Cadillac's hybrid beast
GM claims a 20 per cent improvement in fuel consumption
At 2.7 tonnes, it’s easy to see the sense of harnessing its kinetic energy
22in wheels with 45-section tyres
Its plentiful ‘hybrid’ badging is at best ludicrous, at worst offensive
The hybrid's price-hike of £6300 means clocking up many miles before savings are made
Interior finish is vastly adrift of any premium SUV’s
There’s no question that you get a great view out from a vehicle this vast
First DriveIngenious, but hard not to see it as an alcoholic brandishing a water bottle, claiming reformation
First DriveAmerica's most popular luxo-SUV is too big, too ungainly, and would be best left on the far side of the Atlantic
What is it?
A hybrid version of Cadillac’s biggest beast, the very enormous Escalade. The idea of a hybridised attempt on fuel-saving seems absurd with a giant like this, but the principle is no different from Porsche’s equally contradictory bi-motor Cayenne – and GM got there first.
This is the General’s two-mode hybrid, which mostly operates as a CVT but also has four fixed gears that are used when the Caddy’s a-haulin’. GM claims a 20 per cent improvement in fuel consumption over a standard Escalade – quite a saving given its thirst – but the £6300-odd price difference will mean clocking many miles before savings are made.
Still, given the Escalade’s 2.7 tonnes, it’s easy to see the sense of harnessing its kinetic energy when coasting and braking. The electricity generated is stored in a 300-volt battery stored under the middle row of seats – the Escalade swallows it almost unnoticed – which propels it at low speeds. The Atkinson cycle 332bhp 6.0-litre V8 has auto-stop-start, and can also operate on four cylinders to save fuel.
What’s it like?
Inevitably truck-like, in both low-speed manoeuvring and cornering, though for a vehicle almost as big as a house it gets around bends with less drama than you’d expected. But, this is a tall, ponderous-looking vehicle, and that’s how it feels on the road.
More disappointing than this is the near-ceaseless vibro-massage accorded to your lower legs, presumably the consequence of riding on 22in wheels with 45-section tyres.
Also impossible to ignore are the curious hums and whirrs of the multiple electric motors that not only propel the Cadillac but power the compressor, the brake pump and more, these especially evident when the V8 is switched off.
But the worst refinement issue flaws the brakes, whose transitions between regenerative and hydraulic retardation make it near impossible to bring the Escalade to a smooth stop.
Yet for all its crudities, there’s something fascinating about the way this complex beast goes about its business, and there’s no question that you get a great view out from a vehicle this vast.
Should I buy one?
If you want an Escalade it’s probably only an Escalade that will do, in which case your choice is whether to buy hybrid or not. A part-electric drivetrain certainly makes it more defensible, though many may judge its plentiful ‘hybrid’ badging at best ludicrous, at worst offensive. Plus, the Escalade feels like the gussied up, workaday Chevrolet Tahoe that it is, with an interior finish vastly adrift of any premium SUV’s.
It’s ingenious, but it’s hard not to see the Escalade as an alcoholic brandishing a water bottle and claiming reformation – you can see clear liquid in there, but is it really H2O?
Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Sport Luxury
Price as tested £73,959; 0-62mph 8.4sec; Top speed 106mph; Kerb weight: 2729kg: Combined economy: 25.5mpg; CO2: 264g/km; Powertrain: V8, petrol, 5967cc, plus electric motor; Power: 332bhp at 5100rpm; Torque: 367lb ft at 4100rpm