- Inexpensive hybrid upgrade
- Powerful acceleration
- Drives "normally"—no hybrid quirks
- Third-row seats short on legroom
- Hard to access third-row seats
- 22-inch tires ride roughly
The 2009 Escalade Hybrid sacrifices no performance, capability, or luxury, yet it uses a fraction of the fuel.
As the fourth variant of the Escalade Hybrid, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid joins the long-wheelbase Escalade EXT, the transforming SUV/pickup Escalade EXT, and the standard-wheelbase Escalade on which the hybrid model is based. For the record, these Cadillacs are all based on the same truck chassis as the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid isn't easy to distinguish from the standard Escalade at a distance; both offer a crisp exterior style that commands your attention with plenty of chrome. Inside, there's standard seating for eight, although legroom for the third-row seats is compromised because batteries for the hybrid powertrain are located under the second-row seats. The batteries also present an extra obstacle for climbing back to the third row. Front chairs are heated and cooled. Interior build quality and fit/finish on the examples we drove were excellent.
The real story about the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is its advanced two-mode hybrid powertrain that consists of a specific engine and transmission. The all-aluminum 6.0-liter V-8 features Variable Valve Timing and Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation). The hybrid electrically variable transmission (co-developed with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Chrysler) utilizes two electric motor/generators and four fixed-ratio gears. Electricity for the motors is stored in a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is rated at a very respectable 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, yet the 6,000-pound-plus vehicle gets EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 21 mpg highway—that's more than 50 percent better in the city than the standard Escalade's 12 mpg. Acceleration is powerful and immediate, thanks to a high-performance axle ratio that makes up for the 71-horsepower performance differential compared to a standard Escalade's 403-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is capable of towing 5,800 pounds, and buyers have a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive, just like with the regular Escalades. On-road performance for this full-size SUV is commendable, but you'll never confuse it with a Chevrolet Corvette from behind the wheel. Brakes are powerful and incorporate a regenerative feature to recapture energy that is sent to the battery pack for latter use. During our tests, the hybrid system routinely moves the Escalade on battery power alone to 25 mph and beyond in eerie EV-mode silence. At higher speeds, the V-8 quietly comes to life and seamlessly adds its power to the mix. The 22-inch wheels on our tester look great, but ride roughly compared to the standard 20-inch wheels and tires.
Controls inside are similar to those of the standard 2009 Escalade, and they work competently, without requiring extensive training or frequent trips to the owner's manual. The Cadillac's touch-screen center stacks earn kudos as one of the easiest and most logical to operate. The system's ability to save favorite tuning presets regardless of frequency (AM, FM, or XM Satellite Radio) makes perfect sense with the way people use the radio.
The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid provides a full complement of safety features, including head-curtain side airbags covering all three rows, in addition to front side airbags. The StabiliTrak stability control system includes rollover mitigation to help avoid situations that might lead to a rollover. On that note, the Escalade gets a low three-star rating for rollover likelihood from the federal government (largely for its high center of mass), but the Escalade earns top five-star ratings in the tests for frontal and side crash protection.
Showing that environmentally conscious drivers need not be without their luxuries, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid also includes tri-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a magnificent-sounding Bose digital sound system, eight-inch touch-screen navigation system, rear-seat audio jacks, and power-actuated running boards.