Despite sharing its name with the Escalade sport utility
introduced a few years ago, the Escalade EXT is actually more like the 2002 Chevy
Avalanche in its configuration. Both vehicles share the innovative and ingenious midgate,
which lets you switch between the five-person seating of a sport utility vehicle (with a
small truck bed) and a truck with only front seats but a bed capable of carrying a 4 by 8
sheet of plywood with the tailgate closed.
The 2002 Escalade EXT may look like a pickup, but it is different in at least two
important ways. First of all, it is built on a version of Chevy's sport utility vehicle
chassis, not the pickup chassis, so the ride is more comfortable. Also, this is one
luxurious vehicle, not to be confused with any farmer's hauler or plumber's workhorse.
The Escalade EXT smells like a Cadillac when you open the door. The nuance leather is
soft and fragrant. The seats offer ten-way adjustment, heated upper and lower cushions,
and power lumbar and side bolsters. Real Zebrano wood trim adds luxury, too, although some
of the wood paneling looked a little artificial to me.
The Cadillac dashboard features a full set of attractive, chrome-ringed gauges behind
the half-wood/half-leather steering wheel. A message center in the dash conveys emergency
information. A trip computer displays fuel mileage, distance to empty, and other handy
information. And, another button allows you to customize numerous preferences for two
different drivers, including seat and mirror settings, language, radio stations, and other
settings. The only design glitch for me was an analog clock mounted too low for easy
The Escalade EXT boasts a 6.0-liter, 345 horsepower V8 engine. GM reworked the
Hydra-Matic automatic transmission to handle the 380 lb.-ft. of torque the V8 cranks out.
This gives the Cadillac truck a 45-horsepower and 20 lb.-ft. advantage over its only
competitor, the Lincoln Blackwood. Fuel mileage for this 5,752-pound vehicle is 12 city,
15 highway. I averaged in between, at 13.6 mpg.
On the road, the engine and transmission combo provides potent, effortless motoring.
You can hear and sense a hearty rumble, but it's not enough to prevent enjoyment of the
Bose Premium music system. The system's 6-CD changer right in the dash is the latest way
For safety, the Escalade EXT's full-time, all-wheel-drive system uses a viscous
coupling to automatically send torque to where it is needed. Cadillac's Stabilitrak system
employs an array of sensors to compare where the car is going to driver control input. If
the system senses any variation, it instantly adjusts brake pressure or engine torque to
compensate and bring the car back to where the driver wants it to go.
Cadillac's Road Sensing Suspension System uses electronically controlled shock
absorbers, electronic wheel position sensors, a steering angle sensor and a computer
control module to monitor each wheel 1,000 times per second and compute the exact shock
demand for it. This system keeps the Escalade EXT completely stable regardless of road
Cadillacs of yore boasted enormous trunks, but the utility of the Escalade EXT
beats any Cadillac of the past. It starts with the aforementioned midgate, which can be
removed and stored in the vehicle to expand the bed length. Also, the rear window can be
taken out and stored as well, independently of the midgate, for extra ventilation. In
addition, a three-piece removable cargo cover allows you to securely store material inside
the fully lined truck bed with a lock and key. The tailgate key is separate from the
truck's electronic locking system however, and must be engaged manually.
That truck bed itself is made of a durable composite material called Pro-Tec, so it
should remain attractive even after you haul things around back there. And, to top the
whole thing off, Top-Box storage compartments are built into the side of the cargo box.
These lighted, lockable containers are great for smaller items, including tools or a handy
six-pack of beer.
A couple of other noteworthy features include GM's OnStar system, which uses cellular
phone and satellite navigation technology to provide a range of information, security, and
roadside assistance features. Also, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist uses audio and visual
cues to sense items behind the truck during backup maneuvers. A series of beeps warns the
driver of impending contact, preventing damage and tragedy.
List price for the EXT is $49,235. My Silver Sand tester had an optional power glass
sunroof ($1,550), so with destination charge the total came to $51,540.
Who is buying this most unusual of Cadillacs? General Motors expects to sell most of
them to college-educated professional men in their mid thirties to mid fifties with a
household income of $125,000. If Cadillac is successful with the Escalade and the new CTS
sedan, it will bring in a much younger buyer, which is the venerable brand's aim.