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2021 Cadillac XT6 Test Drive Review
The Cadillac XT6 is mostly unchanged for the 2021 model year. That’s both good and bad. Despite the highs and lows the three-row SUV delivers, it’s still worthy of consideration for premium SUV shoppers.
The Cadillac XT6 made a three-row splash when it arrived on dealership lots for the first time last year. The midsize SUV is a crossover-style alternative to the larger Escalade, delivering high levels of refinement and inspiring driving confidence. All that glitters isn’t gold however, the XT6 suffers from the sameness factor that many General Motors SUVs do, along with other weighty issues. It is mostly unchanged from the 2021 model year.
Look and Feel
The Cadillac XT6 looks sophisticated. Its face features the same styling cues as the Cadillac XT4 and XT5 crossovers, which slot below it in the company’s lineup. The 2021 Cadillac XT6 comes in Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport trim levels.
As tested, the XT6 Sport featured the traditionally-styled XT6 grille, but with darkened accent pieces at the lip between the grille and hood, and surrounding the lower bumper of the SUV. Window surrounds, roof rails, and the rear bumper have a similar treatment. The Sport model rides on new-for-2021 20-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels with Android Satin finish pockets. Those looks, paired with the sharp lines of the vehicle and the slim all-LED headlights, are definitively premium and wholly Cadillac. Other XT6 models feature bright surrounds and wheels.
Cadillac sells the XT6 in seven paint colors. All but the mundane Satin Steel Metallic (gray) come with a $625 and up surcharge. A sunroof is standard.
The interior of the XT6 is straight out of the XT5’s playbook. It appears to be nearly identical to the XT5, only slightly larger because of the overall size differential between the two models. It comes in three color options: Jet Black, Cirrus (light grey), and Maple Sugar.
The most premium aspects of the cabin are the seats, which appear straight out of the luxury SUV playbook in terms of looks. The available Platinum Package ($3,700) elevates the three rows of seats to semi-aniline leather upholstery as well as the door and center console, and it adds a microsuede headliner and premium floor mats.
The SUV’s dashboard area is less premium than the seats, but in no way unattractive. Some of the stitching, buttons, and cubby design is on the cheaper-looking side, but the steering wheel and console surfaces feel good on the hands.
The 2021 Cadillac XT6 Sport is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that comes paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It yields 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. That engine, with the same power output, is also standard in the XT6 Premium Luxury trim while the base XT6 Luxury model gets a 2.0-liter turbo-four that yields 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
The V6 engine is powerful enough to get the SUV going with ease. The smooth-shifting nine-speed doesn’t struggle to find a gear going up or coming down.
Cadillac has given the XT6 standard front-wheel drive (FWD) and available all-wheel drive (AWD). XT6 Luxury and Premium Luxury models have an available AWD drivetrain while the XT6 Sport is only available with AWD.
The XT6’s biggest struggles are in terms of driving dynamics. The XT6 Sport felt too heavy for its frame. At 4,690 pounds the Sport model is the heaviest XT6 model. It’s 328 pounds heavier than the base XT6—a spacing that’s pretty common for SUV lineups and a weight that is similar to others in its class. For example, the three-row Nissan Pathfinder ranges in weight from 4,287 pounds to 4,659 pounds.
In the XT6, the weightiness came from the mid-rear, where the SUV’s AWD mechanics are located. This made the XT6 less dynamic at nearly every turn. This issue could be felt pulling into a parking space, but also on a winding road and under harsh acceleration on the highway.
This isn’t an issue in other three-row SUVs that the XT6 competes with. The current versions of the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Telluride, Acura MDX, Hyundai Palisade, Subaru Ascent, and Honda Pilot all have better weight distribution—even with hybrid and AWD variants, where applicable.
The XT6 is on par with its competitors when it comes to fuel economy. Its entry-level turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined in models equipped with AWD. Getting a FWD model keeps the city and combined mpg numbers but ups its efficiency on the highway by one to 27 mpg.
With the 3.6-liter V6 under the hood and front-wheel drive, the XT6 earns similar figures: 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg combined. Opting for AWD decreases the city and highway mpg targets by one each but keeps the combined 21 mpg.
The Smart Towing package is available on midgrade and higher trim levels. It includes hitch guidance, a hitch cover, and seven-wire harness.
Form and Function
The Cadillac XT6 is a good vehicle for its target audience, but it could be better. While there are high points, like the comfortable seats that can be equipped with heating in the first two rows, the low points are mainly when the XT6 is considered versus the competition. Other premium SUVs, like the Acura MDX, have far more comfortable and plush seats.
Seating for seven is standard. Buyers can upgrade to captain’s chairs in the second row for $800.
Another plus is that adults can fit in the third row of the XT6. This is something that older midsize SUVs struggled with but has become more common in recent years with the emergence of the Telluride, Ascent, and Palisade, as well as the redesigned Highlander. However, the XT6 still has less head-, leg-, shoulder-, and hip room than many of those models, in all three rows.
The interior small-item storage is not ideal for families, especially for front-row riders. They’ll struggle to find places to set phones, hair ties, change, cords, and other things owners typically keep at the ready in the center console area of the SUV unless they want to store them in the bin.
While a wireless phone charger is standard, it’s the deep-pocket type that doesn’t allow you to have access to your phone while it’s charging, disappearing it into the center console. This isn’t ideal.
In its rear cargo space, this XT6 shines. It has more overall cargo space than many of its competitors. Utilizing that area is made easy thanks to a standard power liftgate (hands-free is available on Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury and Sport models) and power-folding third-row seats. Buyers can upgrade to remote-folding second-row seats. The SUV’s cargo load floor is a little high, but that’s relatively typical of the class. Also typical is that there isn’t much cargo space behind the third row of seats. In order to make that Costco run, you may need to put down the back row.
There’s nothing cutting edge about the tech in the Cadillac XT6 and that’s okay. It’s not the Escalade. What is there is perfectly suitable compared to the XT6’s main rivals. The main pain point is the SUV’s infotainment screen, which is smaller than other offerings in the segment and can appear crowded with information, or lacking information, depending on the use case scenario.
The SUV comes with a decent list of standard features including tri-zone automatic climate control, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, infotainment user profiles, an eight-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, a WiFi hot spot, six USB ports (two for each row), wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote start, and Teen Driver monitoring. Buyers can upgrade to get an air ionizer, a 14-speaker Bose audio system, an automatic heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats and heated outboard rear seats, navigation, and upgraded wireless charging capability.
Navigation and the upgraded Bose audio system can be packaged together and added for $1,000.
General Motors equips most of their vehicles with an impressive roster of standard safety features and technology. This includes a large number of airbags.
All Cadillac XT6 models come with automatic emergency braking, forward-collision alert, following-distance indicator, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, a high-definition rearview camera, Safety Alert Seat, and IntelliBeam headlights with rear park assist. Premium Luxury and Sport models also get lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard.
As in the XT5, the XT6 struggles with its lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning systems, which rarely read the lines until the vehicle is well over them, even in excellent driving conditions (new pavement, fresh lines, bright but not glaring sun). At night, just “fuggedaboutit”, as they say in any number of Martin Scorsese films.
Buyers can upgrade to get the Driver Assist Package ($1,300), which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic seat belt tightening, enhanced automatic emergency braking, and reverse automatic braking.
The Sport model tester came with this package as well as the enhanced Visibility and Technology Package ($2,350), which includes an 8.0-inch-diagonal gauge cluster, head-up display, rear-camera mirror (with washer), HD surround vision, surround-vision recorder, rear pedestrian alert, and automatic parking assist with braking. If you are thinking about opting for the package, make sure you try out the rear-camera mirror during your test drive. When used in daylight hours, the camera view can be distracting but at nighttime, it dims headlights behind the vehicle and can prove especially useful on the highway. The good news is that Cadillac still keeps the traditional mirror for users who prefer that and the press of a button is all it takes to switch back and forth.
Night Vision technology is available on Premium Luxury and Sport (requires Platinum Package and Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the 2021 XT6 a five-star frontal crash test rating and a four-start rollover crash test rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the 2020 XT6 a "Top Safety Pick+," its highest rating. The 2020 model is structurally similar to that version.
The 2021 Cadillac XT6 starts at $48,990 for the base Luxury trim level. Moving up to the XT6 Premium Luxury will set you back at least $53,790 while the XT6 Sport comes in at $58,190. All models carry an additional $995 destination charge.
General Motors loves to get buyers to add on packages and equipment to up the price of their trim level. All-in, the XT6 Sport tester Cadillac leant to us for this review had an MSRP of $70,570 after $13,375 in options were tacked on.
That’s a steep price to pay for this SUV. In terms of appointments, the XT6 is just as good-looking as other mass-market SUVs that deliver the same, if not better technology and powertrain options. The top-tier Highlander with a hybrid powertrain comes in around $50,000 all-in. The highest grade Telluride and Palisade are around that same price, with all the options boxed checked. A fully-equipped Subaru Ascent will only cost near $45,000. These models also all have better drive dynamics.
The Cadillac’s most equal competitor is the Acura MDX. Pricing on the Acura starts at $44,500 and topping out around $60,000 when buyers choose the more expensive hybrid model with all-wheel drive. The Acura is in the midst of a redesign that could push it far ahead of the Cadillac in terms of technology, drive dynamics, and comfort.
Like the XT6, the Lincoln Aviator has luxe features and a high price tag. It too has a variety of driving dynamics and handling issues, giving the XT6 the edge. The XT6's stablemate, the Buick Enclave is similarly appointed but has a lower price and should be cross-shopped against the XT6 if you don't plan to use the SUV's third-row very much.
If comfort and a good sound system are at the top of your must-have list, be sure to test drive the Volvo XC90, which checks both those boxes but has reliability questions.
At $70,000, the XT6 finds a spot on the luxury playing field as well. The highest-priced Audi Q7 you can buy is $72,000. The Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7 are priced even higher. These models have significantly more safety and driver assistance technology.
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