is clean and refined, but none of what’s inside the Escalade is strikingly exclusive to any of its GM siblings when well equipped. The difference is that everything is pretty much standard in the Escalade Hybrid, big whoop. The interior, while quite comfortable and blessed with good ergonomics, doesn’t differentiate itself enough for the rareified $75,000 price tag, and there are some areas that feel cheap.

The door panels and other plastic trim throughout don’t feel or exhibit fit and finish to support the initial impression the Escalade makes. It’s all quite acceptable, mind you, and a lot of that premium price is tied up in the hybrid hardware, instead of door panels stitched by hand from Yak leather. Cross-shopping the Escalade with similarly priced competition, like the Range Rover Sport, will point up the fact that the Caddy is hauling the interior of a $45,000 vehicle.

Leaving the desire for more Zebrano wood and diamond-stitched cowhide door panels aside, the Escalade drives like a million bucks. The steering is settled and accurate, requiring little correction to keep the Escalade on its intended course. There isn’t any steering feel to speak of, though, even amongst peers, GMs trucks feel more numb than is preferable. The ride is also supple, soaking up bad pavement without much head toss. In short, the Escalade is a very benign, almost big-car-like drivin experience. There’s a video-game screen that tells you what the hybrid system is up to, but other than that, and an occasional whine from the electric motor, transparency is the order of the day.

As a family vehicle, the Escalade offers great space, lots of comfort, media toys for those that want to be entertained, the gamut of stuff. Stuff that you can get on a much less expensive vehicle, even on the same platform. The third row, too, isn’t blessed with any sense of legroom – got to make room for that full frame and live rear axle. General Motors own Lambda crossovers (GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook, Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave) offer more legroom back there, better space efficiency, and more miles out of a gallon of fuel, even without a hybrid powertrain.

Also on the minds of families, how does it hold up to kids? Mounting child seats will be the first challenge. LATCH anchors are installed on two of the three center row seats. Logically, you’d assume that would mean the outboard positions. With the 60/40 split of the second row seat, though, only the middle and passenger side position have LATCH anchors. GM says that it’s a safety issue, to keep excess stress of the seat frame on the 60-percent side. That may be so, but it makes it more inconvenient to put a child into the Escalade, and some seats may interfere with each other when mounted side by side.

Niceties like a power liftgate and power operated running boards that zip out underfoot whenever you open a door do make the high ground clearance more bearable, and there is a place for the Escalade Hybrid. It’d be great for a long highway jaunt where you needed to pull a trailer, something the Lambda CUVs aren’t as good at. It’d be great to head to the White Mountains with, either for a ski jaunt, or pulling snowmobiles, or just for some klondike camping. Highway rides, however, are not where the hybrid system shines. Around town, or being used by a livery service would be perfect for the Escalade hybrid, uses where a traditional station wagon still excels, and is often more than most buyers need.

The ridiculousness of using the Escalade for normal family wagon use aside, this is a nice piece of hardware. It looks so fantastic in black that no other color needs to be offered, and it’s a pleasure to drive. The Escalade does do better on fuel than the non-hybrid version, but it’s still going to top out in the teens – we managed a 16.5mpg average with a mix of 60 percent highway, 40 city. Poking around in town with the ‘Slade warmed up would bump that average, as the hybrid system would operate off the batteries and shut the engine off a lot more readily. With so much mass, there’s really no way for it to do phenomenally better on the the highway. Sure, it’ll drop to 4-cylinder mode, but the first grade you come to will cancel that, too. In all, though, any effort to save some fuel is worthwhile in some way, and the pleasant driving experience trumps most of the frustrations with the Escalade Hybrid.

SOURCE:  Examiner

U.S. Hybrid Sales up 3.6% in August

By dancurranjr On September 5th, 2008

Reported U.S. sales of hybrid vehicles from the major automakers rose 3.6 per cent in August 2008, compared to sales in August 2007, with 26,045 vehicles sold. This represents a 2.08 per cent new vehicle market share for the month. Overall, sales of light-duty vehicles in the U.S. fell 15.5 per cent in August 2008, with sales of passenger cars dropping by 7.7 per cent and light trucks by 22.1 per cent.

The August 2008 hybrid sales results fell just short of the current August sales record of 26,249 units, reached in 2006.

At Toyota, sales of the Prius were down 4.2 per cent to 13,463; the company said the decline is due to limited availability. Camry Hybrid sold 3,456 units, a 19.3 per cent drop from August 2007, and representing 7.8 per cent of all Camry sales, which increased overall by 3.3 per cent from the year before. Sales of the Highlander Hybrid were 1,277 units, up 224.6 per cent from August 2007, and representing 15.2 per cent of all Highlander sales, which dropped 15.29 per cent to 8,070 units.

The Lexus RX 400h sold 1,277 units in August, up 9.0 per cent, and representing 14.2 per cent of all RX model sales, which dropped 10.6 per cent to 8,969 units. The GS 450h sold 35 units, down 73.1 per cent, and representing 2.1 per cent of all GS models. The LS 600h sold 71 units, a 73.4 per cent drop, and representing 4.0 per cent of all LS model sales.

Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid were up 47.7 per cent to 3,105 units, representing 10.3 per cent of all Civics sold; total Civic sales rose 5.3 per cent to 30,052. The company also sold two units of the discontinued Honda Accord Hybrid.

Combined sales of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids dropped 27 per cent to 1,338 units, representing 8.0 per cent of all Escape and Mariner Sales, which rose 11.7 per cent in August to 16,634 units.

The Nissan Altima Hybrid sold 442 units, a decrease of 31.3 per cent from August 2007, and representing 1.7 per cent of all Altima sales. Sales of all Altima models dropped 0.5 per cent for the month.

General Motors sold 798 units of its two-mode Tahoe, Yukon and Cadillac Escalade models, representing 5 per cent of combined sales of all models in those lines, which were down 24 per cent. The Tahoe and Yukon made up the majority, with only one two-mode Escalade sold. The Saturn Vue with GM Hybrid System sold 417 units, representing 4.3 per cent of Vue sales, which totalled 9,649 units for an increase of 46.1 per cent. Sales of the Malibu Hybrid were 388 units, for 2.5 per cent of all Malibu sales, while the Saturn Aura Hybrid sold 26 units, for 0.6 per cent of all Aura sales. Overall, 0.5 per cent of General Motors’ total sales were hybrid vehicles.

Source: Canadian Driver

The 2009 Hybrid SUV Lineup

By dancurranjr On August 14th, 2008

Sports utility vehicles (SUVs) aren’t the greenest options available on the market however many companies have seen the demand for hybrids rise but the desire for an SUV remains consistent. As a result, several hybrid SUVs have been developed over the past few years. In 2009 we will see new models as well as some upgraded older models.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
With an estimated price tag of right around $71k, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will afford its drivers every luxury that Cadillac offers but better gas mileage over the non-hybrid Escalade. The vehicle will use the two-mode hybrid system and has an estimated mpg rating of 20 in the city and 21 in the highway (in two-wheel drive mode). As is standard with a lot of car models, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade will actually be available from dealers across the United States in the fall of 2008.

2009 Mercedes-Benz ML 450 Hybrid
The first German-made hybrid SUV will hit the streets in 2009 in the Mercedes-Benz ML 450 Hybrid. The vehicle is expected to get a miles per gallon rating in the high 20s. The engine is expected to put out around 340 horsepower and will also utilize the two-mode hybrid system. Despite a delay with the battery supplier, Mercedes-Benz still has plans to release the ML450 Hybrid in the second half of 2009.

2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid
A sister of the Escalade and Chevrolet Tahoe, the 2009 GMC Yukon Hybrid qualifies under the LEV2 California emission rating and the Bin 5 Federal rating. The Vortec 6.0L engine will top out at 322 horsepower at 5100 rpm and 367 ft of torque at 4100 RPM. Not bad for an SUV that will get you right around 20 mpg.

2009 Chrysler Aspen/Dodge Durango Hybrid
Chrysler will jump into the hybrid SUV market with a hybrid version of the popular Aspen and Dodge Durango available. Like the other models included on this list, the engine will be based off of the two-mode hybrid system. However, this is a Mopar so yes you can have a Hemi hybrid.

In addition to these four models, 2009 will bring several hybrid crossover options to market for those who want a mix between an SUV and a car.

Source: The Green Motorist