Nice, But Not Subtle

2009, Cadillac, Escalade Hybrid

When it comes to the Cadillac Escalade, it's hard to be subtle.

The high-riding Escalade has attained a status as one of today's vehicles of high society.

So even when you drive the hybrid version of the Escalade, which we recently tested, you're still going to stand out like an NBA player at a convention of jockeys.

For starters, there is the huge HYBRID label affixed to the sides of the SUV.

One can't help but think that General Motors placed that on vehicle as if to say "Yes, we know this is a huge, politically incorrect SUV, but please contain your disgust - it's much greener than you think."

And truly, it is.

Gas mileage is listed at 20 mpg city, 21 highway, but in a mix of driving conditions we got close to 23 mpg.

For a vehicle as huge as this one, that's very good.

How big is it?

Well, it has three rows of seats, and adults can actually fit in all three rows.

Its curb weight is 5,717 pounds, it is 202.5 inches long and it's 79 inches wide.

It has a large cargo bin behind the third row of seats in which it seems you could install an Olympic-size swimming pool.

But with all this size comes an almost equal amount of comfort and luxury.

On the bling scale, this vehicle definitely rates at least a 9.2, with 10 being reserved for autos with diamond-encrusted door handles.

The ride is absolutely soothing.

In the traditionally powered Escalade, the engine sounds like a whisper, even above 60 mph.

In the Escalade Hybrid, it's even quieter, thanks to the hybrid technology, which shuts off the gasoline engine at stops and low speeds to rely on the electric motor.

The Stabilitrak stability control system provides a silky smooth glide over surfaces paved and unpaved.

Handling is tight, with a certain exactness on turns that is reassuring.

Acceleration is also quite nice, thanks to the 6.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 403 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque.

The tall stance of the vehicle can be a source of comfort, too, making driver and passengers feel less vulnerable in the event of a collision.

There have been many predictions of the imminent demise of this sort of vehicle, those with big bodies, big engines and big fuel bills. And in fact, General Motors has taken some heat for making so many of them over the past few years, but having to seek federal assistance to continue its business operations.

But the fact is, someone is still buying them.

That's probably because luxury on wheels, no matter how big those wheels, is still in demand. For the crowd that desires the rich life, the interior of the Escalade does not disappoint.

Start with lots of chrome that glistens nicely by day or night.

There's gadgetry galore at your fingertips, such as climate controlled front seats, power fold-and-tumble second row seats and a power liftgate.

Front and center on the dashboard is an analog clock that adds a real touch of elegance.

But if you prefer more modern timekeeping, the time is displayed digitally on the vehicle's main screen a few inches below.

The supple leather seats offer abundant comfort and nicely complement the soft ride that this SUV brings, so that if you do happen to feel a road bump or two, it's cushioned nicely.

On the dashboard, the gauges are attractive, if not always the easiest to read.

The lines and numbers don't immediately jump out at you, but aren't too hard to get used to.

As we've come to expect in the high-end vehicles of today, there's a DVD/MP3/CD/satellite-radio-playing sound system that is terrific.

For overall appearance, it's always been tough to beat the classic styling of a Cadillac, and this model cuts quite a striking figure.

This colossus of luxury and power goes for around $72,780.

But if bling is your thing, it's sure to satisfy.

By Rob Douthit

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Images of the 2009, Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid front view
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid front view
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid engine
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid engine
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid GPS unit
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid GPS unit
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid rear shot
2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid rear shot