General Motors Corp. unveils hybrid and ultra-luxury versions of its new Cadillac Escalade SUV at the South Florida International Auto Show in Miami.

The ’09 Escalade Hybrid utilizes the same 2-mode system GM will offer later this year on its Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon and marks the first such application in the large luxury SUV segment.

“The arrival of (the) Escalade Hybrid means that consumers can now use less fossil fuel, reduce emissions and still enjoy the benefits of a fullsize luxury SUV,” Cadillac General Manager Jim Taylor says in a statement.

Available in 2- and all-wheel-drive configurations, the Escalade’s hybrid system uses an advanced electrically variable transmission and a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery in combination with its standard 6.0L V-8 gasoline engine optimized by cylinder deactivation. At low speeds it drives on electricity alone, and at higher speeds the V-8 can operate in 4-cyl. mode to save fuel.

The auto maker has not released specific fuel economy figures for the Escalade Hybrid, but GM has said the transmissions will improve fuel economy in the Yukon and Tahoe 30% overall, including a 50% gain in city driving and 10% boost on the highway.

The Tahoe Hybrid, which features the same powertrain combination, is rated at 21/22 mpg (11.0-10.6 L/100 km) city/highway, compared with 14/20 mpg (16.8-11.8 L/100 km) for a standard 2WD Tahoe with the 5.3L V-8, also equipped with cylinder deactivation.

GM developed the 2-mode hybrid powertrain through a joint venture with the former DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG. In addition to the Yukon and Tahoe, it will appear on Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra fullsize pickups and the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs.

Cadillac differentiates the Escalade Hybrid show car with special badges on the C-pillar, liftgate and the front fender vent ports. The word “hybrid” also gets spelled out along the rocker area of the doors and across the top of the windshield. Cadillac has not determined exactly which identification cues it will carry over to the production vehicle.

But the hybrid also incorporates brand-specific styling cues from the landmark Cadillac Sixteen concept car, such as its signature detailed grille, the vent ports and layers of chrome accents, as well over-the-top interior appointments. It comes in two exterior colors – Ebony and Cashmere – and arrives at dealers next summer.

Bowing alongside the Escalade Hybrid is the ’08 Escalade Platinum. Arriving at dealers next spring, GM says the Escalade Platinum takes luxury a step further by adding technologies such as a fast-reacting suspension system that provides more precise body control.

It also receives segment-first light-emitting-diode headlamps, which produce a more precise light pattern that mimics natural daylight more closely, use less power and last longer than traditional halogen bulbs.

The Escalade Platinum also brings unique 22-in. wheels, specialized badges, hand-stitched aniline leather seating surfaces and specific floor mats and doorsills. Additionally, it places DVD entertainment screens in the back of front-seat headrests. Power comes via Escalade’s exclusive 403-hp, 6.2L V-8 with variable valve timing.

GM has not released pricing on either the Escalade Hybrid or Escalade Platinum.