Review – 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Platinum: What A Cadillac Should Be

Cadillac latest advertising campaign pegs the brand as “The New Standard of the World.” But are they really? Over the past 10 years, there is no question that they haven’t been. But do vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade Platinum stand to change that?

The Cadillac Escalade Platinum stands for all the right things at the wrong time. With 22″ wheels, three TV screens and a 6.0-Liter V8, the Escalade is what many would say is wrong with America. Wait a second, what’s this? It’s a hybrid!

GM launched its two-mode hybrid system in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full size SUVs. Both of those full size SUVs share the GMT-900 platform with the Cadillac Escalade, making an Escalade hybrid model a no brainer.

The exterior of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and the GMC Yukon Hybrid both feature slightly tweaked exteriors for enhanced aerodynamics. The Escalade hybrid does not feature a different front end or body work, but the Platinum edition does.

The grille is an egg crate-like design that is more in-line with the rest of the Cadillac line-up. The headlights are fully LED with a unique design exclusive to the Platinum edition. I actually like the grille design on the Platinum better than the regular Escalade.

While the headlight design is certainly unique, I’m not sure if they are better or worse. The LED headlights flood the road with natural blueish white light. This clashes with the yellow light that hits the road from the halogen fog lights. I wish Cadillac has fitted LED lights in the fog lights along with the headlights. This would give the front end a much more cohesive look at night.

The Platinum also features 22″ chrome multi-spoke wheels which put the Escalade up in the air. To help get into this land barge you have automatic step bars. They deploy as soon as any of the doors open. Around back, the Escalade Platinum features all-LED lighting.

Visually the Escalade is already an in your face, over the top vehicle. The Platinum edition takes that all one step further and in reality it looks better than the regular Escalade in many regards.

The interior takes the regular Escalade to the next level. Everything is pretty much real wood, real aluminum or one of two different kinds of real wood. The doors and top of the dash are both wrapped in leather while the center stack and anything on the dash that isn’t wood is aluminum.

The steering wheel features a nice combination of all three materials. While the Platinum features a heated steering wheel, the Hybrid Platinum does not. Cadillac decided to forgo this feature due to the energy draw. Too bad, with aluminum and wood on the steering wheel, chilly doesn’t begin to describe the feeling in your hands when it is zero degrees outside.

The fist two rows are covered in a very nice aniline leather, while the third row settles for nuance leather. In all reality, both are very nice looking and feel great. As mentioned before, the Platinum Escalade features two different types of wood inside. Both olive ash and walnut burl adorn the dash with an intricate yet tasteful break to switch from one to the other.

The gauges are white with blue needles. Chrome surrounds the gauges, which I might have thought would be distracting in sunlight, but I am happy to report it is not.

Navigation is standard, though slightly dated. The system is DVD-based which means it is not instant when changing map views and such. The navigation system does have live traffic,which is provided by XM. The main navigation screen is also home to most of the settings, the sound system and the hybrid drivetrain graphic, which shows you where the power is being routed and from what source. The sound system is Bose branded and sounds alright, but it isn’t mind blowing by any means. The Harman Kardon and Pioneer sound systems that GM has been using in other vehicles sound better.

The Escalade Hybrid Platinum features a rear seat entertainment package. This consisted of not one or two, but three screens. Why three? Because this is the Platinum. Two of those screens are seven inches in dimater and are mounted in the front two headrests. The third screen is eight inches and drops down from the top of the Escalade. There were remotes and headphones galore.

If you haven’t already decided from the pictures and all the above, the interior of the Escalade Hybrid Platinum is definitely a nice place to both be for both the driver and passengers. I would go as far as to say, the interior of the Platinum is exactly what a Cadillac should be. Granted I would give it a technology update, but that is beside the point.

The Escalade Hybrid’s powertrain is a 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 with active fuel management paired to two 60 kilowatt electric motors. The power goes through a 2-mode transmission, which is essentially a four speed. Two speeds are for city speeds, while two speeds are for highway speeds. The cutoff is at 40 miles per hour for switching from city to highway mode.

I was highly impressed with the system. It is smooth and overall very seamless. During the week I had the Escalade Hybrid it was around zero degrees the entire time. This meant that the battery pack had to work harder to hold a charge.

The engine stop-start function didn’t really kick in until the vehicle and battery were both thoroughly warmed up. So short drives did not get the full benefit of the hybrid powertrain. When I had the Tahoe Hybrid it was spring and warm. I saw an average of 19.6 mpg in mixed urban/suburban driving. With the Escalade Hybrid Platinum I saw an average of 15.3 mpg. While the weather definitely impacted my mileage, this is better than the 12 mpg I probably would have seen with the non-hybrid version.

The Escalade Hybrid Platinum I had for a week had a sticker price of $89,090. That is a lot of coin for an SUV, or any vehicle for that matter. The Hybrid Platinum is the highest trim model of Escalade that you can purchase. Is it worth nearly $90,000? Probably not. Then again I wouldn’t spend nearly $90k for a BMW X6M either, and that has 555 horsepower. The price tag seems a bit unreasonable.

With all that said, this is absolutely without a question the nicest Cadillac Escalade available, and it is a little greener to boot. There is no question that the Hybrid is more fuel efficient, especially when it is not 0 degrees outside.

I’m going to stick with my statement from earlier, defining this vehicle as what a Cadillac should be. A really nice interior filled with leather, real metal and wood, and a powerful yet somewhat green powertrain. If Cadillac can build vehicles like this and push the boundaries of technology further, they might have a chance at yet again becoming the standard of the world.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

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  1. AutoBird Podcast – Esp 36: “Bad Beak” - Accelerate Mpls - 01/07/2011

    […] News and Ford Inside News. This week we find the garage quite full. Both Nick and I  have had Cadillac Escalade Platinum’s along with Chevrolet Cruze’s. Also in the garage I have a Mitsubishi Evolution MR and Nick […]

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