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 ("which optimizes camshaft timing to improve low-rpm torque and high-rpm power, along with emissions and fuel economy," Kelley Blue Book reports), and it 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. ConsumerGuide says the "transmission changes gears smoothly, though some testers cite an occasional reluctance to downshift for passing." ForbesAutos asserts it "shifts more smoothly and boosts fuel economy compared to the four-speed gearbox in the previous model," and adds, "manual gear selection is possible with a button on the column shifter." They also quote a 0-60 mph time of 6.1 seconds, amazingly quick for this type of truck.
Still, even with a cylinder-deactivation system that slakes its thirst for fuel a little bit, the Escalade EXT is no miser. "As one would expect, gas consumption is quite poor," says Edmunds. Last year's version rated 11/14 mpg from the EPA, and this year's model hasn't been evaluated yet-but it's likely to fare only 1 mpg better on the highway. ForbesAutos warns, "Don't expect to break 20 miles per gallon, even in highway cruising." 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. Edmunds calls the EXT's handling "stable and controlled over all but extremely rough surfaces" and thinks the steering is "light and predictable." ConsumerGuide agrees that handling is "stable and confident in low- to moderate-speed changes of direction," but dislikes the steering, calling it "vague and overassisted." They also report the "strong brakes have reassuringly firm pedal feel, but fast stops trigger lots of nosedive."
All-wheel drive is standard, and TheCarConnection.com's editors feel 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.