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This is a bizarre vehicle in that it has about a $5,000 price premium over a regular Escalade and really, the biggest mpg improvement is in the city, where I averaged about 18 mpg on the weekend. I remember consistent 12s in regular Escalades, so there is some real improvement there with the hybrid system.

The trade-off is that the ute is even heavier than a regular model, costs more (as mentioned) and is noticeably slower. It takes a while to get the big fella up and moving, and another while to get it stopped. There's also that weird thing I've experienced in most hybrids I've driven with regenerative brakes, where you start to apply the brake pedal and the car doesn't begin to slow until you're into the brakes pretty good. That said, the hybrid system and its start/stop function operates as smooth as the other hybrid systems available.

It's gorgeous inside with plenty of room and is comfortable. I guess my biggest question is, why does someone spending $90,000 care about saving some gas around town?

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: A couple of things bugged me about this: First, the regen-brake feel is absolutely the worst I've experienced. I had to make a panic stop on the freeway, and it was downright scary how long this thing took to finally get stopped. I know there's a lot of mass here, but the brake feel is not something that elicits confidence in getting things slowed down. The trade-off with increased fuel mileage would only work if someone drove this in the city a lot.

Second, not having the third row of seats disappear into the floor is a major problem when trying to haul a bunch of stuff. In this day and age, with nearly every other automaker having third rows that fold flat, having a $90,000 vehicle where I would have to lift the seats out and store them in my garage just doesn't seem real luxurious to me.

The highlights: Beautiful interior. I like the tray on top of the console that is perfect for your mobile phone. The heated/cooled cupholders are a nice touch as well. And I've always liked these General Motors seats, which are very comfortable.

NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: What a luxury barge. This Escalade is opulent in the way that turn-of-the-century cruise ships were. I love the interior. The woodlike parts and finishings with all this leather are simply gorgeous. The stitching is sharp and everything feels upscale. Then again, for $90,000, this should be the Queen Mary on wheels.

As Roger notes, I wasn't particularly fond of the regen brakes; the feel is just sticky. Even when you factor in the girth of this boat, it's a weird vibe. The acceleration is respectable, but it does take awhile to dial up all this power. Once moving though, it's a locomotive. The stop/start is a nice feature in my book, too.

This is one of the most commanding views of the road available in a light-duty vehicle. The steering is surprisingly nimble for such a large ute, and it handles well in turns and at speed on the expressway. It's confident and comfortable over all roads, too.

What I like most about the Escalade is it makes a statement. The chrome wheels are blinding. The headlights have so many parts and bulbs they look like Christmas tree lights. The side vents and (even) more door chrome are striking. The Escalade makes no apologies for what it is, and I think it's one of the best there is at its job. The hybrid element--that's fine too; fuel economy is important, and this beast appears to have respectable chops in that department. But I'll just take the big V8 by itself.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: I've often been critical of the brake feel and hybrid powertrain on and off "rolling wave" electric-motor feel, but in this Escalade I have no complaints. I can see where an initial light touch on the brake might not get much result, but it is a nearly three-ton vehicle, so I guess I didn't expect impressive brake performance. I am usually much more concerned about the grabby and inconsistent feel of regenerative braking, but this Escalade seems to suffer from none of that. The brakes simply increase stopping power the harder you push the pedal--that's usually what I expect from brakes.

On the other side of the equation, and again keeping this vehicle's heft in mind, I thought the big ute was fairly quick getting to speed, with the electric motors whirring in tandem with the high-revving V8 to produce supercharged V8 sounds and results. I was particularly intrigued by how long the transmission held a lower gear at redline as the big yacht got moving from a stop, or even under heavy pedal on an on-ramp or in passing maneuvers. That's a strong engine/motor/trans combo there. It'd be really wicked in something like a Camaro.

While I'd be the first to say that someone who can afford a $90,000 Escalade hardly needs to worry about fuel economy, and furthermore, hardly needs to worry about having four-wheel drive, both were winners for my weekend work. The hybrid drivetrain gave the vehicle far more range than I would have expected in a regular Escalade, allowing me to travel longer distances without worrying about gas stops. And the four-wheel drive, and especially the low-lock mode, came in quite handy with the going got muddy in the two-track trail back to my hunting spot. Never a worry once I engaged that system, which also automatically turns off Stabilitrak so you don't have to worry about losing momentum by having the power cut out because of the inevitable sideways slide in slick conditions.

The 22-inch wheels and tires wouldn't be my choice for the kind of use I'd put a vehicle like this to, but then I'd be more likely to go a grade down to a Suburban or a pickup truck to get a lot of the same hardware without all the bling.

Dang nice truck, though.

COPY EDITOR CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: This Escalade seems to be a contradiction in terms. Yes, you have the Cadillac luxury and comforts and bells and whistles, but you also have a large barge--with hybrid badges all over. Don't people who buy Escalades buy them for the wow factor, the bling factor, because they want to say and show that they own something big and beautiful? Do people who buy these types of vehicles really care, or have to care, about saving money at the pump? I think not.

All of that aside, this Escalade is indeed a nice vehicle. The high driver's position is great to navigating, the four offers decent power and the stop/start system is not overly sensitive. The brakes, though, are another story and don't elicit much confidence in their stopping power. You have to mash pretty far down on the pedal to get the big ute to stop. Thankfully I didn't have to make any sudden stops.

The interior is well appointed, the seats are comfortable and there is lots of space to stash stuff. The materials are all quality and the trim is beautiful. The second row appears to provide decent room, but not the third row. I liked the power liftgate, but when it opened, I noticed the third row of seats folded down but taking up almost all of the cargo space. I picked up a very large box after work and had to hike it up on top of the folded seats because it didn't fit behind them. For nearly $90,000, could Cadillac really not make these seats fold into the floor?

If the statement you want to make is I care about the environment but I want to be flashy while doing it, maybe this Escalade is your ride. But after having driven our very lovely and strong new long-term Infiniti QX56, I would pocket nearly $20,000 and go for the QX and get right about the same numbers in fuel economy.

2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid

Base Price: $89,090

As-Tested Price: $89,090

Drivetrain: 6.0-liter V8 hybrid; 4WD, four-speed automatic

Output: 332 hp @ 4,100 rpm, 367 lb-ft @ 5,100 rpm

Curb Weight: 5,879 lb

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