Cadillac Escalade Hybrid 2009

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
No secrets here. General Motors promised a Cadillac Escalade Hybrid some time ago, and prototypes with thinly covered “hybrid” badges were spotted in desert testing this past summer. Which means the new gasoline/electric version of every “bad boy’s” favorite SUV should launch in early 2008.

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid relates closely to the gas/electric versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon that start sale in late 2007 for the ’08 model year. That means the Slade will come only as a standard-length wagon with the same new Two-Mode hybrid powertrain that delivers surprising big-SUV fuel-economy ratings. The EPA pegs the hybrid Tahoe/Yukon at 21 mpg city and 22 highway with two-wheel drive and 20/20 with 4WD. The Cadillac should earn similar numbers. Those city ratings are impressive, being on par with those for conventional V6 midsize sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. On the other hand, such cars rate at least 10-mpg more in highway driving, where any hybrid is relatively less efficient. Nevertheless, despite GM’s claimed 25-percent fuel-economy gain, these SUVs can tow up to 6000 pounds, so they’re still “real” trucks.

The gas/electric Slade should share most of its cousins’ other enhancements that aim to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight, again to maximize fuel economy and minimize greenhouse-gas emissions. These include a hood and tailgate made of aluminum instead of steel; lighter wheels and seats; and wind-cheating body enhancements such as a smoother front fascia, “aero” side skirts, and a rear air deflector on the roof. In addition, electric motors replace engine-driven pulleys to run the (non-hydraulic) power steering and air-conditioning compressor. Otherwise, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will have all the bling and in-your-face attitude of any Slade.

Speaking of which, GM’s hybrid SUVs arrive as standard-length wagons because those are the lighest models and thus easiest to engineer for max fuel economy. In time, however, look for the Two-Mode system to be available in big brothers like Cadillac’s Escalade ESV wagon and “transformer” EXT pickup.

A Notable Feature of the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

The Two-Mode hybrid powertrain is the main attraction, of course. It’s the fruit of a $1 billion joint development program among General Motors, BMW and DaimlerChrysler. GM’s partners will soon offer similar systems in their own trucks and SUVs.

The GM setup pairs a special 6.0-liter V8 and four-speed torque-converter automatic transmission–no “gearless” CVT here–with two electric motors and a high-capacity battery pack. As on hybrid cars like the compact Toyota Prius, the engine employs the Atkinson combustion cycle that delays closing the intake valves to boost efficiency and reduce emissions. For those same reasons, the V8 employs variable valve timing and GM’s Active Fuel Management, which deactivates four cylinders at light throttle openings such as steady-speed cruising. Controlling it all is a powertrain computer that also calculates when to crank up the gasoline engine. Again like the Prius and other hybrid cars, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will run on electric power alone at low speeds–in this case, up to 32 mph. Go faster and the V8 cuts in, with the twin motors assisting where needed. An extra “green” gauge helps the driver extract maximum mpg, as does a Toyota-style “power flow” schematic that can be displayed on a dashboard screen. As usual with hybrids, the GM SUVs include an engine start/stop function, for saving gas at stoplights, and regenerative braking, which uses the electric motors to recharge the battery pack when stopping or coasting.

Buying Advice for the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

GM is first to market with big hybrid-power SUVs, but it won’t be alone for long. As we said, the same system will soon be available from development partners BMW and DaimlerChrysler, both Daimler–as in Mercedes-Benz-and Chrysler. Still, the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and its Chevy/GMC cousins would seem to merit a long, hard look, especially if you’re one of those who want or need such a vehicle, but also want to do your bit to reduce global warming and fossil-fuel dependence. A guilt-free big SUV? This could be it.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Release Date: Look for a debut at the November 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show (what better place to trout out a “green” SUV?) or early in 2008, perhaps in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Whenever the formal unveiling occurs, sales should start a few weeks afterward.

First Test Drive: Journalists have already had their first seat time in the hybrid Tahoe and Yukon. Media previews for the Escalade should happen either very late in 2007 or early in ’08.

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Prices: The Tahoe/Yukon Hybrid hasn’t yet started sale at this writing, but GM expects to price those models at around $50,000, about $11,000 above conventional counterparts in top-line trim. Assuming Cadillac maintains a similar spread, the gas/electric Escalade should start at about $57,000 with two-wheel drive and around $60,000 as a 4×4.

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