What's New for 2006
For 2006, the Cadillac Escalade EXT receives a power-operated tonneau cover and a sliding load floor for the bed.
When the original Escalade was introduced in 1999, the Cadillac faithful were a little nervous. The idea of a truck bearing the Cadillac wreath and crest just didn't seem like it had much promise. And then there was the vehicle itself, an underpowered, overclad behemoth that used heavy doses of leather and wood trim to conceal the fact that underneath it was nothing more than a slightly reworked Chevrolet Tahoe. But to everyone's surprise, the Escalade sold well. The public's insatiable thirst for SUVs overcame the original vehicle's initial mediocrity to make it one of the best-selling models in Cadillac's lineup.
After skipping the 2001 model year, the Escalade returned in 2002 with an all-new look and significantly revised underpinnings. The results were nothing short of a home run as the Escalade became one of the most popular full-size luxury sport-utilities on the market. Its combination of bold styling and class-leading engine power made it popular with high-profile athletes and power-hungry executives alike.
Looking to benefit further from consumer demand, Cadillac also brought out the Escalade EXT in 2002. Essentially a standard Escalade from the rear doors forward, the EXT utilizes all the same suspension and powertrain components as the standard model. But like its cousin, the Chevrolet Avalanche, the EXT adds an extendable utility bed that gives it a half-truck/half-sport-ute character that makes it stand alone in the realm of luxury vehicles. The idea of such a utilitarian Cadillac might seem a little strange, but it's the automotive equivalent of getting your cake and eating it, too. The EXT's powerful V8 delivers excellent performance while the luxurious interior pampers passengers with amenities galore. Add in the utility of having a pickup bed when you need it and the EXT suddenly doesn't seem so outrageous.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
In keeping with its premium image, the Cadillac Escalade EXT comes in only one trim level. The standard feature list is extensive, including everything from electronic stability control to a thundering Bose audio system. Both leather-upholstered front seats are heated and offer 10-way power adjustment. Additional standard equipment includes XM Satellite Radio, a towing package and a tire-pressure monitoring system. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a touchscreen DVD-based navigation system and chrome wheels are available options.
Powertrains and Performance
Unlike the standard Escalade that offers a choice of two- or all-wheel drive, the EXT comes in AWD only. The only available engine is the high-output 6.0-liter V8 that boasts 345 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. A heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission takes care of the shifting. As you might expect, the powerful V8 moves the big sport-ute with little hesitation, but those looking for a quiet, refined power plant might find it a little raucous at higher rpm. The transmission downshifts quickly and rarely fails to provide crisp, clean upshifts under acceleration. The EXT's maximum towing capacity is 7,300 pounds.
All Escalade EXT models come standard with a stability control system as well as four-wheel antilock disc brakes, side airbags for the driver and front passenger and the OnStar communications system. A standard tire-pressure monitoring system alerts drivers of abnormally low pressures that could result in a blowout. Other key safety items include high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights and rear parking sensors. In frontal-impact tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Escalade EXT earned three out of five stars for driver protection and four stars for front-passenger protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the standard Escalade, the EXT features an extensive array of luxury amenities. Soft leather covers nearly every inch of the cabin, while wood accents grace the steering wheel, dashboard and door panels. Of course, the EXT's most unique feature is the convertible Midgate, a removable partition between the rear seats and the utility bed that allows you to extend the bed from a bit over 5 feet to a full 8 feet with just a few latches. It's a snap to use, and it gives the EXT a level of utility that no other luxury sport-ute can match. The bed also features a power-operated tonneau cover and a moveable load floor that can slide over the open tailgate, aiding the loading process. When you're not using the extra bed length, this Cadillac SUV can seat four or five passengers in comfort.
Despite its bulky size, the 2006 Cadillac Escalade EXT is a competent handler. Body roll is kept well under control, and the continuous adjustments made by the standard Road Sensing Suspension maintain an excellent balance between ride quality and road feel. The steering can feel a bit detached on the highway, but it lightens up nicely during low-speed maneuvers.