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MONTEREY, Calif. — The SUV market is ground zero for Darwinism. It’s survival of the fittest at its toughest, fiercely competitive and segmented into a growing number of sub-species including the mini-ute, the crossover wagon, and most recently, the hot-off-the-assembly-line luxury sport-utility truck (SUT).
The leaders in this upmarket new segment are Cadillac and Lincoln, whose previous offerings have experienced unprecedented success in the luxury SUV market. Cadillac's Escalade — the reported vehicle of choice for celebrities like the waiflike Shaquille O'Neal and hoops standout Calista Flockhart — helped breathe new life into the aging brand, while Lincoln's Navigator did the same for Ford's luxury division.
Now, with the 2002 Escalade EXT, Cadillac may have found the missing link for dominating the luxury SUT niche. The EXT is a crossover luxury utility vehicle with five-passenger seating, four-wheel drive, and a breakthrough full-size, reconfigurable pickup bed embedded with Caddy’s concept of sybaritic comfort.
Built on the full-size Chevy Avalanche truck platform, the EXT shares DNA with GM’s big trucks and sport-utility vehicles. But its eclectic carrying capabilities and unique looks are a truly new sprout on the family tree. As the second luxury SUT to hit the market, the EXT joins the Lincoln Blackwood but may make a wider wake than the rear-drive, four-seat-only Blackwood.
The EXT’s styling is unabashedly masculine. An aggressive front end and macho proportions clearly stem from the "bigger is better" school of auto design, with a wide slatted front grille, large rectangular headlamps, running boards and cargo bed all giving EXT a strong stance. The truck is further distinguished by unique exterior styling including new Cadillac badging and generous, monochromatic molded cladding, including the dramatic "sails" (or "C" pillars) that visually link the passenger and cargo area.