It's also surprising that Cadillac has done little to distinguish (or tone down) the 2011 Escalade Hybrid; other than the fist-sized chrome Hybrid badge on the fender vents, there's little to call this model out from a distance.
With a version of GM's Two Mode hybrid powertrain, combining a big 6.0-liter V-8 (with Active Fuel Management and variable valve timing) with an electrical continuously variable transmission (eCVT) containing two electric motor/generators and four fixed-ratio gears, the Hybrid stores away energy captured in braking and coasting in a 300-volt bickel-metal-hydride battery pack located under the second-row seat, then taps into it when accelerating or climbing hills, helping the three-ton vehicle up to rather incredible EPA fuel economy ratings of 20 mpg city, 23 highway—that's, in the city, about 50 percent better than the standard version.
The Escalade Hybrid drives, remarkably, much like the standard Cadillac Escalade models. If you're going up to 25 mph, gently, you might do it in near silence, thanks to a system that allows you to use electric power only under low-speed, light-duty situations; and at stoplights, much of the time, the gasoline engine turns completely off. The Hybrid handles in a trucklike way, but GM's Magnetic Ride Control reels it all in and you wonder how a vehicle this big and heavy can feel so surefooted in corners. And yes, the huge, chromed 22-inch wheels that are part of the Escalade look are offered here, too.
The Hybrid is only offered in standard-wheelbase form (not ESV), so while the first two rows have excellent seating that's roomy enough for adults on long trips, the third row can not only be tight for kids, but hard to get into. Furthermore, it doesn't fold down easily if you have to fit a larger piece of cargo back there; you'll have to work some muscle and remove the seats (and have somewhere to store them).
In the Hybrid, controls and displays are pretty much the same as those in the standard 2011 Escalade models—except with different trip computer displays. The touch-screen center stack is easy and logical to operate, and the audio system's ability to save favorite tuning presets regardless of frequency (AM, FM, or XM Satellite Radio) is a bonus; front seats are heated and cooled, and materials inside are top-notch.
Just as with the other Escalade models, the 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is offered in a top Platinum Edition model that includes items like heated and cooled cupholders, backseat DVD entertainment, and an upgraded interior, and even base models include tri-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals, power running boards, and a powerful Bose sound system.
For more information, please see our full review of the 2011 Cadillac Escalade lineup, where you'll find more pictures, information, related news, and what other critical sources have said.