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2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

Posted: 11/22/2011 - 8:28 PM ET

The 2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid has always had questionable "green" credentials since its debut in 2008. A massive, blinged-out, eight-seater that can tow up to 5,800 pounds and sells for $73,850 to $85,845, the Escalade Hybrid gets 20 mpg city and 23 highway. Considering this SUV is 17 feet long and weighs more than 3 tons, that's not as bad as it sounds, and, shockingly, the hybrid Escalade has 40 percent better fuel efficiency than its non-hybrid siblings in the model line.

A hold over form 2011, the only changes for the new model year are better anti-theft devices and enhancements to the navigation system. The Escalade shares the same hybrid system as the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon. All sit atop the same platform. Under the hood you'll find a 6-liter V8 making 332 hp, two 50 kw motor generators powered by a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack, and a two-mode hybrid transmission.

Essentially the systems play a constant game of trade off. At low speeds the electric system takes over when possible, but the Escalade can only manage two miles on all-electric power at speeds up to 35 mph. Out on the highway, the electric motors serve to boost power. The goal is the best fuel consumption possible, and, for what it is, the Escalade hybrid juggles its options well. The fact that four of the eight cylinders can take a break when a V4 is the best choice certainly helps, and this is generally the case in highway driving with speeds falling in the 40-70 mph range.

Well known for high-profile luxury, the Escalade Hybrid has the same ability to both impress and mildly repel as it's gas-only brothers. After all, you're not going to be able to ignore 22-inch chrome alloy wheels. The hybrid's opulent cabin is also distinguished by additional guages that monitor overall efficiency with more hybrid operation stats displaying on the screen of the nav unit. Other standards include remote start, heated and cooled seats, leather on all rows, and the expected tech -- Bluetooth, USB, iPod port, Bose audio, backup camera, blind spot detection, and a power lift gate. Opt for the Platinum version and you upgrade to French stitching, heated and cooled cupholders, and dual screens on the back of the headrests for the rear entertainment system.

While the towing capacity is certainly up to par, the Escalade's interior cargo room isn't, with just 16.9 cubic feet behind the third row. The seat backs can be folded down for more space, but you don't get a flat surface. The second row can tumble forward, but it's all awkward and annoying. This is not an SUV designed for hauling, but rather for cruising around in style.

Not surprisingly, the ride is truck-ish, but this big beast takes a corner well, and on the highway it's a long, steady glide with acceleration like silk. Want a luxury road trip? Hard to go wrong with the Escalade. There are two trims, with the standard model available in two and four-wheel drive at $73,850 and $76,400 respectively. At the Premium level you'll pay $83,295 and $85,845 each.

Other hybrids to consider in this class? Well, there's the GMC Yukon Denali with equal seating and towing for $10,000 less or the Audi A7 TDI diesel with room for seven, AWD, and $24,950 off the Escalade's sticker shock. Either way? You have a behemoth that pretends to fuel efficiency. The 2012 Escalade Hybrid is big, luxurious, and technically "green," but let's not be coy, the shade of green is very pale. Need room for eight, massive towing capacity, and want to do it with luxury bordering on decadence? You'll love the Escalade Hybrid.



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