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The Cadillac Escalade EXT is a luxury pickup truck, which at first might come off as a strange vehicle classification. But when Cadillac revamped the Escalade in 2002, the company explored different ways to take advantage of the luxury SUV's street cred and runaway popularity. So it spun off the model every which way to maximize the Escalade badge -- hence, the EXT.
One part full-size luxury SUV and one part crew-cab pickup, the Escalade EXT makes for a uniquely useful high-end vehicle. Overwhelmingly massive and surprisingly functional, the EXT is, for some Cadillac fans, the ultimate Escalade.
Used Cadillac Escalade EXT Models
There were two generations of the Escalade EXT. The most recent was produced from 2007 through 2013. Mechanically related to the Chevrolet Avalanche of the same time period, this Cadillac Escalade EXT was typically available in three trim levels (base, Luxury and Premium) and one body style: a four-door crew-cab pickup.
From the rear doors forward, the Escalade EXT it is essentially a standard Escalade and is equipped with the same suspension and powertrain. The latter consists of a 6.2-liter V8 (403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque) mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. From the rear doors back, the EXT is a pickup. A special "Midgate" system allows greater cargo capacity -- the rear seats, rear window and rear bulkhead all fold down, which enables the transportation of longer items. An automatic tonneau cover protects cargo from the elements. The EXT is also equipped with 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights and automatic suspension damping.
Inside the cabin, the EXT is all luxury as leather upholstery, wood trim, heated seats, tri-zone climate control and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system all come standard. On later versions, a navigation system and a rearview camera were also included as standard. Moving up through the trim levels adds more luxuries such as a heated steering wheel, 22-inch chrome wheels, adaptive suspension, power-retracting side steps and a rear-seat entertainment system.
In road tests, we found that the Cadillac Escalade EXT offered a gratifying driving experience, especially for a large luxury truck/SUV. Given its size and mass, you'd expect some difficulty in the handling department, but the EXT's steering is light and predictable. By no means is it a nimble vehicle, but it's stable and controlled over all but extremely rough surfaces. With its big-time V8, acceleration is brisk from nearly any speed, which is remarkable for an SUV that weighs nearly 6,000 pounds. As one would expect, gas consumption is quite poor.
Changes throughout this generation's run were minimal. For the first two years, navigation was optional and several features were unavailable like the blind-spot warning system, satellite radio, Bluetooth and adaptive dampers with the 22-inch wheels. Prior to 2010, the EXT was only available in a single trim, while the USB audio port and the V8's cylinder-deactivation function (which boosted fuel economy by a single mpg) were not available.
The original 2002-'06 Cadillac Escalade EXT wasn't as refined as the newer model but it did establish itself with its innovative Midgate. It was powered by a smaller 6.0-liter V8 that made 345 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard. And while the second-gen EXT was equipped with rack-and-pinion steering, the first-gen model had a recirculating-ball setup, which meant the vehicle had a less responsive steering feel.
Because of a number of upgrades in 2003, passing on the '02 model might be wise. The '03 and up EXTs came with an improved interior, better safety equipment and new features like HID headlights and an optional rear-seat entertainment system. The power-operated tonneau cover first appeared in 2006.