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2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Test Drive and Review

Posted on March 4, 2009
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2009-escalade-hybrid-i01cadillacBy now most anyone with a pulse is aware of hybrid-powered vehicles, the Toyota Prius being most broadly cited. For the hybrid unaware, this technology is in short the blending of rechargeable battery power with conventional gas power in an effort to improve economy and reduce harmful emissions.

The 2009 Escalade isn’t shy about announcing its presence in a domineering way, at least visually.

The last few years have seen the migration of this technology from economy cars to just about every other segment of the passenger vehicle market, including trucks and SUVs. That brings us to this week’s unique tester, the opulent and brash 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid.

In your face design language
Some may see it as ostentatious and over-the-top but there’s no denying the bold statement made by 22-inch chrome rims and a cut and chiseled body. The 2009 Escalade isn’t shy about announcing its presence in a domineering way, at least visually.

I like the sharp lines and liberal use of chrome that sets the big Caddy apart from its competitors. I’m also a fan of what GM’s designers have done inside the Escalade’s massive, richly appointed cabin. Needless to say, leather, wood and brushed aluminum define the theme.

As plush and attractive as the first-class cabin is, it could use a dead-pedal to support the driver’s left foot and a telescoping steering column to fine-tune the driving position. Adjustable foot pedals somewhat compensate for the steering column, which only tilts.

Cutting edge technology
The Escalade Hybrid utilizes sophisticated dual-mode hybrid technology, which was developed cooperatively by BMW, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors. A tome of substantial size could easily be dedicated to explaining the complexity of this setup.

For our purposes, let’s just say that the computer brain in the Escalade Hybrid enables the vehicle to be propelled exclusively by electric power, gas power and/or any combination therein with the overarching goal of maximizing fuel economy. Official numbers are not yet in but look for a 25-30% increase in fuel economy around town over that of a conventionally-powered example of Cadillac’s full-size SUV.

The sophisticated dual-mode hybrid technology was developed cooperatively by BMW, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors.
In addition to electrical supplementation, the efficiency of the 6.0-litre V8-engine serving as the core of the hybrid powerplant is enhanced with the use of variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation. When you put it all together, the hefty Escalade achieves in-city economy more inline with smaller V6-powered SUVs despite having 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque on-tap.

In typical stop-and-go city driving the gas engine cuts-in just after an electrically-powered launch. Drivers will notice a slight jiggle as the engine fires-up. Normal operation seldom sees the tachometer crest 2,000-rpm thanks to the fuel-saving technology of GM’s Electrically Variable Transmission (EVT), which combines continuously variable operation with fixed-gear operation; the latter of which enables the Escalade to tow up to 2,540-kg (5,600-lbs).

Behind the hybrid wheel
Unless they are hybrid-savvy, passengers are unlikely to detect the binary functioning of the gas engine or the inclusion of electrical propulsion. What they will detect is the near silent operation of the Escalade Hybrid irrespective of which power mode or combination thereof it is employing at any given moment.

In typical stop-and-go city driving the gas engine cuts-in just after an electrically-powered launch.

From a driver’s perspective, it’s rewarding to see the tachometer drop to zero when the vehicle is stopped, and to remain there while the throttle is gently prodded to commence movement. The dual-mode system will allow the Escalade to drive at speeds up to 50kph or so, strictly on free electrical power but doing so requires a delicate right foot.

I took great pleasure in knowing that once I pulled off the main drag and drove the six or seven residential blocks to my home, I was no longer burning the golden nectar for which we pay a king’s ransom. My gloating was further bolstered by the knowledge that I wasn’t contributing to the soupy airborne mess infecting most urban air spaces.

Full-on Cadillac luxury and safety
The Escalade Hybrid lives up to Cadillac’s reputation for luxury and comfort. It spoils occupants with a smooth, stable ride while entertaining them with high-end audio and video. This is the ultra road-trip vehicle for those whose wallets can withstand the hit needed to acquire such a behemoth of excesses.

With its options, my tester rang in at a whopping $98,115. Fortunately Cadillac tosses in a full suite of occupant protection and crash avoidance technology for the lucky few capable of affording this decadent example of “green” envy.

SOURCE: Auto 123

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