What's New for 2002
In response to Lincoln's new Blackwood pickup, which is little more than a Ford F-150 Super Crew with a Navigator cabin grafted on, Cadillac trots out this Chevrolet Avalanche with an Escalade facelift.
Ever wish for a vehicle that combined the practicality of a truck, the room of an SUV and the luxury of a Cadillac all in one package? Neither did we. But the marketing gurus at GM thought otherwise, challenging their designers and engineers to build just such a vehicle. The result is the all-new Cadillac Escalade EXT.
Essentially the same as a standard Escalade from the rear doors forward, the Escalade EXT gains a significant measure of practicality with the addition of a 5-foot 3-inch utility bed. Not only is the bed lined with a sturdy composite cover that resists dents and scratching, it extends to a truly useful length of just over 8 feet through an innovative feature called a midgate. This feature consists of a movable partition between the cab and bed that can be folded flat with the simple turn of a latch. A removable rear window and three-piece removable bed cover allow you to either open up the extended bed entirely or leave them on for a fully enclosed and lockable cargo area. It's an extremely simple system that gives the EXT an added measure of versatility that the Lincoln Blackwood can't match.
Like the standard Escalade, the EXT features a class-leading 345-horsepower V8 engine that provides strong acceleration and plenty of torque (380 lb-ft) for towing. A full-time all-wheel-drive system assures that all those ponies get put to the ground effectively, and a heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting. The standard Road Sensing Suspension (RSS) continually adjusts the damping rates of the shock absorbers according to surface conditions for optimum ride quality. Should the road still prove too much, the standard StabiliTrak stability and traction control system is on hand to restore control.
As if there weren't enough computers under the hood, the interior features a full complement of electronic gadgetry along with healthy doses of sumptuous leather and wood accents. The Bose audio system includes six full-range speakers, a separate RichBass subwoofer and a six-disc in-dash CD changer while a trip computer provides useful mileage information like distance to empty and average miles per gallon. The OnStar communication system now provides not only emergency services and directional information, but concierge and personal calling services, as well. Other standard features include ten-way power adjustable seats for the driver and front passenger, an electronic climate control system and a rear parking assist system that will keep you from planting that nifty new utility bed into the back wall of your garage.
With only 12,000 slated for production this year, the EXT is a low-volume niche car meant to appeal to a select number of buyers. While the appeal of a near-$50K sport-utility truck is somewhat limited, we doubt that Cadillac is going to have much trouble moving EXTs. It has the eye-catching style and over-the- top proportions that make it a desirable vehicle for those who want to make a statement, and the true utility nature of its cargo bed places it a step above its rival, the Lincoln Blackwood.