2017 Cadillac XT5: Lofty Ambitions

Strong points
  • Firm steering
  • Great look
  • Efficient automatic gearbox
  • Decoupling all-wheel drive
Weak points
  • Barely sufficient power
  • Stubborn electronic gear selector
  • Limited rear headroom
  • Rearview mirror HD screen on the Platinum version only
Full report

The new 2017 XT5 is arriving at Cadillac dealerships to replace the SRX, at a time when the commercial success of General Motors’ luxury brand is, to a large extent, due to its SUVs, with the Escalade leading the way. The XT5 has the dual mission of retaining the brand’s traditional buyers, who were already won over by the SRX, and to help Cadillac attract new clients by competing directly with European and Japanese vehicles in the very competitive luxury SUV segment.

The XT5 is built on a new platform, shared with the 2017 GMC Acadia, and its lineup is made up of front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions – hence the significant difference in price between the FWD basic version at $45,100 and the AWD fully loaded Platinum version, which goes for $68,595.

310 horsepower? Really?

All XT5s will be powered by a new 3.6-litre V6 with variable valve timing, a cylinder deactivation system that helps go from six to four cylinders at cruising speed and an automatic stop/start system. It has 310 horsepower and a maximum torque rating of 271 lb.-ft., but you won’t really feel all that power at work when you’re driving the XT5. Its acceleration and pick up are okay, but nothing more than that.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox does an admirable job in normal conditions, but once you put the pedal to the metal, you have to wait for the transmission to downshift several gears before you feel a sustained boost forward. The all-wheel-drive versions can switch to front-wheel drive at the push of a button on the central console—a move that improves fuel consumption when optimal actuation isn’t necessary.

Speaking of the gearbox, note that the 2017 Cadillac XT5 is the first of the brand’s vehicles to adopt an electronic gear selector like that of BMW. No problem when going from “Park” to “Drive,” but selecting reverse means moving the shifter forward and to the left, which requires a some getting used to. It can end up being frustrating when you want to move quickly.

All versions of the XT5 are equipped with a backup camera whose images are projected on the infotainment system’s screen. In the Platinum version, this camera is paired with an ingenious device that transforms the rearview mirror into a colour screen, reproducing the image captured in wide angle by the backup camera, in turn giving you much wider vision in back.

Another interesting feature is that this system doesn’t only work when you’re driving in reverse: it can also be activated when going forward. Since the image reproduced in the rearview mirror is captured by the backup camera, you can eliminate all obstacles to the field of vision of a conventional central rearview, such as the rear headrests, for example. It’s simple and very efficient. Too bad, however, that this accessory is only available with the Platinum—the high-end version in the lineup.

On the road, the 2017 Cadillac XT5’s body feels more rigid than that of the SRX, which improves the handling. It’s connected to the ground via a ZF-developed real-time damping suspension that’s configurable in three modes and paired with large-diameter roll bars.

Body movements are generally well controlled and the XT5 proves skilled at hugging the road, but it’s clearly not as much fun to drive as a BMW X3 or Porsche Macan. It’s very comfortable and the soundproofing is excellent.

The XT5’s cabin plays the luxury card to the max with quality materials like leather, suede and carbon fibre. The OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take care of connectivity. The rear bench slides, reclines and can be divided in 40/20/40 sections, but since the bench seat is very high, adults that are 5’10” or taller will find it lacking headroom.

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 certainly has its fair share of virtues to succeed in its mission of widening its pool of potential buyers. Having said that, it doesn’t have the same charm as the German brands, isn’t as much fun to drive and the performance isn’t exactly exhilarating. It’s not all bad though. After all, the XT5 is far superior to the SRX, without being the category’s new shooting star. The job was done thoroughly, but there’s no spark of genius.

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