THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Lots of room for people and cargo, very good ride and handling balance.
- What’s Worst: Platinum trim level very pricey, inconsistent interior quality.
- What’s Interesting: Innovative twin-clutch AWD system is driver controllable and can disconnect the rear-axle for increased fuel efficiency.
Banking on the SUV today is a smart decision for carmakers. Heck, even Lamborghini has applied its angular supercar-first philosophy to one; and now Ferrari has thrown in the towel and is fast at work developing their own take on these jacked up automobiles.
Hardly surprising then, that the Cadillac XT5 sits at the very top of the sales roost for the American luxury brand. And with a slew of new models planned, like the compact XT4 arriving in showrooms later this year, Cadillac is poised to embrace this global shift away from the traditional sedan.
The XT5 introduced in 2017 is based on the new GMC Acadia platform and takes over from the SRX with better styling, more power, more space, and an updated infotainment system greatly improving upon the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) system that has not had the best reception in the past.
Although there are still niggles with CUE, response times have improved and it is quite easy to use without having to do a deep dive into the owner’s manual. There’s lots crammed in there so take the time to poke around to discover all that you can do.
Unfortunately, somber-looking graphics and a low-ish screen resolution, especially on the embedded navigation system appear old-school and are in desperate need of a makeover.
Thankfully, standard Apple Car Play and Android Auto smartphone integration mean you can skip it and just use something you’re already familiar with.
The redesigned interior is almost devoid of buttons, save for a few on the centre console, giving way to shiny black touch-sensitive surfaces and an 8-inch infotainment screen perched above the climate controls.
A large swath of black micro-suede like material bisects the dash and copper coloured carbon fibre look trim bordered with a thick strip of aluminum gives the interior an upscale and elegant look.
Most of the surfaces feel nice to the touch but the lower you look, quality issues arise. There was some wonky stitching on the armrests of my Platinum tester, the highest trim level offered, and the door pockets felt flimsy and a bit out of place in a car where the as-tested price was north of $70K.
Facing stiff competition from the likes of the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC, the overall quality of the interior is much better than it used to be but still behind these well established German marques.
The move to a fully electronic shifter saves space on the centre console but popping the XT5 into reverse was a bit of a clumsy affair: you have to squeeze a button on the shift lever with your thumb and simultaneously push up and slot it to the left. It’s not the most intuitive thing. Make sure you practice the sequence a few times before hitting the road, lest you happen to have an embarrassing moment (like I did) trying to reverse park at a crowded shopping plaza, a pleasant reminder that people can be quite impatient.
Things get much better on the outside with Cadillac’s prominent V-shaped grille flanked by signature vertical headlamps that waterfall into the vertical fog lights.
Slightly more compact than the last generation SRX, the edginess of the old design has been softened, but it is distinctive and stands out from the rest of the competition. In this age of “me too” styling the XT5 is a nice departure from the norm.
Around town and on the highway the XT5 has a composed and comfortable ride, never jarring, even on rough surfaces. The cabin is quiet and remains that way even at higher speeds.
Turn the wheel and the response is positive and quick, returning a decent amount of feel. The XT5 feels light on its feet when hustled and is genuinely fun to drive. This is one SUV that does not shy away from a twisty back road.
Spring for the Luxury trim or higher and you’ll get a trick AWD system that can fully decouple the rear wheels turning the XT5 into a true FWD vehicle that nets increased fuel efficiency.
A few different drive modes are available on demand. There is Tour, which will run the vehicle in front-wheel drive mode; Sport beefs up the steering and brings the rear wheels back into play; AWD is self-explanatory and is best for inclement weather or light off-roading. When in AWD drive mode an innovative twin-clutch system can route up to 100 percent of available engine torque to the front or rear axle and up to 100 percent can be routed to either rear wheel for a true torque vectoring system that allows for increased cornering ability in Sport mode, and will also get you moving in tough situations when traction is at a minimum.
The sole engine choice for the XT5 is a 3.6 L V6 with variable valve timing. It produces 310 hp and a respectable 271 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm. It does not have turbos and is outgunned by the competition, but it is not a slow car by any means.
The XT5 can get to highway speeds in about 6 and a half seconds and the 8-speed automatic does a good job divvying out the available torque. Power is available when it’s needed and is adequate for most situations.
I mentioned earlier that my fully decked out Platinum tester cost north of $70,000, well, it was almost $74, 000 and that is a huge amount of money. Press vehicles usually come loaded with everything for evaluative purposes so I browsed the Cadillac website to see if I could build a well equipped XT5 for less money and it didn’t take me long to shave quite a few dollars of that lofty sticker.
Picking the Luxury trim level which is the next one up from the base XT5 will get you 300+ hp, the twin-clutch AWD system, leather seats, a huge sunroof, a heated steering wheel, heated auto-dimming mirrors, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, and more. An XT5 equipped this way will set you back $52,000 or a whopping $20,000 less than the spec I was driving around.
If you add on the Driver Awareness package you get driving aids like lane keeping assist, forward collision alert, low speed automatic braking, and pedestrian detection. I also took the liberty of checking off the navigation system option that comes with the Bose sound system and LED headlights, because good vision is always a smart choice. All this came in at just under $55,000.
Forgoing things like 20” wheels, unique trim bits, a bunch of appearance items, and the surround vision cameras, you can get a feature-packed XT5 without missing out on too much.
The competition is still ahead in the powertrain department and overall interior quality but the XT5 is better than ever and it does many things right. It is easily one of the roomiest in its class, a very competent driver, and the distinctive styling is refreshing. And if you’re responsible with that build sheet it is also surprisingly good value.
Photos © Kunal D’souza
2018 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD
BODY STYLE: 5 Passenger Mid-size Premium SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-Wheel Drive
ENGINE: 3.6 L direct-injected V6 with VVT (Power: 310 hp @ 6600 rpm; Torque: 271 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 849 litres behind 2nd row seating; 1784 litres with 2nd row folded
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular Gasoline ) 12.8 L/100 km city; 9.3 L/100 km highway; 11.2 L/100 km combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 12.1 L/100 km
PRICE: $47,025 (base), $52,635 (Luxury), $61,065 (Premium Luxury) $69,110 (Platinum)
AS TESTED: $73,805 including $2000 destination charge
WEBSITE: Cadillac XT5
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