- Lavish interior
- Surprisingly nimble handling
- Top-notch powertrain
- Not all switchgear feels upscale
- Fixed (removable) back window
- Delicate-looking wheels and trim
The 2010 Cadillac Escalade EXT is in a class of one; other luxury SUVs may have its image or its exclusivity, but none of them has the Midgate.
The 2010 Cadillac Escalade EXT brings a lot to the table-including the table and all the guests, if you need. A full-size truck with a twist, the Escalade EXT has a Midgate system that lets the driver decide how many passengers and how much cargo they need to move-and lets them choose one or the other or both. With a base price of almost $62,000, the EXT has no real competition, though it might seem like a bargain compared to a fully enclosed Land Rover Range Rover or a blinged-out Lincoln Navigator. (The only direct rival? The mechanically similar Chevrolet Avalanche.)
Part SUV, part pickup, the Escalade EXT's also part rap-star fantasy object with a massive dose of glitz and over-the-top detailing thrown in for good (or bad) measure, depending on how you look at it. It was overhauled in 2007 along with the short-wheelbase Escalade and the long-wheelbase Escalade ESV. The overall look is refined and elegant, with an unmistakable nod to Cadillac's latest styling themes in the big vertical headlamps and taillights, the huge Cadillac logo on the grille, and in the wide bands of chrome that run down the pickup bed. Inside the EXT wears just the right mix of wood and chrome to give meaning to the Cadillac badge in the center of the steering wheel. 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 that of the other Escalade models, is among the best in the entire Cadillac lineup-up there with the new Cadillac CTS.
There's a wave of horsepower and torque at your disposal in the Cadillac Escalade EXT-but you probably shouldn't care about geopolitics too much if you want to savor its nontrucklike performance. The 6.2-liter V-8 has aluminum construction and variable valve timing, and kicks out 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. It can make the EXT hustle and turn in a muscle-car-quality engine note while it happily shifts through its six-speed automatic transmission. Still, even with a cylinder-deactivation system that slakes its thirst for fuel a little bit, the Escalade EXT is no miser. Last year's version rated 11/14 mpg from the EPA, and this year's model hasn't been rated yet-but it's likely to fare only 1 mpg better on the highway. Those are truly deficient numbers directly related to its 6,000-pound curb weight. On the flip side, the mass means the EXT rides well, particularly with the Magnetic Ride Control suspension and even with the optional 22-inch wheels. The suspension does a good job of smoothing out what could be a choppy ride. All-wheel drive is standard, and it's a more road-friendly automatic system than the one offered on the similar Chevy Avalanche. The EXT will tow 7,500 pounds and can carry 1,200 pounds of payload.
The Escalade EXT's interior sports as much room as the three-row ESV Escalade when the Midgate is locked in place. It's fitted with five seats maximum, not six as on the Chevy Avalanche, but the seats are even more lavish and leathered up. Front passengers have access to all sorts of storage in a deep, wide front console, plenty of legroom, and ventilated seats to keep cool. The rear seats are comfortably formed and fold down when the EXT's Midgate drops to expand the pickup bed. When the Midgate's down, of course, the EXT only seats two-but the pickup bed expands from a little more than five feet to about eight and a half feet, enough to carry a queen-sized mattress with some careful wedging. A lockable, standard tonneau cover protects items in the cargo bed or can be removed entirely for added space. It would be more useful were the window in the Midgate power-operated instead of merely removable; driving with it out is a pleasant open-air experience, especially when the sunroof is open.
NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) gives the 2010 Escalade EXT five-star crash-test scores for front impacts; side impact tests have not been performed, but the EXT gets a three-star rollover rating. Standard safety features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control, tied into the all-wheel-drive system; and other assists like a rearview camera, parking sensors, adjustable driving pedals, and OnStar.
Almost every imaginable feature is standard on the 2010 Cadillac Escalade EXT, including DVD navigation; a USB audio port for the AM/FM/XM/CD/DVD changer; Bose surround sound; a power-tilt steering wheel; Bluetooth; remote start; dual-zone climate control; leather upholstery; and a heated steering wheel, front seats, and mirrors. A sunroof is standard on the two most expensive versions, while a rear-seat DVD entertainment system is optional, as are the Magnetic Ride Control suspension and its 22-inch wheels. XM NavTraffic is included on the EXT, but the subscription must be renewed by the owner.