It’s no secret that Cadillac is on a crusade to recapture a glory it lost long ago.
While sports cars like the excellent ATS-V will surely help, they aren’t enough to draw the average consumer. For that, the brand needs a model with mass appeal, and it may have struck gold with the 2017 Cadillac XT5, a crossover that could be its best vehicle in years.
But that doesn’t mean the XT5 is ready to stake its claim among the top premium crossovers on the market. In fact, it’s facing long odds of edging out the competition as the segment grows increasingly crowded with a number of impressive offerings. But the XT5, alongside the CT6 sedan, is charting a new course for Cadillac.
The Second Time’s a Charm
The XT5 isn’t Cadillac’s first foray into crossovers. It was preceded by the SRX, a model that did little to break through in the burgeoning segment. In the new XT5, Cadillac has started with a clean slate — kind of. It still shares a platform with another member of the vast General Motors family — in this case, the new GMC Acadia — and features a design that looks more like an evolution of the last one rather than an all-new aesthetic.
Some pundits have been critical of the XT5’s design — AutoGuide.com’s own Craig Cole called it “rather frumpy” — but it’s nothing if not unique. It carries on Cadillac’s rather angular and chiseled design language, which flies in the face of most the rest of the segment’s rather conservative looks.
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Under the hood lies a 3.6-liter V6, which is the same as the engine available in its predecessor, though it has been extensively overhauled to include cylinder deactivation for efficient highway driving, as well as idle-stop technology that shuts the engine off when at a prolonged stop.
But the naturally aspirated engine’s biggest bonus is that it runs on regular gasoline. That’s right: No need to pay a premium for, well, premium gasoline. With 87-octane in the tank, the engine is good for 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque, which is more than adequate when it comes to motivating the 4,257-lb (1,931-kg) crossover. Transferring that power to the optional twin-clutch all-wheel drive system is a new eight-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission.
An Entirely New Cabin
That the transmission is electronically controlled marks just the beginning of what is an entirely new and technology-filled cabin. The shifter, which is identical to the one found in the new 2017 Buick LaCrosse, is more akin to a joystick than a traditional gear lever, which takes some getting used to.
Ahead of the shifter lies the climate control panel and eight-inch infotainment screen, both of which are far different than the XT5’s predecessor. While the touch-sensitive infotainment screen is a welcome inclusion when competitors from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi, to name a few, use screens that can’t be controlled by fingertip, the same can’t be said about Cadillac’s center stack-mounted volume and climate control functions. Streamlined they are, but intuitive they certainly are not, particularly the volume control, which can be frustrating to use at times. Thankfully, the steering wheel features tried and true buttons for everything from cruise control to forward collision warning and, of course, audio volume.
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Elsewhere inside, the XT5’s interior materials look and feel fantastic, with properly stitched bits of leather everywhere to go along with aluminum and, in the case of our Premium Luxury trim tester, real wood trim. Likewise, the seats are covered in soft leather and proved comfortable in the front and back.
When it comes to space, the cabin provides about what’s expected from a midsize crossover. Up front, driver and passenger are treated to nearly equal parts head- and legroom, which is to say plenty, while shoulder room is linebacker-friendly. The rear seats aren’t quite as roomy, with headroom reduced in a big way thanks to the panoramic sunroof. Thankfully, the seatbacks do recline, however slightly, to provide some reprieve for taller passengers.
Cargo volume measures 30 cu-ft (849 liters) behind the second row, and 63 cu-ft (1,784 liters) with them folded — both of which are respectable numbers, and outdo the Lexus RX and Audi Q5 by a substantial margin. The only real complaints around back come by way of the wide C-pillars, which create huge blind spots.
The XT5 also boasts plenty of standard and available technology features, including hands-free 4G wireless connectivity with built-in WiFi hotspot, a new rearview mirror that’s actually a high-definition screen displaying what a rear-mounted wide-angle camera sees, head-up display, and a revised CUE infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
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It all makes for a cabin that, while perhaps not top of class, comes pretty close to offering everything one could want or need in their commuter-friendly crossover.
A Well-Rounded Ride
And it’s on the daily commute that the XT5 is most in its element. While most premium crossovers err on the sporty side, Cadillac’s latest doesn’t — though that’s not a bad thing.
The powertrain is smooth, with the naturally aspirated V6 providing steady acceleration and the eight-speed gearbox offering smooth shifts, while the all-wheel drive can — and indeed will — be decoupled most of the time for front-wheel drive fuel efficiency. Our tester did slightly better than the XT5’s advertised 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km) combined rating.
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The adaptive damping system, which comes standard on higher-grade trims like the Premium Luxury, helps to reduce road imperfections, with only the largest of cracks in the asphalt making their presence felt. That’s most likely due to our tester’s oversized 20-inch wheels wrapped in 235/55R20 all-season rubber, which do nothing to contribute to what is an otherwise smooth ride.
The only complaints that cropped up in our tester’s driving characteristics were a steering setup that felt really tight towards full lock, feeling more like a non-power system, and an adaptive cruise control system that was jerky at times, jarring the brakes suddenly as opposed to slowing down steadily.
The Verdict: 2017 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury Review
As Cadillac continues on its renaissance mission, it finally has a model with mass appeal. It also has one that’s priced right, starting at a reasonable $38,995 ($45,200 in Canada) and ranging up to $62,500 ($68,595 in Canada). For that price, the XT5 comes pretty decked out, offering what it takes to compete in this popular segment.