The thought of an Escalade Hybrid might be confounding to some but as I’ve said before, using Hybrid technology on inefficient big trucks seems like a smart place for an automaker to start by improving the vehicles that need it most. Earlier this year, test road the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen Hybrid. Both used the same two-mode hybrid transmission that was co-developed by GM, Chrysler and others. The conundrum, how to get more miles out of a gallon of gas without sacrificing the inherent capabilities of this large SUV’s?
This $75,333.00 four-wheel drive Escalade is by far the most luxurious inexpensive vehicle using the two-mode hybrid system. It’s priced about $20,000.00 more than the Chevy and GMC versions. The prominent Hybrid budgeting proudly announces this Escalades green intentions and certainly draws attention everywhere it seemed. The bevy of whirring sounds generated by this complex gas electric Escalade is at first a bit disconcerting especially because one of those sounds closely resembles a siren. But after a little while it just becomes a part of the operation.
The big 6-liter V9 utilizes cylinder deactivation when it can becoming a V4 at highway cruising speeds. But the real gains are derived from the unique transmission, which houses two electric motors, which are fed by the 300V battery pack located under the second row of seats. It works by switching from a continuously variable mode under light loads to fix gear operation like a regular automatic for higher demands. The third mode if you will is an all-electric operation that can be use while tooling around the parking lot or while creeping through stop and go traffic.
It’s fun monitoring what’s going on here seeing as how the specifics of the Escalades operation are often masked by its transparency. Make no mistake, you can sometimes tell when modes are changing but without the various monitors it’s often gas work. Of course, many owners won’t care. They’ll just want their 330 horse Escalade to feel and drive like the gas model but with significant gains and fuel economy. The EPA rates the two-wheel Escalade hybrid at 20 miles gallon city and 21 highway. This four-wheel drive model is exempt from the EPA’s test but as you can see here, I averaged about 17.5 miles per gallon. That’s about 1 mpg less than I achieved in the Tahoe Hybrid and 4 miles per gallon less than in the Aspen Hybrid all with four-wheel drive. Either way it’s a 25% improvement over the regular Escalade and that is substantial. You’ll pay about $2400.00 more for the Hybrid version and there are some torquey Hybrid traits that diminish the gas Escalades smooth operation.
Like the unpredictable regenerative braking and hard acceleration that sounds like you're causing damage but overall this is a Hybrid that makes sense towing a 5600 pounds, rear four-wheel drive and luxurious seating for seven. Finally, a big luxury SUV that softens the damnation from the tree huggers. For Drive Time on Yahoo Autos, I’m Steve Hammes.