What's New for 2012
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid gets minor enhancements to its navigation system.
If you're trying to be environmentally friendly, then the 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is not the way to do it. It achieves 21 mpg combined, which is a 5 mpg improvement over the regular Escalade and a huge savings in fuel for a truck, but pretty abysmal by the expectations of a traditional hybrid. It's better for the planet, but maybe not better for you. In green metaphorical terms, it's like picking the Exxon Valdez over the Deepwater Horizon.
However, dismissing the Escalade Hybrid at this point would be foolish. It may not be truly environmentally friendly, but how many hybrids can seat as many as eight people? The answer is two, and they are the Cadillac's Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrid siblings. Only the vastly more efficient Toyota Highlander comes close with a seven-passenger capacity, but those seven passengers will be less comfortable.
Which brings us to the Escalade Hybrid's most attractive asset: the name. As an Escalade, it brings with it a very generous features list, a more luxurious cabin and that indelible style that has made this full-size luxury SUV a different sort of urban legend. And as a hybrid, it should in theory garner whatever brand cachet comes along with the "H" word. In other words, the neighbors may be impressed. Or they might find the idea of an Escalade Hybrid to be oxymoronic and a questionable purchase.
Mostly, we fall into the latter group. If you're looking to save gasoline and still have plenty of utility, the diesel-powered BMW X5 xDrive35d and Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec and the hybrid Lexus RX 450h and Porsche Cayenne Hybrid are not only equally (or more) efficient, but also are more modern, refined and don't suffer from poor braking distances. But if you're the rare person who needs to occasionally carry seven people and/or tow a boat while wishing for 20-plus mpg fuel economy and a luxurious interior the rest of the time, well, maybe the Escalade Hybrid will be the right choice after all.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is a full-size SUV available in base and Platinum Edition trim levels. It seats seven people with standard second-row captain's chairs and eight with the optional second-row bench.
Standard equipment includes 22-inch wheels, a magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, running boards, a power liftgate, automatic HID headlights, foglamps, a roof rack, heated power-folding mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, a blind-spot warning system, rear parking sensors, a sunroof, remote ignition and keyless ignition/entry. Inside you get tri-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated 10-way power seats with driver memory functions and four-way lumbar adjustments, leather upholstery (first and second rows, third-row vinyl), power-adjustable pedals, a power tilt-only steering wheel, heated second-row seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronic features include a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar emergency communications, a navigation system, a touchscreen interface, voice controls, a rear seat entertainment system and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and rear controls.
The Platinum Edition gets unique front styling, 22-inch chrome wheels, LED headlamps, power-retractable running boards (optional on base), leather-covered dash and door tops, upgraded seat leather, contrasting stitching, upgraded wood trim and heated and cooled cupholders. For the Platinum, the entertainment system gets dual display screens mounted in the front headrests.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Escalade Hybrid is powered by a 6.0-liter V8 working in conjunction with a battery pack mounted under the second-row seat and a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors located inside a unique automatic transmission dubbed "Two-Mode." GM engineers say that combined output with the electric motors is 379 horsepower. The Escalade Hybrid can be had with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Escalade Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in a slow 9.3 seconds; the regular Escalade does it in 7.5. EPA-estimated fuel economy is good for a V8-powered large SUV, returning 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined regardless of whether you get rear- or all-wheel drive.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid include stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system and OnStar emergency communications.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Escalade Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in 138 feet. This is long, but nevertheless acceptable for a full-size truck. However, we found excessive fade after additional stops and experienced a brake system failure. This is in addition to the general odd feel that goes along with the regenerative braking systems found in all hybrids.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid's cabin is nearly identical to that found in the conventionally powered version, boasting a stylish contemporary design with top-quality materials and finish. The layout of its controls is straightforward and their operation is intuitive, including the standard navigation system.
There's room for as many as eight, but the rearmost seats offer cramped legroom for all but small passengers. When it comes time to load up with cargo, those 50/50-split third-row seats also don't fold away conveniently like those in competitors; they are heavy and awkward to remove, and must be stored elsewhere. Once they're out, though, there are 109 cubic feet of maximum cargo space available.
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid exhibits two distinct personalities depending on your motoring mode. At low speeds with a light load, this Escalade can travel in electric-only fashion, which makes for an especially peaceful cabin atmosphere devoid of mechanical vibration and noise. At higher speeds, though, you'll hear the various sounds of the hybrid powertrain at work, while the ride quality suffers from the heavy 22-inch wheels and stiff low-profile tires, which transmit every bump in the road directly to your backside.
The cylinder deactivation system goes about its work seamlessly, as it automatically shuts down and restarts engine cylinders when appropriate. The regenerative braking system takes some getting used to, however, as it gives surging feedback through the pedal as you attempt to come to a smooth stop. There's also the matter of acceleration. While the regular Escalade is surprisingly quick, the Hybrid is beaten off the line by some four-cylinder-powered compact SUVs.