2017 Cadillac XT5: A Surprising Drive

Strong points
  • Communicative steering
  • Great looks
  • Excellent automatic transmission
Weak points
  • Back seats are too high
  • Engine lacks punch
  • Confused market positioning
Full report

Cadillac is undergoing quite the transformation. After spending the last few years introducing products on par with the European brands, now Cadillac has set its sights on conquering the world. To reach this goal, the brand intends to introduce several new models over the next few years to complete its lineup.

Among these new products will be several SUVs, as Cadillac has only two at present, the Escalade and the SRX.

Since it first appeared, the SRX has changed direction countless times. Initially a seven-seat SUV powered by a big Northstar V8, it was then remodeled and made into a pleasant, ponderous, gas-guzzling midsize SUV.

When Cadillac announced that the SRX was going to be replaced by the XT5 to bring it in line with the brand’s new naming system, people wondered whether it would really just be an update rather than a new model.

Well, surprise, surprise, the XT5 is indeed a new vehicle, built on the same new platform found in several other new products, but we’ll tackle that subject another time.

So, the XT5 is a new vehicle that asks only to be discovered, and that’s just what we did.

Cadillac at its best

We’re a long way from Cadillac’s dark years. Disasters like the Catera seem like ancient history when you look at the XT5.

With this historic brand’s decidedly square style, the XT5 isn’t radically different from the SRX, which is why we were expecting a simple update. However, if you look closely at the details, you’ll see that the XT5 is more refined than the SRX in every way, from the shape of the headlights down to the lines on the hood.

Inside, the new cabin design breaks ties with the SRX. In the XT5’s basic trims, if you can call them basic, the passenger compartment is welcoming and the quality of the materials feels worthy of German luxury vehicles.

In the most expensive version, the suede-trimmed cabin is simply sublime.

At the centre of the dashboard, there’s a screen that we would have liked to be more prominent – it seems like it’s lodged in a hole. Its operating system is better than the old generation’s, but since it’s now possible to control the car’s infotainment system using your Apple or Android device, you’re unlikely to use it very often.

The front and rear seats are superbly comfortable and we appreciated the generous legroom in the back. Just one problem: the back seats are a too high because of a rigidity component installed under the seat. If you’re six feet tall, you can expect your head to touch the ceiling.

Wanted: A more expressive engine

One of the big mysteries of the XT5 is under the hood, where you’ll find a new generation of the 3.6-litre V6 equipped with the most modern direct injection and variable valve timing technology.

On paper, it generates 310 horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque. The baseline XT5 is front-wheel drive, but an improved all-wheel-drive system equips most versions. Moreover, it can be activated and deactivated at the touch of a button, which is practical if ever you want to save a little gas when the weather is nice.

Power is transmitted to the wheels by way of an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This transmission does a remarkable job, rarely lagging and responding quickly when used in manual mode.

And yet, the car seems slow. In actual fact, it accelerates faster than the SRX – it is 292 pounds lighter and more powerful, after all—but we expected more from the 310 horsepower. The car doesn’t offer the SRX’s savagery, but it’s the end result that counts.

If you take it easy, you should get an average fuel consumption rate of 11.5 L/100 km. This figure is greatly influenced by the roads you take, since fuel consumption in town is 12 L/100 km versus 8.6 L/100 km on the highway.

A surprise behind the wheel

As previously mentioned, the XT5 is 292 pounds lighter than the SRX. Plus, its chassis is more rigid and its suspension is sportier without sacrificing comfort.

Put it this way: If you drive the XT5 with a bit of enthusiasm, you can expect to be pleasantly surprised. Not only do the suspension and chassis completely outclass the SRX, but the ride is more precise than any other Cadillac SUV before it.

The car goes exactly where you point it, without the vagueness that usually accompanies this type of vehicle.

The XT5 is truly a nice surprise and a better designed product than the SRX. In fact, it should have no problem competing with its European rivals.

And that’s precisely the problem: the XT5’s market positioning strategy seems confused. Cadillac claims that the XT5 has to contend with the BMW X3 because the two feature similar prices and power. However, they’re also comparing it to the Mercedes-Benz GLE by saying that it’s almost as big and yet not as heavy.

The hitch is the X3 and GLE aren’t in the same category. We think Cadillac should be targeting the GLC.

The XT5’s name indicates that it’s the SUV equivalent of the future CT5 sedan, which is likely to be the next CTS. The CTS competed with the BMW 5 Series, so it stands to reason that the XT5 would rival the SUV equivalent of the 5 Series, which is the X5 and not the X3.

In any case, that’s a technicality that should not overshadow the vehicle, which merits consideration nonetheless.

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