What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Cadillac Escalade EXT returns unchanged.
Pickup trucks are a staple of the American landscape. Whether serving as a rugged workhorse on construction sites or towing big toys to a vacation destination, trucks are the modern equivalent of the cowboy's faithful horse.
Today's pickups are available across the spectrum, from bare-bones work trucks to fully loaded luxury liners. At the sharp end of the luxury side is the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT. Based on the Chevrolet Avalanche mash-up of an SUV and pickup truck, the Escalade EXT features a unique midgate behind the rear seats that can be stowed to extend the truck bed into the passenger compartment. Of course it also comes with that special Cadillac opulence mostly unheard of in truck circles.
In theory, this gives owners the comfort of an SUV and the brawn of a truck. And in practice, you can indeed have the best of both worlds. We doubt, however, that most would consider hauling messier cargo that might spoil the upscale interior. Along with this peculiar versatility, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT also suffers from some of the Avalanche's faults. The truck's large footprint makes it cumbersome in parking lots and the lack of rearward visibility further hampers close-quarter maneuverability.
On top of these drawbacks that are common to pickups, the Escalade EXT is also hindered by a limited towing and hauling capacity compared to conventional trucks. Furthermore, the Escalade's attractiveness to car thieves and its thirsty V8 engine should cause some concern.
As unique as the Escalade EXT is, luxury and pickup trucks aren't nearly as mutually exclusive as they once were. High-end versions of conventional trucks like the Ford F-150 King Ranch, GMC Sierra Denali and Ram 1500 Laramie all deliver surprising amounts of luxury, even if not quite on par with the Cadillac. These pickups do, however, benefit from better towing and hauling capability. But if you desire style over substance, there really is nothing quite like the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Classified as a full-size luxury pickup, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT is available in three trim levels: Base, Luxury and Premium.
Standard features on the entry-level Base model include 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive air suspension, automatic xenon headlights, foglamps, heated power-folding outside mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, rear privacy glass, a roof rack, side steps, a fold-down midgate, lockable three-piece cargo cover, rear parking sensors, remote ignition and keyless ignition/entry.
Inside there's tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats (with heating, cooling, driver memory settings and four-way lumbar adjustment), heated rear seats, power-adjustable pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a tilt-only steering wheel and remote ignition. Electronic features include OnStar, Bluetooth, a navigation system, real-time traffic, a rearview camera and an eight-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD changer, satellite radio, rear seat audio controls, rear seat headphone jacks and an iPod/USB interface.
The Luxury model adds 22-inch chrome alloy wheels, Magnetic Ride Control adjustable suspension (optional on Base), automatic high beams, a sunroof and a heated steering wheel. Springing for the top-of-the-line EXT Premium trim gets you different wheels, a body-colored grille and other exterior trim pieces, power-retracting assist steps and a rear-seat entertainment system (the latter two items are optional on the Luxury).
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT is a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission, full-time all-wheel drive and a heavy-duty locking rear differential are all standard.
In Edmunds performance testing, the EXT went from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds, which is very quick for a truck. EPA fuel economy estimates are disappointing, however, at 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined. Properly equipped, the EXT can tow 7,600 pounds, a few thousand pounds less than a traditional crew cab pickup.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Other standard safety features include rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and OnStar emergency communications.
In Edmunds brake testing, the EXT came to a stop from 60 mph in a lengthy 140 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Escalade EXT distinguishes itself from other luxury-lined pickups with a genuinely upscale cabin in terms of design, materials and features. Leather upholstery set off by tasteful wood and metal trim gives the passenger cabin a definite rich feel, though cheap plastic trim in a few spots detracts from the overall effect. The cabin's biggest downside -- limited visibility to the rear and sides -- is offset somewhat by the standard rearview camera and rear parking sensors.
Both rows of seats offer good head- and legroom, with the front buckets' heating/cooling making it especially easy for occupants to get comfortable, although some drivers will wish for a telescoping steering wheel. Folding the rear seats forward and opening the lower half of the midgate expands the 5-foot bed into a huge enclosed cargo area that stretches 8 feet from just behind the front seats to the lockable tailgate. For larger cargo, removing and stowing the rear window and the three-piece tonneau cover creates a traditional pickup bed large enough for the biggest antique store finds.
From behind the wheel, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade EXT is a bit like a gilded sledgehammer -- sparkly and powerful, but with a distinct lack of finesse. For starters, the sheer size of this colossus, combined with the limited visibility out the back and sides, makes it a good idea to wield it with a fair amount of restraint. Making that task just a little harder is the surprisingly quick acceleration produced by the 6.2-liter V8. The adaptive suspension manages to deliver a decent balance between a smooth ride and confident handling.