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2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid was new.


Performance: 7.9

Overall, reviewers are pleased with the 2011 Escalade Hybrid’s performance. There are some caveats, though. Many writers say that the brakes feel jerky, and that the transition from the electric motor to gas power is a bit obtrusive. Finally, piloting the Escalade Hybrid (or conventional Escalade, for that matter) requires extra caution just because it’s so big.

The Escalade Hybrid gets 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway according to the EPA. While this is great compared to the conventional Escalade’s numbers (13/18 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive and 14/18 with two-wheel drive), it’s still not in the same class as other hybrids, which tend to be small cars and can get 40 mpg or more.

The Escalade Hybrid’s towing and payload capacity are 5,800 lbs and 1,421 lbs, respectively, down from the conventional Escalade’s limits. But reviewers bet that consumers won’t mind, since most don’t use their Escalades for much more than carting around people and luggage.

  • “The Escalade hybrid feels just like the regular Escalade, but still, it feels better. The ride is quieter and the performance just as good." -- Detroit News
  • "Highs: Seamless integration of hybrid system, retains impressive towing capacity and power, acceleration." -- Car and Driver
  • "Therein lies the dilemma of this truck: its mileage is great compared with a regular Escalade's, but that's like saying the American economy is great compared with Zimbabwe's." -- New York Times
  • "You'll have to get used to the powertrain's mildly eccentric manners, as the transmission responds a bit lazily under full power and the brake pedal delivers a surging sensation." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The Escalade Hybrid’s gas/electric 6.0L V8 has 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, significantly less than the gas-only Escalade’s 403 ponies and 417 pound-feet of torque. Reviewers don’t mind, though. They say that it still has plenty of power and good pickup when zooming away from a red light or onto a freeway. However, most of these compliments come with a qualifier. For example, reviewers say the Escalade Hybrid has a lot of speed and power for a hybrid, or for a hybrid three-ton vehicle, rather than just saying that it has a lot of speed and power.

  • "The Escalade Hybrid can accelerate to nearly 30 mph using only the electric motors, while the V8 kicks in when necessary under greater loads or at higher speeds." -- Edmunds
  • "Plus, the ride literally glides along the highway. The 6-liter engine and electric motor produce absolutely silky smooth acceleration. At low speed, the electric motor alone can propel the Escalade hybrid, using no gasoline whatsoever, which is quite a feat considering this SUV can weigh as much as three tons." -- Detroit News

Fuel Economy

Although the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid gets good fuel economy for its size and weight, reviewers say it’s not enough to justify the price jump that goes along with it. One reviewer from Consumer Guide said, “You will NEVER save enough fuel to justify the extra cash you'll dole out for the Hybrid model.” While that statement might be a bit hyperbolic, it would take more than 13 years for the annual fuel savings to be worth the extra money for the Hybrid. Both the two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models of the Escalade Hybrid get an EPA-rated 20/23 mpg city/highway. This is a significant improvement over the two-wheel drive conventional Escalade’s 14/18 mpg city/highway and the all-wheel drive conventional model’s 13/18 mpg city/highway. 

  • "This SUV is very likeable. It may be big, but it still gets decent gas mileage -- its 20 miles per gallon in the city matches the likes of many midsize sedans -- and its 23 mpg on the highway shows that hybrids are not strictly city crawlers." -- Detroit News
  • "There's no question that the hybrid saves gasoline compared to a standard Escalade, but as with every hybrid, the added cost of purchase for the hybrid means that you feel the benefit in your heart, not your pocketbook." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Overall, reviewers say that the Escalade Hybrid’s handling is acceptable. Writers’ most common complaints have to do with the regenerative braking system, which works effectively but is difficult to get used to.

  • "Combined ABS and regenerative braking system do a terrific job of hauling the beast down from speed - we almost put a seatbeltless friend through the windshield (his own damn fault) when someone cut us off." -- Wired
  • "The regular Escalade handles smoothly and confidently for a vehicle of its size, and even with the extra weight, the Escalade Hybrid is no different here." -- Autobytel
  • "Placing the Escalade in its lane becomes easier with practice, but the first minutes of anxiety can be really long if they're in traffic. Pulling into parking spaces never stopped being as intimidating as docking a Great Lakes iron ore boat in your bathtub." -- Dallas Examiner
  • "The electric rack-in-pinion steering feels exact without feeling overbearing. The Escalade is surprisingly easy to maneuver, and the advantage of the electric motor operating the steering system means it can tighten up at higher speeds and loosen up when silently cruising around parking lots.” -- Detroit News 
  • "The cylinder deactivation system goes about its work seamlessly, as it automatically shuts down and restarts engine cylinders when appropriate. The regenerative braking system takes some getting used to, however, as it gives surging feedback through the pedal as you attempt to come to a smooth stop.” -- Edmunds

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