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2019 Cadillac XT4 Test Drive Review
Cadillac was named after the founder of Detroit. It's the second oldest vehicle manufacturer in the United States and responsible for some of the most iconic vehicles in automotive history. But all of those icons were sedans, and this isn’t a sedan world anymore. Today, people love crossovers. More importantly, people buy crossovers. So, naturally, Cadillac sells crossovers, and the XT4 is the company's latest and smallest one. Built on the same platform as the Malibu sedan and the Buick Regal Sportwagon, the 2019 XT4 addresses a major complaint against a lot of Cadillac's offerings—that they’re just rebadged GM products. Instead, the XT4 is a brand new vehicle that hopes to shed Cadillac's reputation for badge engineering and parts-bin design.
Look and Feel
The XT4 starts with a new 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that delivers 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 9-speed automatic for a very spirited ride. An extra-short first gear provides a quick boost of torque for takeoffs, while a tall final gear aims to deliver a very competitive 27 mpg in front-wheel-drive (FWD) guise.
Starting with the base Luxury trim level, the XT4’s starting MSRP of $34,795 will buy you some expected luxury features like LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition with remote start, dual-zone automatic climate controls, a 7-speaker stereo with satellite radio, and an 8-inch touchscreen. What you don’t get—and what you might expect to find in a luxury vehicle—are features like auto wipers and mirrors, a driver memory system, parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and a power liftgate. For that, as well as curious omissions from the base trim, like a rear cargo cover and ambient lights, you’ll have to move up to the Premium Luxury trim, which starts at $39,295.
My week with the XT4 was spent in the top-tier Sport trim. This gets all the features mentioned above, plus LED turn signals and front cornering lamps, a sport steering wheel, sport front seats, and unique faux leather inside. It carries the same starting MSRP as the Premium Luxury trim, although blacked-out trim details help to distinguish it, and all-wheel drive (AWD) in my tester boosted the price to $41,795. The options list was also thoroughly enjoyed, with a $2,450 Comfort and Convenience package to add a hands-free liftgate as well as ventilation and massage to the front seats. There was also a $1,550 dual-pane sunroof, a $1,500 Cadillac User Experience package for navigation with real-time traffic and a 13-speaker Bose stereo, a $1,500 Enhanced Visibility package for dual, power-folding heated mirrors with integrated signals, a rear-view mirror with video feed, auto parking assist with braking, and an HD surround-vision camera. Additionally, my XT4 benefitted from a $1,400 Technology package that added wireless charging, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, an upgraded gauge cluster, a head-up display, and an air ionizer. An adaptive sport suspension and unique 20-inch alloy wheels added another $2,300 to the bill, and a Drive Assist package for adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and forward and reverse automatic emergency braking was another $1,100. If you’re thinking these are all features that should just be included at this level, you’re correct. But the list doesn’t end there. A Cold Weather package for $850 adds heated front and rear seats, plus a heated steering wheel. A $770 Driver Awareness package gets you forward-collision alert with pedestrian detection and more auto braking, lane-keeping warning and assist, auto high beams, and a following-distance indicator. Finally, the $625 Twilight Blue Metallic paint, a $300 trailering package, and the $995 destination charge rounded out the final price to a whopping $57,135.
The XT4’s turbocharged engine is a stout performer thanks to its 258 lb-ft of torque, arriving at just 1,500 rpm and lasting until 4,000 rpm. There’s a slight gap in power that’s handled very well by the 9-speed transmission before the peak 237 hp takes over at 5,000 rpm. And despite its sprightliness, the XT4 boasts a very competitive 27 mpg combined in FWD form. Unfortunately, that short first gear means the engine can very easily overpower those front wheels, so AWD is definitely recommended, which drops the combined mileage down to an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in combined driving.
Unfortunately, in low-speed driving, the transmission shifts back and forth between gears so frequently that the engine can sometimes have trouble accelerating smoothly. This is particularly problematic in slower, stop-and-go traffic. It's not an uncommon problem with 8-, 9-, and 10-speed transmissions when paired with smaller turbocharged engines, and I’m sure with a V6, this problem would disappear. But with this engine, you’ll have to learn how to properly finesse the accelerator to avoid it.
Mechanical torque vectoring handles power distribution out back, and coupled with the adaptive sport suspension, the little XT4 can actually hustle through the corners quite well. The bad part is that this setup requires you to go with 20-inch wheels, which doesn’t do any favors for overall ride quality. The 18-inch wheels would be a much better option here.
Form and Function
The XT4’s design and assembly feel more than adequate for the price and segment, with less obvious examples of Cadillac pulling directly from the GM parts bin than usual. They’re still there if you look closely, but for the most part, you won’t find yourself feeling like you’re driving a more-expensive Chevrolet.
Space is more than adequate in both the front and back, even for those over 6 feet tall. And the trunk offers 22.5 cubic feet of cargo space, expandable to 49.8 with the second row folded flat. This is a commendable amount of space for a smaller vehicle, but it still lands the XT4 in the middle of the pack with regard to the competition. Most bothersome is what’s optional or missing altogether. Even with the top-tier trim I tested, safety options that often come standard in Cadillac's competitors added thousands and thousands to the price of the XT4. And even with my example kitted out about as fully as possible, there were still odd omissions—like auto-up rear windows. I can’t imagine a lot of money was saved by leaving that feature out, and it could really sting the first time you come back to your parked XT4 and realize the rear windows didn’t go all the way up automatically.
Gone are the touch-sensitive panels that used to frustrate nearly everyone. Instead, we find traditional buttons in their place. It all comes together with an 8-inch touchscreen utilizing Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system for a very attractive design. With Android Auto and Apple CarPlay coming as standard equipment, you have your choice of operating systems. You even get some USB-C ports. The CUE infotainment system still isn’t the best on the market, but things have been steadily improving, and again you can always go with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to keep things familiar.
Sadly, and perhaps inappropriately for this segment, most of the XT4's tech is optional equipment. The exclusion of often-standard safety features until you venture onto the options list is a black mark here, and special note should be taken for a feature like the rear-view mirror's camera feed. This is offered to combat atrocious rear visibility. Thanks to very thick C-pillars and a violently raked rear-hatch window, seeing out of the back of the XT4 is a futile task at best. Having to pay extra to correct a design defect isn’t the way to win customers. If this lack of visibility were because of some daring design choices from Cadillac, it would be more acceptable. But as it stands, the XT4’s rear doesn’t look appreciatively different than any other crossover on the market.
Unfortunately, the XT4 has yet to be tested by either the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It’s impressive optional safety systems certainly speak well to Cadillac’s commitment to safety, but the massive amounts of money you’ll have to spend to access them means that any family looking longingly at the $34,000 base version will likely be sorely disappointed.
With a very cost-conscious base trim, the XT4 looks to be a great deal at first glance. But what you’ll have to pay extra for just to keep up with the competition raises the price so much and so rapidly that it’s hard to call it cost-effective. Granted, many luxury brands employ a similar tactic with a stripped base trim offering the illusion of value, only to be destroyed when you actually start checking off options. As it stands, the XT4 is a good start for Cadillac, but there are simply better deals to be had in the segment.
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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