- Lavish interior
- Surprisingly nimble handling
- Top-notch powertrain
- Not all switchgear feels upscale
- Fixed (removable) back window
- Delicate-looking wheels and trim
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade stands out in any crowd; it's the only transforming luxury truck/SUV out there.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade EXT brings a lot to the table—and it has no direct competitors. The EXT combines some of the best attributes of a pickup with those of an SUV—with a heavy helping of glitz and over-the-top showiness thrown in for good (or distasteful) measure, depending on how you look at it.
If you're considering the 2009 EXT, it's important to note that the entire line of Cadillac Escalade models was completely overhauled in 2007. The Escalade family of trucks (the short-wheelbase SUV, the long-wheelbase ESV, and the EXT) now rides on General Motors' GMT900 new-for-2007 truck platform.
Aside from the EXT's lower-rent sibling, the Chevrolet Avalanche, there isn't anything else currently available that transforms quite like the Escalade EXT. Cadillac says its 2009 Escalade EXT model is based on a unique sport-utility truck (SUT) body style, giving it a part-SUV, part-pickup profile and function.
What makes the SUV/truck transformation possible is GM's industry-exclusive Midgate panel. Here's how it works: Owners can easily convert the 2009 Cadillac Escalade EXT from a five-passenger SUV into a two-passenger pickup with eight feet of protected and secured storage using the Midgate located behind the rear seat. The Midgate can be folded into the cabin, enabling the cargo area to expand from five feet to eight feet, for a total of 101 cubic feet in secured volume. A lockable, standard tonneau cover protects items in the cargo bed or can be removed entirely for added space.
Editors at TheCarConnection.com wonder about the truck's genuine usefulness. Some buyers will like the versatility the design offers, but most might never use the Midgate beyond showing friends and family how it works. Regardless, the styling of the 2009 EXT is certainly unique among trucks. It would help if the window in the Midgate were power-operated instead of merely removable; driving with it out is a pleasant open-air experience, especially when the sunroof is open.
The 6.2-liter V-8 found in the 2009 Cadillac Escalade EXT is impressive for several reasons. The engine’s construction is all aluminum and benefits from several bits of high technology, including variable valve timing to produce 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. This power is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission that performs very well, with virtually no gear hunting. All-wheel drive is included as well, and it’s a more road-friendly automatic system than what comes with most GM pickups. Overall, the powertrain makes the big EXT hustle and helps it feel lighter than its curb weight of nearly three tons. The exhaust note sounds like that of a muscle car. Fuel economy is, as you might figure, embarrassingly low, with an EPA city figure of only 11 mpg.
Experts from TheCarConnection.com have had the opportunity to drive 2009 Cadillac Escalade EXT models with several different wheel sizes and point out that the 22-inch wheels come standard with Magnetic Ride Control; they do a good job of smoothing out what might otherwise be a fairly choppy ride.
Though there's still a bit of chintzy black plastic in the center stack, editors from TheCarConnection.com feel that the EXT's interior, like those of the other Escalade models, is among the best in the entire Cadillac lineup—up there with the new Cadillac CTS. The overall look is refined and elegant, just the right mix of wood and chrome to give meaning to the Cadillac badge in the center of the steering wheel.
As with the other SUV versions of the Escalade, the 2009 Escalade EXT has mostly positive indicators in the safety arena. Federal crash-tests have all yielded top five-star ratings, except for rollover, and all the expected safety features, such as side airbags, side-curtain bags, and electronic stability control, come standard.
New features for 2009 include a power-tilt steering wheel, rear audio jacks, standard express-up front windows, and optional XM NavTraffic.