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2017 Cadillac XT5 Test Drive Review
Cadillac trades in its best-selling SRX for a new crossover experience: the lighter, roomier, and "techier" XT5.
With the luxury crossover segment exploding, Cadillac is pushing to remain relevant. The outgoing SRX was a bestseller for this founding marque of American automotive, and the XT5 has a big job to do in replacing it. To that aim, Cadillac has fitted it with an excess of technology and luxury and the same lightweight construction that’s spelled success for its sport sedans.
Look and Feel
For those familiar with the outgoing SRX or Cadillac in general, the XT5 doesn’t offer many aesthetic surprises. What it does offer is a chassis nearly 300 pounds lighter than that of the vehicle it replaces and a wheelbase stretched almost 2 inches for increased space inside as well as medial stability.
There’s also technology. Cadillac is pushing hard to establish itself as a tech leader, and while the top-tier Platinum trim is fitted with some unexpected bits of forward-thinking tech, even base models are healthily equipped without having to hit the options list. A rear-view camera with parking sensors, LED running lights and auto headlights, keyless ignition and entry with remote engine start, and dual-zone auto climate controls are all standard here for the entry-level Base trim. You also get a power liftgate and power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and while many vehicles relegate smaller screens to lower trim levels, the XT5 has an 8-inch touchscreen for every trim, fitted with the CUE infotainment system and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Similarly, even Base trims get an 8-speaker Bose sound system with HD and satellite radio, four USB inputs, and Aux. Of special note is the Qi wireless charging system, which while not unique in and of itself, deserves mention due to the fact that unlike many other systems I’ve tested, the dock is large enough to fit the larger phones that tend to come equipped with wireless charging. Additionally, the dock’s placement is a unique and convenient design, allowing you to slip a phone in and out of charging easily while still being able to see its status bar while the phone is docked.
When you move to the Luxury trim, you’ll notice that leatherette has been upgraded to actual leather, but this is hardly the last upgrade to be seen here. There are 4 distinct surfaces for the interior, all based on the trim. Luxury adds 8-way power to the front passenger seat to match the driver's seat, along with a power lumbar adjustment and heat, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, interior accent lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Additionally, the trunk gets an extremely useful (if a bit cheap feeling) cargo-management system as well as a retractable shade, two features that should be on every trim of the XT5, as well as every crossover and SUV on the market.
Here you can really start outfitting your XT5, and that means you can keep things relatively cost-efficient without having to move up to higher trim levels. The interior can be upgraded with ventilation for the front seats and heat for the outer rears, 3-zone climate control, a towing package, and navigation, which comes with an upgraded, 14-speaker Bose sound system. Choosing the Navigation package also allows you to upgrade front headlights for LEDs, but for further safety choose the Driver Awareness package for a forward-collision mitigation system with pedestrian detection, auto high beams, and lane-departure warning and assist.
Premium Luxury adds the Driver Awareness and Navigation packages as well as the interior accent lighting and vented front seats, illuminated door handles, and continually adjusting suspension dampers to make sure the larger 20-inch wheels you get here don’t ruin the ride. However, if you want 3-zone climate control, you’ll have to add it here, as it still doesn’t come standard. You can also increase safety with a Driver Assist package that adds adaptive cruise, automatic parking, and an upgraded collision mitigation system.
And while the top-tier Platinum trim is chock-full of tech and luxury, the Driver Assist package will still need to be added at this level to get all the features. But without heading to the options list, you’ll still get unique 20-inch alloys, premium leather upholstery, a unique gauge cluster and floor mats, and a hands-free power liftgate. The heated outer seats and 3-zone climate control are finally standard here, and some of the more impressive tech like a reversing camera, 360-degree top-down camera view, and head-up display are included, too. With a base MSRP of $62,500, a compact spare tire added $350 to the bill and a $995 destination charge, the walkaway price for the 2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD I had for a week landed at $63,845.
Despite competitors offering a variety of engine options from economical to more performance inspired, the XT5 will stick with a 3.6-liter V6 across the lineup. I’m curious how this will change in the coming model years, both for the XT5 and as Cadillac unveils more models in its XT (Crossover Touring) series. For now, the 310-hp V6 offers brawny if not bracing acceleration. It would benefit from some extra torque, as its 271 lb-ft manage to send the 4,000-pound XT5 to 60 mph in around 6.6 seconds, while competitors are doing it in anywhere from 5 to 6 seconds flat. The engine also suffers from a slight lack of refinement. If you’re trying to achieve that 6.6 figure, or even merge into quick traffic, you’ll hear the V6 start to strain at the higher revs where all the power is. A luxury crossover’s engine should start to sing a bit up high, not sound like it’s struggling to keep its composure.
More troubling are the XT5's fuel-economy figures. While the 3.6 has been EPA estimated at 18 mpg city/26 highway for a combined rating of 21, I found it difficult to keep my average fuel economy much higher than 14 mpg and often saw my averages over 50 miles drop as low as 12. I kept the settings in their default mode most of the time, which had the all-wheel-drive (AWD) Platinum XT5 operating in front-wheel-drive-only mode. I tested out Sport settings only a handful of times and was even careful not to abuse the gas pedal too much, but still fell short with regard to mileage. That's a shame considering the XT5 has an 8-speed transmission, which should allow it to achieve better numbers. Even more frustrating, the transmission can exhibit some herky-jerkiness during throttle modulation, losing its smooth character in stop-and-go traffic, for instance.
Form and Function
With a very familiar form, it’s function that takes center stage in the XT5. From the genius wireless charging dock to the pass-through storage under the center console, things are very well designed in the XT5. In upper trim levels, you’ll be greeted by real leather, real wood, and real metal accents, and placement is superb with everything within immediate reach.
I have a small gripe about the volume “dial” incorporated below the 8-inch touchscreen (more on that in the Technology section), but otherwise had no complaints about the overall layout of the XT5. Special attention was paid to visibility here, and you’ll note Cadillac beaming about the placement of its rear-view mirrors, mounted low on the door instead of high and in front of the side window, allowing for line-of-sight through the front quarter glass. Things are less open toward the rear, but Cadillac has provided a wealth of cameras and sensors to make sure you don’t back into any poles while reversing through the gas station.
Space is an even better situation. With a wheelbase stretched almost 2 inches versus the outgoing SRX, there’s plenty of room inside the cabin whether you’re residing in the front or back, even with the panoramic sunroof. In fact, this foundational change added more than 3 inches of legroom in the back seat. This is one of the rare vehicles where I didn’t have to put the seat all the way back to comfortably sit my 6-foot, 4-inch frame in the driver’s seat, and I could nearly get my 6-foot cameraman in behind me without issue.
Cargo space in the back stands at 30 cubic feet, which more than doubles to 63 when you fold the rear seats flat. That puts the XT5 right in the middle of competitors' numbers, but it’s the cargo-management system that's the biggest surprise here. Not being able to secure your cargo in the back means it’s largely a useless space. With the cargo-management system, you can toss two grocery bags back there and not have to worry about a trunk full of loose produce and eggs when you get home. I only wish it were of better construction and came standard in every SUV and crossover produced.
Cadillac wants you to know it's putting its focus on technology. From the standard 8-inch touchscreen with Bose audio and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the interesting approach of placing a second rear-facing camera in the rear-view mirror, Cadillac hopes to get your attention. It’s curious and frustrating that two separate cameras are used for the rear-view mirror and touchscreen display, especially when the resolution in the touchscreen camera is so much lower. It seems an unnecessary separation. The rear-view mirror camera gives you a view to the rear unobstructed by pillars, headrests, or the like. It’s slightly disorienting at first, as it requires a different plane of focus when glancing than you’re used to from years of looking at a normal rear-view mirror. But it’s definitely a clear picture, so take a look at the video for a demonstration.
But those two aren’t the only cameras in use. There’s also a top-down 360-degree view that pastes an illustrated version of the XT5 over the display to indicate your total surroundings. It displays adjacent to the traditional rear-view camera, which during tight parking will also display the view to the side.
Head-up display is another “new” technology poking its head in the door of late, despite being around for decades already. Be prepared to see this on a lot of new models. Here you’ll get a digital readout of your speed and engine RPM, as well as your next direction when using navigation.
Parking sensors give a buzz in the seat when a collision is imminent, which I’ve always found a nice addition, especially with a rear-view camera whose resolution is as low as this one's. And while you can get the full array of safety systems here—for a price, that is—I found the lane-departure system in the XT5 I tested to be very finicky, giving a departure warning even when staying directly in my lane on a straight road. Likely a quirk of this particular example.
Comfort is well taken care of with tri-zone auto climate control, heat for nearly all seats and ventilation for the fronts, USB input front and rear so all passengers can charge devices, as well as an Aux input stowed out of sight in the console storage. When you move up to 20-inch wheels with the Premium Luxury trim and above, you’re also treated to continually adjusting suspension dampers like we’ve seen in the Buick Regal GS. However, this is not to be confused with the Magnetic Ride Control that GM uses on its performance vehicles, like the CTS-V, C7 Stingray, and Camaro ZL1.
My largest complaint is with the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) interface for the infotainment system. Ignoring the frustrating volume slider that doesn’t operate reliably, Cadillac is going for a largely touchscreen-only experience, and the interface here just isn’t up for the job. I’d utilize Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for a more simplified experience.
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to test the XT5, its full suite of airbags, including curtain and driver knee, traction and stability control systems, and long list of optional safety features should warrant high scores. Properly outfitted, the XT5 can boast forward-collision alert and mitigation, lane-departure warning and correction, front pedestrian detection and parking sensors front and back, adaptive cruise with a following distance indicator with estimated time, and even an upgraded collision-mitigation system if you so choose. Of course, all Cadillacs come with standard OnStar, offering automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery, remote door control, and roadside assistance, but the fact that so much of the safety is relegated to higher trim levels or the options list only hurts the score slightly.
Given that Cadillac’s marketing seems to target vehicles like the Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan, the XT5 is fighting against some stout competition, and in some cases it's able to offer a similar experience for a lot less money. But prestige is king in luxury circles, and the XT5 just can’t match heavyweights like that.
What it can do is present a compelling alternative to options like the Lincoln MKX, the Lexus RX 350, or even the Audi Q3/5. However while Audi and Lexus are still scoring high on reliability ratings, Cadillac has been falling of late. Resale values have suffered similar hits, so if you’re looking to trade up in the near future, the XT5 might not be your best bet. However, if you do choose to check out an XT5, there are current APR incentives through the end of August 2016, along with a loyalty award of $750 for current holders of a GM lease looking to trade in their current car.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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