Cadillac XT5 — Solid luxury crossover

Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Cadillac has been reinventing itself as a contemporary luxury brand, and the cornerstone of its efforts is the compact/mid-sized crossover, which has been its best seller for several years. It was the SRX earlier in the decade before evolving into the XT5 in 2017. Sales of the outgoing SRX were nearly three times that of the next best-selling Cadillac, and the XT5 has continued as the brand's top-selling vehicle.

The lineup was expanded with the introduction of the compact XT4 as a 2019 model, and at mid-year the large-mid-sized three-row XT6 was introduced as a 2020 model. At the top of the heap is the long-running large body-on-frame Escalade SUV.

For 2020 the XT5 has been given new bumpers, a bolder grille design available in two textures, and new wheel options. More substantive changes come in infotainment and driver assistance technologies. Highlights include a new rotary controller complementing conventional buttons and touchscreen redundancy, one-touch phone pairing, next-generation 15-watt wireless charging together with a USB C-type port, two high-definition instrument cluster display options, enhanced automatic parking assist with braking, and new rear pedestrian alert.

The XT5 now comes in three trim levels — Luxury, Premium Luxury, and a new top-line Sport. The Sport trim gets a darker, more aggressive appearance, and is tuned for a more performance-oriented experience with quick steering and more aggressive chassis tuning that provides better body control.

We drove a Sport version of the XT5 with adaptive suspension and found it more than capable of handling our usual back-road "test track" without drama. Steering was accurate and body roll was well controlled. We aren't claiming that the XT5 is in the same ballpark with a Porsche or BMW, but you should find the confidence the XT5 Sport imparts reassuring.

Cadillac has upgraded the engine lineup for 2020 and added a new nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the eight-speed. The base engine is now a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Returning is the direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 making 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. It's standard on the Sport trim and optional on the Premium Luxury.

The V-6 includes cylinder deactivation that allows it to switch down to four cylinders when the vehicle decides it doesn’t need the extra power. We were pleased with the smooth-shifting performance measured at 6.7 seconds from 0-to-60 and 15.4 seconds @ 92.6 mph in the quarter mile. These very decent numbers translate into effortless merging and passing.

Inside, passenger space is acceptable, and accommodations are as deluxe as expected from a modern Cadillac. The XT5 receives better materials, improved ergonomics, and upgraded features such as a new digital gauge cluster. There's above-average cargo space, plenty of bins for stashing smaller items, and an easy-to-fold rear seat.

Unfortunately, Cadillac has not seen fit to reinstate a good old-fashioned volume knob to the audio system. You still have to swipe a horizontal bar to set volume, one of the most head-scratching and driver-distracting designs of the decade. Standard equipment includes power liftgate, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition and a Bose eight-speaker sound system with satellite radio.

One concern stands out — rearward visibility is compromised with thick rear roof pillars and a very small rear window. However some help is available with standard blind spot monitoring and a special rearview mirror that comes standard in the top trim level. The mirror actually is a display from a rear view camera and does take some getting used to.

Prices start at $45,090 including $995 destination for the Luxury trim level. The top Sport trim starts at $56,090 with standard all-wheel drive, which is about a $2,000 option on the other trim levels.

Our Sport test vehicle came with several options including the Platinum Package ($3,650) that brings leather seating, Microfiber suede headliner and premium carpeted floor mats; Enhance Visibility and Technology Package ($2,275) that includes navigation, tri-zone climate control and the Cadillac User Experience; the Driver Assist Package ($1,300) that includes adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking, and reverse automatic braking; and rear-seat entertainment ($1,995). That brought the bottom line to a breathtaking $67,735.

For a well-rounded vehicle at the best price get the Premium Luxury trim and add the Driver Assist Package for the adaptive cruise and emergency braking. The V-6 engine can be added $1,000, which would bring the bottom line to a more affordable $52,090. We also drove an XT5 Premium Luxury trim that had over $16,000 in extras beating out the Sport at $68,115.

Base price: $45,090; as driven, $67,735
Engine: 310 @ 6,700 rpm
Torque: 271 foot-pounds @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Length: 189.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,915 pounds
Turning circle: (NA)
Cargo capacity: 63 cubic feet
Luggage capacity: 30 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 21.7 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 18 city, 25 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW X-5, Porsche Macan, Acura MDX

The Good
• Luxurious, quiet interior
• Generous interior space
• Excellent handling

The Bad
• Compromised rear visibility

The Ugly
• Options can drive price into stratosphere