Quick Drive: 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Platinum

By Winding Road Staff

November 03, 2011

First, let me say that I really do like driving around in the Cadillac Escalade. There’s an undeniable sense of cool that comes with piloting this biggest of Caddys that can’t be matched by many other SUVs (Range Rovers are notable exceptions). The thing is, I’m tired of the current Escalade. As cool and as fun as it is to drive, it no longer feels like the high-class product that it once was.
Despite a few nice pieces of trim, the Escalade’s interior doesn’t do a great deal to communicate its status as a high-end (and high-priced) luxury SUV. Sure, the center stack feels quite nice, but the large majority of the dash plastics are too hard and unforgiving to really communicate a feeling of quality. The steering wheel, feels cheap with its partial-wood trim, as well. To be frank, it reminded me of the cheap steering wheel covers that you can pick up at the parts store.
The infotainment system has the same problem. While it’s easy enough to figure out, the presentation is lacking the sort of style that we get from a competitive German system. In fact, the graphical interface feels a generation behind the current crop of systems, mainly because it is.
I need to stress that, for what it is, the Escalade is a pretty comfortable ride, and still has some serious style points working for it. It’s just starting to feel too long in the tooth to really continue being a viable alternative to other full-size luxury SUVs.
­—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager
When we did our large-scale luxury SUV comparison test a while back, I got a firsthand look at how the competitive set had caught up with the Escalade in terms of every-bell-and-whistle utes. In fact, trucks like the Land Rover LR4 and Infiniti QX56 have really surpassed the once-champ Escalade in terms of overall awesomeness.
It’s not like the Escalade has simply gone bad, more that it hasn’t been updated (or better, completely revised) while newer products like the QX have sprung up. That relative datedness isn’t unique to Cadillac in this teetering full-size SUV segment, as mainline competitors like the Lexus LX (2007), Mercedes-Benz GL (2006), and Lincoln Navigator (2007) are all growing pretty long in the tooth.
With that said, I still think that the Escalade Hybrid adds something to the mix that is both pleasurable and relevant for a big SUV, and I’m not talking about fuel economy. The electric torque down low, and whisper-quite operation both suit the luxury truck brief to a tee. When/if Caddy feels the financial winds have shifted sufficiently to launch the next baller-king Escalade, I believe that some version of this hybrid powertrain will have to be in the mix—and that’s a good thing.
—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief 
Few cars can deliver this sort of bluff, confident visual impact
Hybrid powertrain works nicely in this package
Overall comfort is still very high
Some of the interior materials are a bit too cheap for a $90,000 vehicle
Newer competitors offer far more technology and comfort features for the price
Chrome has been a dying look for a few years now—it’s time for a subtler form of bling