For 2007, the Cadillac Escalade EXT pickup truck transforms into its second generation, based as before on the full-size Chevrolet Avalanche, which is also all-new for 2007.

Like the Escalade and Escalade ESV, the new EXT now uses a 6.2-litre all-aluminum V8 engine with six-speed automatic, which replaces the 6.0-litre and four-speed of 2006, and with a corresponding jump to 403 hp from 345 hp. It all rides on a new fully-boxed frame that has 49 per cent more torsional stiffness, and includes new interior and exterior styling, curtain airbags with rollover protection for all seating rows, and OnStar with new one-year “Directions and Connections” service plan, which features turn-by-turn navigation directions. The price, surprisingly, rises by a mere $15 over 2006.

As with the Avalanche, the Escalade EXT features the company’s exclusive “Midgate” panel, which allows the EXT to convert from a five-passenger SUV into a two-passenger pickup, with 2.7 metres (nine feet) of protected and secured storage area. The Midgate can be folded into the cabin, enlarging the cargo area from 1.5 metres to 2.4 metres (five feet to eight feet), for a total of 2860 litres (101 cu.ft.) of secured volume. The truck includes a standard locking tonneau cover which can be removed entirely for extra space.

Standard equipment on the EXT includes automatic all-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, heavy-duty locking rear differential, Bose 5.1 surround sound system, high intensity discharge headlamps, power-adjustable pedals with memory, remote starter, leather seats with 14-way power adjusters on both front seats and two-position driver memory, independently-heated cushions and seatbacks with three settings, second-row leather 60/40 split-folding bench, StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation, trailer package, Ultrasonic parking assist, 18-inch aluminum wheels and rain-sensing wipers.

Available options include an eight-inch touch-screen navigation system, DVD system, 18- or 22-inch chromed wheels, and XM Satellite Radio with three months free service.

The EXT is identical to the Escalade from the front doors forward, but is as long as the extended-length ESV, and shares all of the comprehensive upgrades of the equally-new-for-2007 Escalade.

The EXT may be overkill, but what overkill it is: it combines the best features of Chevrolet’s popular Avalanche with plush luxury, and can quickly and easily switch from SUV status to hardworking pickup truck. Most of the other automakers have been content to sit back and watch the perennial rivals duke it out: the only real competition in the field is the equally posh Lincoln Mark LT.

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