What's New for 2013
The Cadillac Escalade returns unchanged for 2013.
On paper, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid might make sense to some shoppers. Consider for a moment that this full-size SUV can seat up to eight in relative luxury and bests the conventional gasoline-powered Escalade by 5 mpg in combined driving. Then again, on paper, the New York Yankees should win the World Series every single year.
For starters, the Escalade Hybrid brings with it some discouraging drawbacks, such as slow acceleration, reduced towing capacity and a higher price than regular Escalades. On top of that, you're still stuck with the same faults that haunt the regular Escalade. Of these faults, the third-row seats are one of the most obvious, with a distinct lack of space for the center passenger. Cargo space also suffers -- the rearmost seats do not fold neatly out of the way and require complete removal in order to accommodate a respectable amount of luggage.
For these reasons, we'd suggest checking out some lesser-known alternatives. Diesel-powered luxury SUVs like the Audi Q7 TDI and Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec achieve slightly better fuel economy figures without a penalty in acceleration or braking. As an added bonus, these German Suburbans also come with a significantly lower price tag, though seating is limited to seven. The 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid bests them all in terms of price and mileage, but most certainly lacks their luxury and road presence.
If you are that rare individual who needs an eight-passenger luxury hybrid vehicle, you are indeed limited to the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Beyond that, however, we think you'll be happier with any of the aforementioned choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Classified as a full-size SUV, the 2013 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is offered 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 xenon 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 differentiates itself with 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 2013 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.
All 2013 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid models come standard with 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 recorded excessive fade after additional stops. This is in addition to the general odd feel that goes along with the regenerative braking systems found in all hybrids.
In government testing, the Escalade Hybrid received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with a perfect five-star ratings in both frontal and side impact tests, but three stars for rollover risk.
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 2013 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. 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 compact crossover SUVs.