By KBB.com Editors
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT is probably the least-likely vehicle Cadillac's founders could have envisioned wearing the wreath and crest. Nevertheless, consumers seem to have to taken to the "Cadillac of pickup trucks" just fine, and have made the EXT a sales success. Derived from the same platform as the Chevrolet Avalanche, the Escalade EXT offers room for five, ample towing power and a clever Midgate folding bulkhead that extends the cargo bed into the passenger compartment. Yet, for all its workability, the Escalade EXT remains true to the spirit of Cadillac, pampering its occupants in all manner of soft seating and electronic goodies, including numerous safety and stability enhancements aimed at protecting said occupants.
If you don't need the convenience of a third-row seat, the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT offers all the interior amenities of its SUV cousin, but with the added capability of a pickup truck bed.
If you need the versatility provided by the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT's folding Midgate, but you don't care about the upscale image that comes with the Cadillac brand, save yourself some cash and get a loaded Chevrolet Avalanche instead.
Changes to the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT are minor and include some new color choices, enhancements to the navigation and OnStar system and the addition of more sound proofing. Cadillac's Premium Care Maintenance is standard on all 2011 Escalade EXTs.
Driving Impressions While it will never be mistaken for a sport sedan, the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT doesn't drive like a full-size pickup, either. It actually rides and drives like...a very large sedan, maybe the way a full-size Fleetwood Brougham might have if the car had been kept alive this long. The full-frame EXT is more agile than it appears and its array of electronic suspension and stability controls keeps it firmly planted to the road. The 6.2-liter V8 idles a bit rough for our taste, but has no detractors when it comes to acceleration and passing power. Compared with other GM trucks, the EXT's braking and steering feel vastly better, with more feedback to the driver and a quicker response time.
Remote Vehicle Starting
This is one of those features that you may not want to live without once you've become used to it, especially in hot summer or cold winter weather. At the touch of a key-fob button from afar it can start the engine and begin cooling or heating the cabin before you're even inside.
Convert-a-Cab Midgate Panel
This clever removable divider system quickly converts the EXT from a closed-cabin SUV with a five-foot pickup bed to a surprisingly capable pickup by extending the bed nearly three feet into the rear seat area.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT's interior takes Cadillac luxury to its extreme end. Beyond the heated and cooled leather seating, power controls for every conceivable function and an audio system worthy of the best concert halls, the EXT's interior is so solidly wrapped in sound deadening materials one can almost hear a pin drop. Gauges are large and legible, backlit with white LEDs and accented with stylish blue-light inlays; similar backlighting makes it easy to find the power window, lock and mirror switches at night. Rear-seat passengers have plenty of space to stretch out, but some might find the upright seat backs a bit uncomfortable. The manually-folding Midgate bulkhead is pretty slick, but opens the Escalade EXT's elegant interior to the ravages of the great outdoors and all the security, weather and dirt issues that includes.Exterior
When viewed from the front, there is little to distinguish the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT from its SUV siblings. Move to the side, however, and the difference becomes clear. Beyond the rear door resides a five-foot cargo bed, with flying-buttress-like pillars flowing from the rear window and a removable locking tonneau cover that helps secure valuables inside the bed. Opening the folding Midgate bulkhead connects the passenger cabin with the fully-lined bed, increasing its length from five to eight feet. The remaining exterior parts are pure Escalade, with lots of chrome around the grille and headlamps, huge chrome-plated 22-inch alloy wheels and obligatory chrome side vents.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT's comprehensive standard content begins with all-wheel drive, automatic rear leveling, Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist, a three-piece rigid cargo cover and remote vehicle starting. Interior features include leather-covered 14-way power heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel radio controls, rear audio controls, power-adjustable pedals, DVD navigation with rear backup camera, Bose Surround Sound, XM Satellite Radio and OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation. Additional safety and convenience features include advanced front airbags with passenger sensing, head-curtain side airbags for both rows, front side thorax airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes (ABS), Stabilitrak stability control and rain-sensing wipers.
Most of the 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT's options are offered with the Luxury or Premium Collection trims and include 22-inch tires on chromed aluminum wheels, rear-seat entertainment system, power-adjustable running boards, a power sliding sunroof, a heated steering wheel, Magnetic Ride Control suspension and IntelliBeam automatic headlamps.
Powering every 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT is a 6.2-liter all-aluminum V8 with Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation, which cuts to four the number of active cylinders when under light load. Variable valve timing (VVT) optimizes camshaft timing to improve low-rpm torque and high-rpm power, along with emissions and fuel economy.
403 hp at 5700 rpm
417 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18 (gasoline), 9/13 (E85)