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car review

2010 Cadillac Escalade HybridTed Laturnus

The Cadillac Escalade Hybrid is a four-wheeled contradiction in terms. Introduced in 2009 at the South Florida Auto Show, appropriately enough, it was the only full-size luxury hybrid in GM's stable and, these days, is priced at much more than $100,000 after taxes and extras. If ever there was a vehicle that demonstrates how going green is mainly for the rich, this is it.

Still, if you can find one, you can pick up a two- or three year-old model for about half of the price of a new one, and you will find yourself piloting a surprisingly nimble, reasonably thrifty (all things considered) and commodious SUV that is chock-a-block with convenience features and luxury goodies.

A full leather interior, power front seats with multi-setting heated cushions and backs, wood-trimmed steering wheel, power-tilt steering, power-adjustable pedals, power sunroof, Bluetooth, back-up alarm, remote vehicle start, power rear tailgate, XM satellite radio and side blind zone alert all came with the 2010 Escalade Hybrid. Options included a rear entertainment system that came with overhead screen, a pair of wireless headphones and remote control and power-retractable assist steps that automatically fold down when you open the doors.

Designed jointly with BMW, Mercedes, and Chrysler, the Escalade's hybrid system was what the company described as a "two mode" setup. At low speeds, the vehicle was propelled by battery power alone – depending on how you drove it – and during highway cruising, the electric motors augmented the vehicle's V-8 engine to help reduce fuel consumption. On-board computers kept track of your driving habits and applied the electric power accordingly. The engine also automatically shut itself off when the vehicle stopped and it came with regenerative braking to help recharge the 300-volt nickel metal hydride battery pack.

Despite the fact that the transmission was a CVT, the system worked surprisingly well and the back-and-forth between battery power and internal combustion motivation was seamless and unobtrusive. If you executed a "jackrabbit" start away from a stop light, the system automatically reverted to pure engine power, but if you accelerated gradually, it stayed with the electric motors until about 20 km/h. When the engine cut in, the change was almost imperceptible. On the highway, the transition was undetectable.

The powertrain in this version of the Escalade was intriguing. The V-8 engine displaced 6.0 litres and, in this configuration, developed 332 horsepower in tandem with the electric motor. It was mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission and the vehicle featured full-time all-wheel-drive. This engine also had GM's active fuel management system, which shuts off up to half of the engine cylinders during highway driving. Still, you'd be lucky to get more than 11.0 litres/100 km around town. Definitely better than the non-hybrid model, but still nothing to write home about. It took regular gas, no problem.

Only one safety recall to report from Transport Canada and it concerns the fuel supply system, which could let in moisture and cause the vehicle to stall unexpectedly. This glitch affects early and 2009 Escalade models, and is a widespread recall involving many GM light trucks for this year.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has six technical service bulletins for the 2010 Escalade Hybrid. These are electrical in nature and involve a possible electrical short in the wiring and steering wheel assembly that could result in wonky cruise control and random instrument panel warnings for the traction control and braking systems.

Consumer Reports doesn't have a lot of info on this one, perhaps because it's such a low-volume model. But the non-hybrid 2011 Escalade gets mostly good grades and garners an "average" used-car prediction.

Market research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, gave the 2010 Escalade Hybrid full marks for overall quality when new, but well below average grades for overall performance and design. Interestingly, the Escalade's comfort and style are problematic for this organization.

From a base price of just less than 100-large in 2010, the Escalade Hybrid has dropped to the mid $40,000-$50,000 range, depending upon the model. The fully loaded Platinum version is substantially pricier than the regular model.

Tech specs

2010 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

Original Base Price: $94,295; Black Book: $56,225; Red Book: $46,750-$54,825

Engine: 6.0-litre V-8/dual electric motors

Horsepower/Torque: 332 hp/367 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT

Drive: Four-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.4 city/8.5 highway (V-6); regular gas

Alternatives: Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, GMC Yukon Hybrid, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid