THE RIDE: Four-door, eight-passenger full-size 2009 Cadillac Escalade hybrid SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: With a body-on-frame structure, the SUV exhibits first-rate balance and stability. We averaged about 20 mpg in city/highway driving. This means you could travel almost 500 miles before having to fill up the tank. An additional benefit is that the rear-wheel-drive vehicle requires just regular gasoline.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A potent Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 engine develops a healthy 332 horsepower at 5100 rpm and 367 pounds-feet of torque at 4100 rpm. The Active Fuel Management system shuts off four of the eight cylinders at low speed, which results in substantial fuel savings. During regenerative braking, the batteries for the electric power are recharged by the captured energy as the driver brakes or slows down. In the first of the two-mode hybrid system, this Escalade can operate in electric power only, engine power or both. At low speeds, the gasoline engine switches off but the SUV continues in electric operation, boosting fuel efficiency. In the second mode, which is at highway speed, the engine gets to work with electric assist also. If you need to haul a small boat, the Escalade can tow up to 5,800 pounds. The vehicle also is equipped with a responsive Continuous Variable Transmission.
LOOK & FEEL: Staring in your face is a large signature Cadillac grille and headlights and front fender vent ports. That this isn't the regular Escalade is evident from one look at "hybrid" etched on the body sides and rear of the SUV. Chrome accents deck up the exterior door handles and mirrors, lift gate door and aluminum wheels. As expected, the interior is airy with 108.9 cubic feet of space. Wood and leather complement each other on the four-spoke steering wheel, dashboard, center console and doors. An analog clock in the center conveys a classy appearance. The rearview camera, which shows the surroundings on the 8-inch LCD screen while backing up, can be useful in crowded neighborhoods. The 14-way front heated and cooled seats, life gate, tilt steering wheel, sun roof and adjustable pedals are power operated. The tri-zone automatic climate control can be a blessing for rear-seat passengers, especially during summer months.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Magnetic Ride Control, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control, remote keyless entry, side blind-zone alert, ultrasonic rear-park assist, front-seat pretensioners and tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $70,735, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P285/45R22; wheelbase, 116 inches; length, 202.5 inches; weight, 5,727 pounds; fuel capacity, 24.5 gallons; city, 20 mpg; highway, 21 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Do you have to sacrifice luxury, comfort, cargo capacity or performance in a full-size hybrid luxury SUV? Not at all. In fact, you get to keep all these traits and, as an added incentive, earn tremendous fuel economy. And remember, no need to fill up the Caddy with premium gasoline either.