2009 Cadillac Escalade

2009 Cadillac Escalade

The Basics:

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade is available in either standard or extended length, which brings a 21-inch increase with seats for as many as 8.

The 2009 Escalade Hybrid sacrifices no performance, capability, or luxury, yet it uses a fraction of the fuel.

The Escalade shares most of its running gear with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs.

This year, the Escalade adds E85 flex-fuel operation to its 6.2-liter, V-8 and features Magnetic Ride Control partnered with all 22-inch wheel/tire combinations. Both rear- and all-wheel drive are available. Although teamed with a 6-speed automatic, dismal gas mileage still is the rule of thumb for this gargantuan SUV. EPA ratings check in at 12 mpg city and 18 or 19 mpg highway. We've seen single-digit numbers in everyday driving.

Even on steep upgrades with full loads, the engine has plenty of power. The 6-speed automatic has a knack for finding the best gear. Brakes are powerful enough to slow the big SUV, and though the Escalade doesn't handle nimbly, it's among the best big SUVs. it has an even-keeled rode that's absorbent, and an impressively silent interior that lets in just a little engine noise.

The Escalade is virtually unbeatable for elbow and shoulder room because of its wide cabin. Seats are among the most ample and supportive of any vehicle. In both models, the second row is nearly as comfortable as the first, and in the ESV, the third row is quite roomy, though a bit difficult to access. Despite its high, truck-like driving position, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade is graced with an attractive dash that would look fine in a luxury four-door sedan.

All Escalades have side and curtain airbags and stability control, but the NHTSA gives it a three-star rating for rollover resistance. It does better in front and side tests, earning five stars.


The 2009 Cadillac Escalade's cozy interior and macho exterior make for a great combination.

With a style all its own, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade is far different from the related GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe. Motor Trend says it "looks fresh, yet it's still instantly recognizable" sespite some "subtle alterations" that yield "a more handsome facade." Kelley Blue Book says it's not as glitzy as before, but thinks it "continues to get you noticed." Car and Driver says it likes the Escalade's "more refined competitors" better.

The 2009 Escalade Hybrid sacrifices no performance, capability, or luxury, yet it uses a fraction of the fuel.

The Kansas City Star says that Cadillac has applied "so much chrome" they found it difficult "not to blush" while driving.

Motor Trend pegs the interior as "opulent," Automobile thinks features like the Escalade's analog clock fit with the new look.


Cadillac has turned the Escalade into something a bit more sophisticated than "tacky gold badges" and "customized paint jobs," Edmunds says. It's now a fine-handling, powerful SUV that doesn't forget its truck chores.

Automobile says it has "one of the best exhaust notes" and loves the way it "woofles and burbles at idle." Motor Trend pegs acceleration to 60 mph at 6.5 seconds, but even with cylinder-shutoff technology, the SUV can only manage 19 mpg highway at best. City driving can see that figure drop to the single digits, in our experience.

Responsible for all that power and consumption is a 403-hp 6.2-liter V-8 which Edmunds says doles out "tremendous acceleration" even for a vehicle approaching three tons.

Kelley Blue Book finds fault with the Escalade's 6-speed automatic. It has a "reluctance to downshift for passing," they note. To overcome the sluggishness, GM fits the truck with a manual shift mode.

The 2009 Escalade is available with all-wheel drive. Car and Driver reports that the Escalade suffers from "reduced towing capacity" but it still checks in at 7,800 pounds. It's reduced, it seems, only in comparison to the 8,000-pound-plus capacity of the similar Chevrolet Suburban.

Automobile likes the new power steering in this year's Escalade. It has "newfound feedback when the truck is loaded in a corner." It thinks the brakes are just adequate, and that they have touchy pedal feel. Motor Trend likes the handling within its truck context. The adaptive suspension offers a composed ride on the firm side, but with enough compliance even when the SUV is shod with huge 22-inch wheels and low-profile 45-series tires.


Engine noise is noticeable, but the 2009 Escalade is comfortable for five adults and a couple of small passengers who must find their way to the remote, difficult to access third row.

Cadillac sculpts the seat backs to boost interior space, and the seats travel and recline quite a bit, Kelley Blue Book says, though it can be a climb to get into the vehicle. Power-folding bench second-row seats have comfortable padding, but they must be moved out of the way to access the third-row seat. Car and Driver finds that rearmost bench "skimpy" while other reviewers think the space is adequate. Depending on the model, cargo space behind the third row is either adequate or huge.

We think the Escalade is almost unbeatable for its interior space, and those who like wider seats with softer padding will find much to appreciate inside. The trucklike driving position can be something for short drivers to contend with, but quality and comfort are strong points. Cars.com says the SUV "communicates luxury instantly," and Automobile says its "soft-touch surfaces and finely damped switches" are better than the ones in the other GM SUVs. Motor Trend likes its blue-lit gauges, but Kelley Blue Book says the "blue pointers impair readability."

Exhaust and engine noise crop up in some review complaints. Enthusiast magazines tend to like the vocal roar from the big V-8 engine, but ConsumerGuide complains about the volume and about the amount of wind noise. Kelley Blue Book doesn't find it very "Cadillac-like."


The 2009 Cadillac Escalade gets top ratings for front-impact protection from the NHTSA, and good scores in other tests. However, it earns a three-star grade for resistance to rollover accidents.

Side curtain airbags that cover all three rows of seats and front-side airbags are standard.

Edmunds says OnStar telematics service is standard on this year's Escalade.


The Escalade enjoys a vast array of standard luxury and safety features, with lots of options on its order sheet.

This year, Cadillac adds satellite radio to the list, along with real-time traffic data; express-rise power front windows; magnetic ride control on SUVs with 22-inch wheels; and a power-tilt steering wheel.

Edmunds notes the standard features list includes a power tailgate, Bose audio, a 6-disc CD changer, three-zone climate control, heated power front seats, and power-adjustable pedals.

Among the options, Cadillac offers navigation that displays on an 8-inch touchscreen; ventilated front seats; and power running boards.

A rearview camera is an option, as a rear parking sensors and LED headlights.

Platinum models get a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with two 8-inch screens, wireless headphones, and ports for gaming systems.

Buying Tips:

If you can't get over the fuel mileage, you should consider the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, which is covered by a separate review.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 Chrysler Aspen
  • 2008 INFINITI QX56
  • 2008 Lexus LX 570
  • 2008 Lincoln Navigator
  • 2008 Mercedes-Benz GL Class

Reason Why:

The Escalade’s main competition, in terms of features, comes from the Lincoln Navigator, but the look and feel of the Navigator is antiquated; it forgoes a flashy appearance for more conservative details. The V-8 powering the Navigator provides adequate performance but comes up short against the Escalade. The Aspen offers a wide range of luxury features, but it's a half-size smaller than the Escalade, yet isn't any less cumbersome—or much more fuel-efficient—to drive. The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is a little more manageable, but it's not quite as roomy inside either. Both the QX56 and the LX 570 have some measure of off-road ability, but their on-road handling suffers. None of these vehicles arguably have the reputation, recognition, and curb appeal that the Escalade enjoys in some circles.

The Bottom Line:

Considering the weight of the Escalade’s image and its segment-leading performance, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade is hard to beat.

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