First Drive: 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

GM is rolling out the third two-mode hybrid fullsize SUV later this summer.
We got a first drive in the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid recently as the automaker visited with members of the automotive media at the Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas.

In addition to the new hybrid model, Cadillac representatives also showed their newest Platinum Escalade sporting one of the best-looking grilles of any fullsize SUV on the road today.

The hybrid models use the same powertrain we first saw in the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrids. It features a 6.0-liter gasoline V-8 engine mated to a new transmission that houses the heart of the two-mode hybrid technology. And the new Cadillac sports those same great city fuel economy figures (21 mpg) we first saw (but could not believe) in the GM siblings.

We tested the new Cadillacs on a hot, sunny summer day with temps hovering near the century mark, and we were impressed with how well the air conditioning kept the interior cool even when the two-mode hybrid system shuts off the gas engine at stops.

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid will be available in two- or four-wheel-drive configurations on models touting the premium content packages – except for Platinum editions (for now).

All of GMs fullsize hybrids are built at the Arlington GM Assembly Plant – Tahoe, Yukon and, as of August, Escalade. It has also been announced that by 2010 ALL fullsize GM SUVs will be built in Arlington – and perhaps even sooner.

Driving the Escalade Hybrid, it is very difficult to identify when the vehicle is running in electric-only mode or gas/electric or gas-only thanks to the work engineers have done to create such a seamless experience. If not for the instrumentation most drivers would not be able to tell the difference.

Exact pricing has not been announced yet but Cadillac reps put it at somewhere in the mid-70s.

The topic of whether the pricey hybrid models are paying for themselves did arise in conversation over lunch, so let’s do a little math here:
The Hybrid powertrain is only available on a high-content vehicle and adds about $5,200 to most of the SUV window stickers. Gas (and all the hybrids run on regular-grade gasoline) is selling for around four bucks. For this demonstration I am going to say that I only drive my new Escalade Hybrid in town, so we will see fuel economy rise from the current 12 to 21 mpg. Let’s get to cipherin’ …
The way I figure it, if we drive 15,000 miles per year, in town, and gas is four bucks a gallon, we would save $2,142.84 each year getting 21 mpg versus the 12 mpg in the gas-only Escalade. That means in just 2.43 years the Hybrid will have paid for itself.

And fortunately, the Escalade has a five-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on the hybrid battery pack (which is located under the second-row seat).

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