2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
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by Greg Wilson

New for 2002, the Cadillac Escalade EXT is based on the Chevrolet Avalanche with its unique folding ‘midgate’ between the cabin and the cargo box. The Escalade EXT features Cadillac’s 345 horsepower 6.0 litre V8 engine, permanent all-wheel-drive system, and the Escalade’s distinctive ‘chiselled’ styling. Most features are included for the EXT’s MSRP of $65,900.



A luxury SUV and a pickup rolled into one

A ‘Cadillac pickup truck’ would have seemed an odd, if not heretical concept, just a few years ago – but in today’s automotive age of ‘crossovers’, ‘hybrids’, and creative niche vehicles, just about anything is possible.

General Motors calls the Escalade EXT a “luxury sport utility truck”, a half SUV, half pickup and half luxury vehicle (which makes one and a half vehicles – but who’s counting.)

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
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There’s no doubt the EXT is a vehicle that serves many purposes. With a roomy, luxurious, well-equipped cabin for five people, a five foot cargo bed that converts to an eight foot bed by folding down the panel between the cabin and the cargo box, an all-wheel-drive drivetrain, and a towing capacity of 3674 kg (8100 lb.), the Escalade EXT combines the attributes of a luxury vehicle and a utility vehicle in a way that no other vehicle can match. Lincoln offers a full-size luxury pickup called the Blackwood in the U.S.A., but this vehicle is not sold in Canada.

Norm Sawula, Cadillac Brand Manager for GM of Canada says the Escalade EXT is a vehicle whose time has come. “Cadillac research showed that there was a real need for the EXT. About 20 percent of luxury households own a full-size pickup and 23 percent of Cadillac households own a full-size pickup. With most of these pickup owners purchasing the optional up-level trim, there was a clear signal to us that Cadillac needed to tap into this market.”

Sawula says the Escalade EXT is targeted towards affluent, mostly male professionals, managers and entrepreneurs in their mid-40s with a household income of $180,000 plus. These people need a vehicle that offers luxury as well as cargo carrying flexibility and a good towing capacity, says Sawula.


Part Avalanche, part Escalade

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
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The Escalade EXT might be more appropriately called the ‘Escalanche’. While it shares the Escalade SUV’s front-end styling, interior design, 6.0 litre V8 engine, and all-wheel-drive system, the Escalade EXT’s body design is based on the Chevrolet Avalanche which has a longer wheelbase (130 inches vs 116 inches). In fact, the EXT is about 558 mm (22 inches) longer overall than the Escalade SUV.

Like the Avalanche and other GM full-size pickups, the EXT has a fully-boxed, ladder-type truck frame with rigid hydroformed front and rear sections. With a GVWR of 3175 kg. (7000 lb.), the EXT is a heavy-duty truck that can haul payloads of up to 581 kg (1,281 lb.), and tow trailers up to 3674 kg (8100 lb.)

Its 6.0 litre ‘Vortec’ overhead valve V8 engine develops a class-leading 345 horsepower 5200 rpm and 380 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, one of the reasons it makes such a good tow vehicle. The EXT’s standard transmission is a heavy-duty four-speed automatic with GM’s Tow/Haul mode, a feature which adjusts shifting points to compensate for a heavy trailer load. The all-wheel-drive system is a permanently engaged full-time system that doesn’t have to engaged and disengaged. A centre viscous coupling delivers most of the power to the rear wheels, but is capable of transferring more to the front wheels when the rear wheels slip.

With such a big engine and a hefty curb weight of 2519 kg (5554 lb.), the Escalade EXT’s fuel consumption is understandably thirsty: the best you’ll get is 20.4 l/100 km (14 mpg) in the city, and 14.5 l/100 km (19 mpg) on the highway. But surprisingly, the engine uses Regular grade fuel, not Premium, which will save you a few bucks when filling up its 117 litre fuel tank (gulp!).

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
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The Escalade EXT comes with a short-and-long-arm independent front suspension with torsion bars and stabilizer bar, and a solid rear axle with a 5-link coil spring system, stabilizer bar, and automatic load levelling. Big 17-inch alloy wheels and P265/70R-17 all-season touring radials are standard.

The brakes are big 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with twin piston callipers and a 4-wheel anti-lock braking system with Dynamic Rear Proportioning (DRP) for optimum front to rear brake balance. As well, EXT’s come standard with StabiliTrak (an automatic anti-skid system), and a computer-controlled road sensing suspension package.


Folding ‘midgate’

The EXT’s most interesting feature is its ‘folding midgate’, a hinged wall between the cargo box and the cabin which folds down to extend the box from 1.6 m (5′ 3″) to 2.44 m (8′ 1″). This allows the EXT to transport items up to 1.22 m x (4′ x 8′) in size.

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
Click image to enlarge

 

To lower the midgate, the rear seat cushions must first be pulled up against the front seatbacks and the 60/40 rear seatbacks folded down flat. Then by twisting a large dial on the midgate, it folds down flat on the rear seatbacks. Easy, once you get the hang of it.

If you want to remove the rear window, release a couple of levers, pull it out and store it in a tailor-made slot inside the midgate (this must be done before you fold down the midgate). As well, a bar between the window and the midgate must be removed and stored in the cargo box. The whole process takes less than five minutes. One problem I discovered is that the seatbelts get caught under the seatbacks and can be difficult to reach when you want to put the seats back up.

The EXT’s box includes a rigid, three-piece cargo cover which is strong enough to stand on. The sides of the cargo box, the Midgate and the tailgate, are made of a new composite (plastic) material that can take a lot of punishment from heavy cargo items. There’s also a full-length, heavy-duty rubber mat to protect the bed.

In addition, the box has four multi-purpose tie-down brackets on each side to help secure items, pocket shelves moulded into the upper box walls for two-tier loading, and vertical dividers that fit into the built-in pockets, creating walls which prevent cargo sliding back and forth every time you brake and accelerate.


Driving impressions

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
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Though the Escalade is big and heavy, it is surprisingly easy to drive. The speed-sensitive recirculating ball steering has a very light touch at slower speeds which makes parking, backing up, and tight maneouvers relatively easy. It is a long vehicle though, and with its big 14 metre (46 feet) turning diameter, the Escalade EXT needs a fairly big space to turn around in. Parallel parking can also be a challenge as few spots are long enough, and you can’t see the car behind you. However, the standard rear Park Aid alerts you to the object behind with a series of beeps and lights � it works very well, and is a worthwhile feature for pickups and minivans.

Despite its substantial curb weight, the Escalade EXT leaps off the line with very little provocation, and continues its powerful acceleration surge all the way through the engine’s rev range. The 345 horsepower 6.0 litre V8 is a wonderfully gutsy powerplant, and the Hydra-Matic 4 speed automatic transmission slides easily through the gears with no effort or strain despite all that torque.

The all-wheel-drive system is essentially transparent, except when you turn the wheels as far as they’ll go, and attempt a tight turn on smooth pavement. You’ll hear a bit of tire squeal as all four wheels attempt to bite. The EXT includes a locking rear differential which sends power to either rear wheel should one lose traction.

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
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In most snow and ice situations, the Escalade EXT will have no problem – its high ground clearance (minimum 219 mm/8.6 in.) is a real asset in Winter, however because the wheelbase is so long, driver’s must be careful not to ‘high-centre’ it on peaked hills � a situation usually only found off-road.

On the freeway, the Escalade EXT is surprisingly quiet and stable – you’d think a vehicle with a brick-like front-end would create more wind noise, but I found it quite comfortable. Engine noise is minimal: at 100 km/h, the EXT’s engine does just 1,700 rpm and at 120 km/h its turning over only 2,100 rpm.

The EXT’s wide track and big 17 inch tires contribute to its high-speed stability cornering abilities. The suspension is well-damped and the ride is comfortable, at least partly because of its long wheelbase. I didn’t find the rear end to be light or loose, as it is in many pickups, probably because the EXT has more weight in the centre of the vehicle than a typical pickup.


Interior impressions

The EXT’s step-in height is fairly high (533 mm/21 in.), but there is a step bar to make it easier. Unlike some four-door pickups, the EXT has four full-size doors and a full-size, 5-passenger cabin with plenty of headroom and legroom for five adults. The doors have big, pull-type handles which are easy to grip, even with gloves on.

2002 Cadillac Excalade EXT

2002 Cadillac Excalade EXT
Click image to enlarge

The standard leather seats have perforated inserts, and the front seats are wide and comfortable with standard seat heaters, inboard folding armrests and integrated seatbelts. Both include 10 power adjustments, including power lumbar and a 2-position memory setting. The driver sits up high, and visibility is marred only by the sloping pillars just behind the rear side windows. As well, the rear deck is fairly tall, and small cars can almost disappear behind the EXT if they’re close enough.

The instrument panel features seven gauges with classy chrome trim, including a centrally-positioned speedometer, tachometer, fuel, battery, coolant, oil pressure and transmission temperature gauge. Walnut trim adds a warm touch to the dash, doors, and top and bottom of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. At the top of the centre console is a Bose Acoustimass AM/FM/cassette stereo with eleven speakers, but the 6-disc CD player is located separately near the bottom of the centre console. Controls for the stereo volume and station selection are also found on the steering wheel hub � but I found them difficult to reach while gripping the steering wheel.

The instrument panel includes an attractive round clock (that I found hard to read), a dual zone automatic climate control system with separate controls for front and rear seating areas, a trip computer and vehicle information centre with an LCD readout, OnStar emergency and trip assistance, and buttons to disable the Stabilitrak system and the Rear Park Aid ultrasonic rear obstacle detector.

The standard four-speed automatic transmission is engaged with a column shift lever rather than a floor shifter which frees up the centre console for other features like cupholders and power outlets.

Between the front seats is a large armrest, with two compartments. The top one is for a cell phone while the bottom one is big enough to store CD’s, cameras and valuables � and the lid tips away from the driver for easier access.

For safety, EXT’s include standard dual front airbags and side airbags, but head curtain airbags are not offered. Personally, I wouldn’t like to be in the vehicle that collides with the two and half ton Escalade EXT.

The EXT’s rear seat is wide enough for three adults, although it has only two head restraints. Without a centre passenger, the centre rear armrest can be folded down, and includes a built-in storage compartment and two cupholders. � there are also two cupholders on the back of the centre console. Rear stereo controls and headphone jacks allow rear passengers to listen to their own music, and two 12 volt powerpoints can be used for external devices like game players or laptops.

The EXT is a wide vehicle and its outside mirrors are large. To prevent them being damaged in tight parking spaces and carwashes, they can be folded in with the press of a button.

The EXT’s tailgate is lockable, but is quite heavy to close. Also, with the tailgate down, the loading height is 838 mm (33 in.), a fairly high lifting height for heavy objects.


Competitor overview

Since there are no other full-size pickups with a folding ‘midgate’, there really are no competitors for the Escalade EXT. The upcoming Chevrolet Avalanche ¾ ton model could be considered a competitor, but it won’t have all the luxury features of the Cadillac.


Pricing

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
Click image to enlarge

The Escalade EXT comes with everything I’ve mentioned above for an MSRP of $65,900 (a relative bargain compared to the Escalade SUV for $72,985). The only options on the EXT are a sunroof for $1,990, and White Diamond premium paint for $1,295. With a freight charge of $1,050, my test vehicle came to $68,940.

Escalade EXT’s are built in Silao, Mexico.


Verdict

This is a niche vehicle for people who want a comfortable, luxurious five-passenger truck that is capable of hauling dirty payloads and towing a big recreational trailer. While it’s one of the most versatile vehicles on the market, it remains to be seen whether it has the ‘image’ that luxury truck buyers are looking for. Ford is rumoured to be cancelling the U.S.-only Lincoln Blackwood because of slow sales. Only time will tell if the EXT will do better.


Technical Data:

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT
Base price $65,900
Freight $1,050
Options $1,990
Price as tested $68,940
Type 4-door, 5-passenger sport utility truck
Layout front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 6.0 litre V8, OHV, 16 valves
Fuel Regular Unleaded
Horsepower 345 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque 380 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission four-speed automatic
Tires Goodyear Wrangler HP P265/70R-17 all-season touring radials
Curb weight 2519 kg. (5554 lb.)
Fuel capacity 117.3 litres (31 gal.)
Towing Capacity (max.)3674 kg. (8100 lb.)
Wheelbase 3302 mm (130.0 in.)
Length 5623 mm (221.4 in.)
Width 2018 mm ( 79.5 in.)
Height 1921 mm ( 75.6 in.)
Fuel consumption City: 20.4 l/100 km (14 mpg)
  14.5 l/100 km (19 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/80,0000 km

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