By on July 14, 2011


A couple months back, Cadillac gave me a bright red, three-ton, rollin’-on-22s, chrome-drenched, hybrid-electric, $88,140 luxury truck to drive while in Michigan for the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons. Since that time, the effort of attempting to write a meaningful review for this ridiculous-yet-amazing machine has caused my brain to develop a severe rod knock. Who is supposed to buy this thing? I asked myself. What can you do with it?

My problem with SUVs, particularly super-luxurious SUVs, is that I believe trucks are supposed to be trucks, that is, you should be able to load a truck up with 900 pounds of swamp-water-soaked particle board and a burlap sack of hog innards and not cringe in the slightest at the thought of that nasty stuff contaminating your interior. A truck should have a bench seat in front, covered with cheap cloth or vinyl, and even air conditioning smacks of excess gingerbread. If you want luxury— and, of course, I do— then you should be driving a vast, strip-club-owner-grade sedan with its soft springs groaning under the weight of luxury options so arcane that you’ll be years figuring them all out.

Right. So, this is what we in the hack-writer business call a dilemma. Personally, I couldn’t think of any way that this beast would improve my life in any meaningful way, were I to decide to drop 90 grand on one. The only place I enjoyed driving it was around the paddock during the LeMons race, for reasons that will be made clear soon enough. Still, it’s extreme enough that it must be absolutely perfect for the correct users, but who are they? Rappers and the gangster elite would never in hell buy anything with big HYBRID badges all over the place, edge-city suburbanites will shy away in horror from the twice-as-much-as-the-Yukon price tag, and urban high-tech hipsters wouldn’t be caught dead in an SUV.

I finally figured out the perfect Escalade Platinum Hybrid buyers, but we’ll get my much-less-relevant driving impressions out of the way first. The Escalade Platinum Hybrid rides like a lumber truck, no doubt thanks to the blinged-out 22″ wheels and low-profile tires exacerbating the already bumpy ride of a big body-on-frame truck chassis.

Man, but those wheels do look beautiful. It goes without saying that you’re not going to be doing anything approaching serious off-roading in your Escalade Platinum Hybrid, and these wheels ensure that you’ll want to keep pavement beneath you at all times. I took the big Cad for a brief jaunt in the muddy grass of the Gingerman Raceway paddock and the slippy-slidy experience did not inspire confidence. You want to go off-road, get an FJ40 Land Cruiser or IHC Scout, right?

The six-liter Vortec V8 was very quiet; in fact, the noise level inside the cab was library-hushed just about all the time, including when parked next to the front straight at Gingerman with Cherry Bomb-equipped RX-7s blaring past. However, the electric motor made weird, distant whining and howling noises, both under acceleration and under regenerative braking. Several times, I found myself looking around for the emergency vehicles running their sirens.

The computer that runs the control center suffers from a slow CPU, kludgy code, or both. The response time for user input could be as much as several seconds. Using the navigation system made me feel like ramming a cinderblock through the screen. Come on, GM, the future moves fast!

The interior was pretty comfy, but some sort of strange bending of space-time was taking place that made several feet in each dimension disappear when you made the transition from massive exterior to not-so-massive interior. The inside of this truck feels cramped, giving the sense that it has about the same interior space as an early Camry. I suspect that this truck is so quiet inside because the side and roof panels are about a foot thick and filled with spray-in insulation.

But what about the fuel economy, you ask. Is it really possible to get decent mileage out of a 6,120-pound, 332-horsepower vehicle with the aerodynamics of a convenience store?

I drove 301.8 miles, mostly highway but also a fair amount of cruising around the Gingerman facilities as well as jaunts to the night life in bustling South Haven. I made no attempt to keep speeds down to gas-sipping levels, and I did a fair amount of pedal-to-floor acceleration. GM claims 20 city/23 highway mileage.

16.711 gallons, meaning I got just a hair over 18 miles per gallon. Considering that the much more slippery, lighter, and less powerful Mercury Grand Marquis doesn’t do a whole lot better in mixed city/highway driving, that’s very impressive.

So, in summary: If I had 90 grand to spend on a vehicle, this thing would be at or near the bottom of my shopping list (a much more sensible Lamborghini Espada would be at or near the top). I didn’t like much of anything about the Escalade Platinum Hybrid… but then who cares what an SUV-hating curmudgeon like me thinks? Let’s take a look at this truck from the point of view of its optimal purchaser, shall we?

Yes, now I’m working for Popular Warlord Magazine! From the point of view of your suitcases-of-Benjamins-brandishing Third World and/or Former Soviet Republic warlord, the 2011 Escalade Platinum Hybrid is the greatest motor vehicle in history!
Background image source for magazine cover: English Russia

Whether you’re a militia leader in the Horn of Africa, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur in the Bolivian rainforest, or a deal-maker in the Caspian oil fields, you know that the days when a self-respecting warlord could climb behind the wheel of a grimy Toyota Hilux are long past. Today’s more urbane warlord needs presence; yes, your Kalashnikov-brandishing entourage can still follow behind you in their Toyotas, but you need to roll into town in a vehicle that shows you’ve arrived.

We’ll start with the interior, since that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time as your driver takes you to meetings, nightclubs, and so on. Some have said that the Escalade Platinum is a bit cramped inside, but we at Popular Warlord Magazine disagree; once you come to terms with the fact that today’s warlord needs only two or three personal bodyguards traveling with him in the vehicle— yes, the wild days when the warlord himself had to carry an assault rifle on his person are behind us— and that those bodyguards will be armed with pistols instead of RPGs and tripod-mounted machine guns, you can see that this truck has room for you, your muscle, and your 19-year-old Ukrainian-supermodel mistress.

It really won’t do your sophisticated image any good if you have to haul a load of jerry-cans in your travels— your Armani suits shouldn’t be exposed to gasoline— and so the hybrid powertrain of this truck will give you the extended range you need to go from say, Addis Ababa to your secret landing strip in the desert without refueling.

You’ll want the little people to know the caliber of warlord they’re dealing with from the very first glance at your vehicle, and the massive Cadillac emblems will let them know that you’re not to be trifled with.

The four-wheel-drive system and vast torque reserves mean that the Escalade Platinum Hybrid should do just fine on the rough dirt roads in your area of influence; you’ll need to get in the Land Rover or the Hilux in order to leave the road, but for everyday post-Soviet potholes the Escalade performs admirably.

In summary, the staff of Popular Warlord gives the 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid our highest Warlord Rides rating. For the cost of a couple of fat envelopes of cash, you can equip your compound with several of these fine luxury trucks.

OK, so the warlord (or strongman, if you prefer that term) is the Escalade Platinum Hybrid’s ideal buyer, but there’s another person who can get some good value from this truck: the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court Justice! Yes, in addition to writing for Popular Warlord, I’m also moonlighting at…

LeMons Judge Magazine! Yes, the publication for the discerning corrupt race official. Let’s see how this big red truck fares at LJM, shall we?

Judge Sam and myself rolled into the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis determined to make a proper judgely impression on the rabble, and the Escalade certainly accomplished that. Why, three different racers told us words to the effect of “I could have bought one of these— I have enough cash in hand, you betcha— but I decided that the Tahoe/Yukon was just a better truck.” Yes, they’re a bunch of pathetic slobs, just trying to impress the LeMons Supreme Court with their alleged fat bankrolls… but still, their naked envy at the sight of this $90K machine was gratifying.

Judge Sam, as my cousin (yes, the LeMons Supreme Court firmly supports nepotism in all its forms) and the son of the legendary Dirty Duck, had an instant appreciation for the inherent pimp-grade superiority of this machine, and I had to agree with him.

We think this truck looks much better with the proper emblem on the grille.

So, this truck scores huge in the “impress the worm-like racers” category, but we ran into a serious flaw right away: the Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system lacks sufficient boom. Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s On It” hardly rattled windows a mere 50 feet away, and Dorrough’s “Ice Cream Paint Job?” Forget it. Even the Fiat 500′s stereo cranked out more decibels. Come on, Cadillac, the LeMons Supreme Court needs bass!

You see, a true Judgemobile does more than just cruise around the paddock cranking inspirational tunes. A proper Judgemobile must project its music at sufficient volume for such audio-centric penalties as the Macho Man and the Joe Arpaio Chain Gang. The Escalade Platinum Hybrid’s sound system was just adequate for the Macho Man, as seen here.

However, one aspect of Judgemobile duty at which this truck excelled was the level of comfort provided by the climate-control system. We expect any GM vehicle to produce frigid and/or scalding air on command, and the Escalade Platinum Hybrid delivered and then some, even when temperatures dropped into the 20s and stinging snow howled through the paddock, borne on 60 MPH winds. Those poor freezing miscreants doing the Macho Man made the LeMons Supreme Court feel that much more comfortable inside the truck.

I would have preferred a slightly more La-Z-Boy-ish driver’s seat, but the comfort level was very good for two judges bloated from free bribe booze and Midwestern meat products.

For the West Virginia Homestead penalty, in which miscreants must put their car up on jackstands, remove the wheels, and eat salty snacks while sitting on lawn furniture, the Escalade provided both a pleasant contrast to the racers’ hoopty-ass wheels and a comfortable place for the LeMons Supreme Court to get out of the cold.

Can you see the envy in this Tahoe driver’s eyes?

Speaking of envy, check out this haul of bribes for the LeMons Supreme Court! We’re forced to admit that the storage capacity in the cargo area was somewhat limited, given the size of the truck. This was due to the not-very-useful folding third-row seats. We recommend that the LeMons Judge Edition™ of the Escalade go with a third-row-delete feature, to make more room for cases of beer.

Of course, the second row of seats serve as bribe-booze storage when you’ve got only two judges in the Judgemobile, so this truck should be able to fit the gifts of even the most generous racers.

The automatic fold-out running boards were handy for climbing up into the truck, but judge robes had a tendency to get caught on them.

What’s the verdict on this Judgemobile from the reviewers here at LeMons Judge Magazine? We’re going to give the Escalade Platinum Hybrid a respectable three-gavel rating; not quite up there with the five-gavel Doorless Wheel-Shedding Amazon and Monster Smokescreen Caprice Wagon, but definitely a proper Judgemobile all the same.

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52 Comments on “Review: 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    All of Murilee’s criticisms ring true but the Escalade in all it’s itenerations is THE most Cadillac of Cadillacs. It’s the closest thing we have to the great Caddys of the 1960s. Honestly though I’d rather see Cadillac try to build a 1968 Sedan de Ville with the technology from the Escalade (minius the AWD.)

    BTW Murilee you did make me laugh my butt off although I wasn’t aware that you were permitted to ride in ANY new car given your love for the old, lost, or forlorn of the automotive world. :P

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      You forgot another low-on-taste demographic that fits this kind of SUV – the used-house-saleperson (a.k.a. Realtwhores). Around these parts, a lot of them drive the Excrelade or the Navigaturd.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I dunno, Dan. It seems like it’s just wretched excess. Cadillacs from the ’60′s were somehow more impressive.

      Perhaps we can credit the blatant badge-engineering because we know it’s just a pimped-out Tahoe.

      A ’68 Fleetwood Brougham might have shared some important components with a Chevy but it did not look like a pimped-out Bel-Air. It looked like the right car for Averell Harriman.

  • avatar
    Eric the Red

    You have got to stop calling SUVs trucks! All SUVs are tall, rugged, usually 4 wheel drive, wagons.

  • avatar
    The Comedian

    Fantastic review, fun as always. I fear for your liver.

    Not in any way to defend kludgy software, but owning and driving a few i-Drive equipped vehicles has convinced me that slow response time from automotive software is a good thing.

    Once you get used to the slow response time, you build up a rhythm of looking at the screen, putting in a command, then taking your eyes off of the screen and going back to driving as you wait for the system to react/update to your most recent input. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    This breaks up any nav-centric task, and for me, at least, reduces the tendency to while away the miles looking at the LCD screen instead of the windscreen.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    Texans drive these things all over the state of Colorado, oh wait this is a Hybrid review, never mind…

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    The Escalade Platinum Hybrid rides like a lumber truck, no doubt thanks to the blinged-out 22″ wheels and low-profile tires exacerbating the
    already bumpy ride of a big body-on-frame truck chassis.

    Ride and frame choice are mutually exclusive. They do not have bearing on one another.

    The computer that runs the control center suffers from a slow CPU, kludgy code, or both. The response time for user input could be as much as several seconds. Using the navigation system made me feel like ramming a cinderblock through the screen. Come on, GM, the future moves fast!

    Maybe it’s GM’s new infotainment system called MyCadillac Touch…

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Well, someone must be buying these things. GM wouldn’t build them if no one bought them. But are they making money on them? That is the ‘bail-out bucks’ question.

    Anecdotally, before my wife decided to buy a 2008 Highlander Limited AWD, we looked at all sorts of SUVs and CUVs, including the Tahoe/Yukon, Acadia/Enclave, Navigator, and several others.

    What we found was that the Highlander was the better fit for us, at that time. We had owned a Suburban at one time, and her business still uses a 2500 Suburban 4X4 to get around unpaved mountain roads when she shows land and property off the beaten path, and we found that the Suburban and Tahoe had not really changed much in all these years. The ride was more refined on the new models but everything else was pretty much more of the same.

    In the Acadia/Enclave/Highlander comparison, the Highlander clearly was more refined, had better handling, quieter ride on washboard roads, less rear-end skittishness and smoother operation all around.

    I have no doubt that this Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid is the best that GM has to offer, but there can’t be too many people who are willing to fork over nearly $90K for this ride. The same $90K could be better applied elsewhere, IMO. But for a trophy vehicle or a showcase vehicle with bragging rights, this is a good fit.

    • 0 avatar
      friedclams

      “Well, someone must be buying these things. GM wouldn’t build them if no one bought them.”

      You don’t know GM.

      • 0 avatar
        JJ

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yeah, GM has done some pretty stupid things in the past and I was even more stupid for buying their cars of the past. Best GM cars I ever owned were an Olds Toronado and a Custom Cruiser, both with that excellent 455. There’s no replacement for displacement.

        But there is no doubt that this Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid is the best technology showcase vehicle GM has to offer the world. Like a Prius, except bigger. I am sure that there will be people who buy them just for the uniqueness. Why do people buy things? Because they can!

        I just can’t see GM making enough money on these to offset their R&D costs, not to mention manufacturing costs. Maybe they sell each one at a loss and hope to make it up in volume?

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        highdesertcat, they sell each one at a loss and make it up by bailout.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I think if you take a longer look at that photo of the gas pump you’ll find that you purchased 18.711 gallons, not 16.711. That corrects your fuel economy to an utterly typical 16.13 mpg.

    The cost of the fuel is clearly $80.44, so if you had bought 16.711 gallons it would have cost $4.8136/gallon. The per-gallon cost of 18.711 gallons would have been a more reasonable for the time (and ending in the traditional 9/10 penny) $4.299.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    “Well, someone must be buying these things. GM wouldn’t build them if no one bought them.”

    Rap Stars love ‘em.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      But how do you reconcile “making n****z die” with saving the planet?

      In other words, wouldn’t Rap Stars just buy the non-hybrid version?

      • 0 avatar
        GarbageMotorsCo.

        Government Motors is hoping there will be a new wave of environmentally friendly “gang-bangers” who will buy them.

        Never heard of “MC greenpeace” or “Sista Mutha Naycha”?

        Ya, neither have I.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    First things first: How in the world did you get somebody to let you, the “King of the Junkyards and All Things Rust” even get near this vehicle, let alone take one for a test drive?

    In a crowded luxury vehicle field, I’ve thought about this for awhile now, the only way Cadillac could distinguish itself from it’s Suburban brethren (and all other luxury vehicles) is to use unique materials, ie; real chromed metal bumpers, grille, trim, badges and interior appointments, real wood, special materials and patterns unlike related vehicles and even a unique dashboard and door panels.

    No, I have no use for any luxury vehicle, but I’d like to spend some time in this and spend someone else’s gas money!

  • avatar

    We did a short term lease on the Escalade and Escalade EXT and I absolutely hated them. It’s like GM did everything wrong in this truck besides give it a ridiculous amount of power.

    #1 compared to the 3rd generation Navigator the lack of independent rear suspension means that the ride on the Escalade wasn’t as well controlled on highway curves.

    #2 We HATED the fact you couldn’t fold the 3rd row seat by just folding it down. You had to take it out entirely.

    #3 The roof was so low I couldn’t get comfortable in them.

    Even though it cost over $100 a week to fuel, it didn’t bother us because we used gas cards paid for by our company.

    It was this generation escalade that killed my interest in luxury SUVS and sent me back to luxury cars.
    http://www1.epinions.com/review/2007_Cadillac_Escalade_54089880/content_242008362628

    Initial reliability was good, but, over time, I got really annoyed with it.

  • avatar
    JJ

    So is there in fact anything aside from the lords of war attracting badge and maybe some dubious quality leather on the top of the dash that accounts for the apparently huge price difference between this and the Tahoe/Yukon?

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    We have two at work, used to transport clients when the DTS won’t due. The regular one with the 6.2 engine, not the hybrid. Also, ours are the XL version, only slightly shorter than the Queen Mary.

    Driving it is a mixed bag. The seats are ok, not the most comfortable i’ve ever been in. Driving position is excellent tho. All the controls are within easy reach and easy to use. It has an amazing highway ride. In the bumpys, you know its a pickup truck. Bring your barf bag.

    The second row buckets are comfortable too. All these seats could be a bit cushier for my likes.

    The third row seats are for children. Adults – it they can get back there – are not gonna be very happy for long.

    Backing up is a high risk game. I do not recommend it. There’s a rear cam, but its a little wonky – making it all but inpossable to judge distance.

    I get an avg of 18.2 mpg. Which is amazingly good for such a gigantic vehicle. Presumably the hybrid gets better. Its real easy to spend 100 bucks or more on premium fuel. Its fun watching the instant fuel gauge move from 0 (yes 0mpg) to 99 down hills.

    Suprisingly difficult to climb into and get out of. Unnatural movements, weird.

    Other than the individuals in your article, I can see this for a driving vacation for four adults, everything they own and the dogs. Might beat two cars. I dunno. Maybe not.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Dealmakers in the former Soviet states, or more accurately their entourages, drive G wagons. The dealmakers themselves drive all kinds of bizareness. Last time I was there, I saw one in a new RR convertible, and another drive around herky jerky in one of those Ferrari Enzo derived Maseratis. Even one riding a Ducati. With G wagons front and rear. Most seem to prefer the S class, though.

  • avatar
    stuki

    That Caddy builds this thing in a hybrid version, indicates to me that GM actually have some people on staff, that genuinely believe that some people “need” Escalades, and that they therefore should try to build one that mitigates as many of the drawbacks of such a vehicle as possible.

    The thought that people who buy hybrids do so specifically to socially distance themselves from people who buy blinged out mega utes, must have never crossed their minds. Weird.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Great article. Love the demographic segments that apparently characterize the Cadillac marketers’ understanding of who buys cars in America: rappers and the gangster elite….edge-city suburbanites…urban high-tech hipsters.”

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    The deeper I read into this review the harder I laughed. What a joke, it’s a cartoon of itself and Cadillac in general not to mention their market demographics. What’s next, a hybrid and solar-power strip mining machine? Or maybe a wind-powered oil well?

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      @ Contrarian:

      You bring up a very good point. It has been stated before in earlier articles by commenters that the things that made luxury cars “luxurious”: A/C, power-everything, fit, finish and such – all cars are available with those features, more often than not, standard.

      What’s left? All the OEM’s are doing are hoping those with money will buy the supposed snob-appeal of these vehicles for bragging rights, if nothing else. People certainly are not, or are rarely buying them as a reward for years of working hard honestly and earning the privilege of “arriving” and finally owning a vehicle that reflects that. Those and professional individuals buy other makes.

      Having money does not indicate “class”. Useless low-life idiots like rappers, pimps, criminals and drug dealers world-wide prove that, irregardless of race or nationality.

  • avatar
    WynnBear

    These sell like hot-cakes in Dallas. Perfect car for the Highland Park soccer-mom to take the kids to school. And to carry home her purchases from the NorthPark mall. The target market is people who want you to know they can drop $90k on a second car. Dad drives an S-class or a 6 or 7 series BMW.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The team that gave you the Landshark deserved 1000 penalty laps.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Great review of a ridiculous vehicle – Thanks for the laughs!

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “The interior was pretty comfy, but some sort of strange bending of space-time was taking place that made several feet in each dimension disappear when you made the transition from massive exterior to not-so-massive interior. The inside of this truck feels cramped, giving the sense that it has about the same interior space as an early Camry.”

    Somethings never change. We had the same experience 40 years ago with the uber-Cadillac of that era, the Eldorado.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    Well, a business owner could use this to reduce their taxable income in one year by a whole 90k. That could save you up to 31k in taxes! Totally reasonable at 60k.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Something tells me that Cadillac was prepared for just about anything in Murilee’s review. That is except for this.

    I know I was.

  • avatar
    eldard

    The car for the Ghetto Pimp Crowd with an environmental conscience.

  • avatar
    mzs

    This kicks butt, the best car review since Sam Smith had an Outlander wrapped in Mexico! MM, Ramzan Kadyrov has a facebook account, he even accepted my friend request, but that did not last long. If only I had spent 90K on this, then maybe he would not have unfriended me. The warlords these days, so social.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Do you think Cadillac will lend you another vehicle…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      When the story is that entertaining, do we really care? TTAC always finds a way anyway. There’s a few reviews here where writers simply went out and got the dealer to loan them a car for a test drive.

  • avatar
    bobby b

    Big mixup here. This vehicle isn’t meant for general sale. It’s a special.

    As part of the bailout, Obama specified that GM make 300 of these. Obama will hand them out to people as gifts and bonuses. All White House staffers have tentatively been promised one, as well as all cabinet members.

    One important point: We’ve been ordered to keep these trucks secret from Joe Biden. Obama said that since he’s dumping Joe at the end of his first term, there’s no point wasting a truck on him, but he doesn’t want to have to listen to him whining about it for the next eighteen months.

  • avatar

    Perhaps you could remove the third row seats and weld them to someone’s roof as a penalty?

    • 0 avatar

      I realize you are joking but removing the third row does nothing to improve seating room in the second row which has been jammed up against the first row to make room for all this clap trap.

      I thought the Suburban was for those who needed more than two rows of seating?

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    It seems on some level, things haven’t changed all that much when it comes to vehicles like this.

    Huge on the outside, small and cramped on the inside. Didn’t the personal luxury vehicle of the 60′s-70′s do much the same thing?

  • avatar

    My wife and I were shopping for a new SUV. My wife LOVES her 1995 Yukon but it is getting up in miles (204,000+). Unfortunately, all of the new models have three row seating. And THIS is our biggest complaint. Our Yukon is two row. Makes for MUCH more space than the new models for 5 passengers and their cargo. If we wanted seating for seven, we would have bought a Suburban!!!!!
    So, I am in the process of restoring it. A new ZZ383 engine, a ProTransmission to handle the 420HP and 440FT/LB of torque, redo the seats and paint, and we hope to go another 200K with plenty of space for the dogs, guests, camping, hunting, and fishing supplies, and plenty of cash left over for a new sound system, heated seats, and a backup camera.

    Leave it to GM to screw up a perfectly good intermediate truck design.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    They must be running out of lipstick I can still see PIG

  • avatar
    KixStart

    New Glarus?! Somebody sure knows his beer!


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