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Cadillac shows off new Arlington-built Escalade hybrid SUV

Now the rich and famous can get their ride in high style and be green.

General Motors showed off its newest hybrid vehicle Thursday, a mid $70,000-plus Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicle with power, luxury and 20 mpg fuel mileage.

GM will begin production of the large SUV, in both the regular and larger Escalade ESV models, at its Arlington truck assembly plant in early August. The first hybrid Escalades will likely be available on dealer lots by early October.

Like its hybrid siblings -- the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon -- that went on sale in January, the Escalade is a full-size, full-powered truck that operates at times solely or partly on GM’s dual-mode hybrid electrical drive system.

And it’s got all the luxuries and gadgets that have helped make the Escalade the ride of choice of many a movie star, pop musician or sports star.

The earlier hybrid SUVs haven’t exactly been selling like, well, Toyota Priuses.

But Cadillac executive John Howell says the price jump between a well-equipped Tahoe or Yukon, well above $10,000, has probably deterred many SUV buyers from switching to the hybrid models. He doubts that will be the case with the Escalade hybrid.

GM hasn’t released pricing on the hybrid Escalade, but Howell says it will sell for somewhere north of $70,000, in the range of the top-of-the line non-hybrid version.

“People buy a lot of cars for emotional reasons, not rational reasons,” Howell said. “It’s pretty hard to justify buying any luxury car on a rational basis.”

Many Escalade buyers like to be seen in a vehicle befitting their status, Howell said. The Escalade hybrid will give them that as well as the good feeling and image of being green.

To date, the Arlington plant has built 8,137 hybrid Tahoe’s and Yukon’s, according to Wendi Sabo, plant spokeswoman.

In addition to the hybrid version, this fall GM will also introduce an even more luxurious model, the Platinum edition Escalade and Escalade ESV, priced at $79,500 and $82,500 respectively.

They will come with velvety soft leather seats, brushed aluminum interior trim and separate DVD-video game players in both of the front bucket seat head rests.

All 2009 model Escalades will be capable of burning either unleaded gasoline or E85 ethanol fuel.

BOB COX, 817-390-7723

CADILLAC ESCALADE HYBRID

  • GM patented two-mode hybrid system consists of an advanced electrically variable transmission (EVT) and 300-volt nickel-metal hydride Energy Storage System (ESS).
  • Two electric motors are powered by battery under second seat
  • Vehicle operates at low speed on just electrical power or battery-augmented hybrid power.
  • Conventional power is supplied by 6.0L V-8 gasoline engine. Active Fuel Management system and late-intake valve closing technology turns off half of its cylinders when less power is needed.
  • An electrically-driven, 300-volt air conditioning compressor reduces vibration and cools the passenger compartment when gasoline engine is shut off.
  • 42-volt variable-assist power steering reduces vibration and provides up to a 0.5-mpg fuel economy improvement.
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