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The Escalade enters 2012 with no significant changes from the 2011 model.
The Escalade includes three different models--the standard Escalade and extended-length Escalade ESV, which are luxurious sport-utility vehicles; and the Escalade EXT, which includes most of the attributes of the Escalade SUV but offers a pickup bed.
No matter the style, the Escalade is powered by a 403-horsepower, 6.2L V8 engine that's also Flex-Fuel capable, meaning that it can run on up to 85% ethanol-gasoline mix. It's paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or all-wheel drive. However, the full-time all-wheel drive system does not include a low range and is designed for on-road duty.
The Escalade Hybrid employs a version of GM's 2-mode hybrid system, featuring an electric motor system that can capture energy when coasting or cruising and use it to assist when accelerating. The Hybrid's powertrain features a variable automatic transmission and a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The engine also has an Auto Stop mode that shuts off the engine when possible to further aid in saving fuel, while the air conditioning compressor and power steering are driven electrically to save power. Altogether, the Hybrid delivers EPA ratings of 20 city, 23 highway, with a 5,800-pound tow rating.
The Escalade performs surprisingly well for a heavy, body-on-frame SUV. The V8 provides strong acceleration and impressive passing power. It also handles quite well and has been tuned for smooth, but not bouncy, ride quality. Across the lineup, big 4-wheel disc brakes are included, along with anti-lock brakes and GM's Stabilitrak electronic stability control, plus a full contingent of airbags.
Additional high-tech safety features offered on the Escalade include Side Blind Zone Alert, which sounds an audible and visual alert if there are objects detected in the blind zones. OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation allows the driver to download directions from an operator-assisted call center directly to the navigation system, while XM NavTraffic enables live traffic updates.
The key difference between the standard Escalade and the ESV is that the ESV's wheelbase is more than a foot longer. That means that while the ESV won't turn and park quite as neatly, it does offer a bit more legroom for the third row, along with more space behind it; access to the third row is improved as well. Both versions get a fold-and-tumble second row, however. Standard Escalades and ESV models have seating for up to seven, while the EXT has space for up to five, with two rows of seating and a small pickup bed that's just large enough for a piece of furniture or an ATV. What makes the EXT especially noteworthy is that the cargo bed can be extended into the cabin when necessary to accommodate larger items, while a lockable tonneau cover can be placed over items when you're not using the entire bed.
Escalade and Escalade ESV are offered in Base, Luxury, Premium, and Platinum editions. The Platinum models get a long list of exclusive equipment, including Magnetic Ride Control (which helps further improve both ride and handling), distinctive LED headlamps, Airline leather with contrasting stitching, special leather surfaces with French-stitched seams and special wood and aluminum trim. The standard Escalade cabin is nearly as lavish, with Ebony and Cashmere interior surfaces, white LED lighting, heated-and-cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel.