What's New for 2011
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT receives a few minor updates including noise-reducing laminated glass and a new audio system with navigation upgrades.
As traditionally defined, "escalade" refers to the act of climbing up and over obstacles, or scaling fortresses and castles with ladders during a medieval military assault. The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT probably couldn't pull that off, yet should you need to participate in the act of cruising boulevards with buddies during a Saturday evening club crawl, this luxury sport-utility truck may just be your ride. Plus, with its innovative "midgate" cargo bed extension, there's still plenty of room for that ladder should you be in a medieval mood.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT is one of three Escalade models and is essentially a cross between an SUV and a crew-cab pickup. It's related to the Chevrolet Avalanche but the Escalade EXT boasts more potent V8 power, standard all-wheel drive, bold Cadillac styling and more luxurious appointments. Just like the Avalanche, the EXT has a roomy cabin that converts easily from passenger to cargo orientation thanks to its innovative midgate, which opens the rear of the cab so the effective length of the cargo bed can be increased.
For all its luxurious versatility, the Cadillac Escalade EXT's hefty 6,000-pound weight contributes to lackluster braking performance and poor fuel economy. It also doesn't have the towing capacity to match full-size truck models from Dodge, Ford and GMC, which can be pretty luxurious in their own right when loaded up with amenities. Even so, if a cross between a full-size luxury SUV and a pickup truck is what you want, then there is literally only one choice to be had.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT is a premium full-size sport-utility truck offered in three trim levels: base, Luxury and Premium.
Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels; automatic xenon headlamps; foglamps; a roof rack; an adaptive suspension; rear parking sensors; power-folding and driver auto-dimming mirrors; a fold-down midgate; leather upholstery; 10-way power front seats with heating, cooling and driver memory settings; power-adjustable pedals; tilt-only steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control and remote engine ignition. Electronic equipment includes OnStar, Bluetooth, a navigation system, real-time traffic, a rearview camera and an eight-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD/DVD/MP3 changer, satellite radio, rear headphone jacks and an iPod/USB interface.
The Luxury trim adds 22-inch chrome alloy wheels, Magnetic Ride Control adjustable suspension (optional on base), automatic high beams, power sunroof and a heated steering wheel. To this, the top-of-the-line EXT Premium trim adds power-retracting assist steps and a rear-seat DVD/MP3 entertainment system (optional on Luxury).
Powertrains and Performance
Every Escalade EXT is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 producing 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. Power is transferred through a six-speed automatic transmission, full-time AWD and heavy-duty locking rear differential. The automatic transmission features a tow/haul mode and manual-shift capability, but gearchanges can be awkward using the column-shifter-mounted controls.
Accelerating from zero to 60 mph takes only 7 seconds, surprisingly quick for such a massive vehicle. Despite cylinder-deactivation technology, estimated EPA fuel economy is about what you'd expect from a large V8-powered behemoth: 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined. When properly equipped, the EXT can tow 7,600 pounds; most full-size trucks can pull about 3,000 pounds more.
All 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT models include standard antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front side-impact airbags and full-length head curtain side-impact airbags with rollover protection. Other standard safety features include rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and OnStar communications. In Edmunds brake testing, the EXT's stopping distances were excessive: a lengthy 140 feet to stop from 60 mph.
The Escalade EXT has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new ones)were a perfect five out of five stars for frontal-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Escalade EXT's cabin treats its occupants to the experience expected of a Cadillac. Sumptuous stitched leather accented with wood and metal trim contributes to an upscale contemporary atmosphere, though some low-rent plastic trim makes it fall short of other luxury brands. The EXT's gauges are easy to check at a glance, and its controls are straightforward and intuitive. A new audio system with advanced navigation offers real-time traffic, expanded voice prompting and 3D imaging of major landmarks.
Taking center stage is the clever midgate feature that enables the Escalade EXT to quickly transition from an enclosed five-passenger luxury SUV to an open pickup truck. Folding down the rear seat and lowering the midgate extends the 5-foot pickup bed into the interior, providing 8 feet of bed surface and room for only two in the cab. This flexibility is helpful when more carrying capacity is suddenly needed for large and bulky items; of course, the rear of the cabin is open to the elements. A locking removable tonneau cover for the bed area is also included.
Because the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT is so large and heavy, the laws of physics are readily apparent when you approach its limits -- especially while braking. That said, the EXT's powerful V8 engine delivers surprising power for a luxurious full-size SUV. Its adaptable suspensions are also well-mannered and calibrated to strike a fine balance between a smooth, comfortable ride and decent handling. Maneuvering in tight spots can be unnerving, but that's expected of any full-size truck.