The new Cadillac XT5 is great. Buy one. End of story.
Okay, not quite the end. I get paid by the word and can’t make rent on three-sentence reviews, but, seriously, what more can be said about a vehicle that does everything it needs to do, and does it well?
For a start I can tell you that the XT5 is taking over for the SRX, for the last five years Caddy’s best-selling model — as it should have been. Introduced in 2004 (which in car years makes the SRX practically an antique), the SRX long has been a strong presence in the hot compact luxury SUV segment, delivering a great mix of elegance, functionality, and value. The time finally came for a successor, but the SRX is, as they say in show business, a hard act to follow.
After a drive in the XT5, I can tell you that it eclipses the SRX’s star power in every way. First, let’s talk about weight, because that’s going to be an ongoing theme in this review. Lighter weight is the key to the kingdom. Reducing weight requires serious engineering investment, but it pays dividends to the vehicle’s owner. Though the XT5 is about the same size as the SRX, it weighs 278 pounds less, which means you can go quicker with less power, hold the road with less tire, and get from A to B with less fuel.
Floor the accelerator, and you might think there’s a turbocharger attached to the XT5’s engine. Nope: The XT5 is powered by GM’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter V6 engine — except it’s not really the same old six. This is an all-new version that shares few parts with the 3.6 we’ve come to know and…well, if not love, at least respect. The new version is tuned for 310 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, and drives the wheels (fronts or all fours) through an Aisin-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission.
EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 city/27 highway/22 combined mpg for front-drive versions; all-wheel drive loses a paltry single mpg across the board. I achieved 24 mpg in my tester during some back-road touring marked by healthy stabs of the throttle, and that’s pretty good considering I saw just 20 mpg in the turbocharged four-cylinder Kia Sportage I drove over the same roads the previous week. Light weight strikes again.
Yank the wheel, and the XT5 responds cleanly and crisply, if not quite sportily. The ride is comfortable and quiet, steady and firm — and disallows any reference to land yachts. Best possible refinement and ride quality comes courtesy of the top Platinum model’s electronically adjustable shock absorbers (which, when switched from Normal to Sport mode provides a slight but noticeable difference in ride quality) and hydraulic engine mounts.
Ask the folks at Cadillac, and they’d probably agree that, for their buyers, interior quality is just as important (if not more so) than driving dynamics. Here the Caddy (mostly) excels and clearly shows the designers’ meticulous attention to materials. Everything is authentic: the aluminum is real aluminum, the wood real wood, and the leather real leather. The one exception is the “suede,” which does not wear well in a car interior, so Cadillac instead uses a microfiber product similar to Alcantara. [Automakers across the board stopped using natural suede years ago, so no new ground is being broken here. — Ed.]
The details, too, are (mostly) lovely: I’m particularly fond of the wood trim on the passenger’s side that bends up like a winglet. That piece isn’t easy to make, said a Caddy interior designer, but they put in the effort just for the wow factor; I was indeed wowed.
There are, however, some less elegant elements of the design. For example, top-of-the-line models get that synthetic suede on the dash. It’s a fine material, but I don’t think it belongs on a dashboard (it makes me think of unshaven faces and overgrown lawns). Give me instead a padded leather dashboard, like the one found in the lower trim levels. I also struggled with the BMW-style transmission shifter; getting it into reverse can be tricky, but owners no doubt will become used to it.
Many have complained about Cadillac’s CUE infotainment interface, and though I don’t have too much trouble with the interface itself, the glossy screen is a questionable choice. It’s a magnet for fingerprints, and the black background for the map is visually jarring. It’s always night in Cadillac’s world, but, again, owners no doubt will become used to it.
My bigger issue is with the capacitive touch panels — basically buttons that aren’t buttons. Caddy has changed this approach for the XT5’s climate controls, now offering proper buttons covered by a seamless plastic cover. It’s a solution both elegant and functional. A capacitive touch panel still operates basic stereo controls (which allows for nifty tricks like sliding your finger across the volume bar to turn the stereo up or down), but the problem is that this panel is positioned just below the touch-screen. If your hand comes anywhere near it as you are touching the screen, it does something to the stereo. I found it nearly impossible to program the navigation system without accidentally turning up the stereo to ear-bleed volume. Very annoying. Come on, Caddy. You had the good sense to kill one capacitive touch panel; either move this one or shovel out some space in the same grave.
Size-wise, the XT5 is right where it needs to be. Compared to the SRX, Caddy has added a bit of legroom to the comfortable rear seats, and the generous cargo compartment has floor rails that can accommodate sliding tie-downs or dividers. All cars with open cargo areas should be similarly equipped. In any crash, small, unsecured objects can become dangerous projectiles.
Price-wise, the XT5 finds a happy place. The entry-level sticker is slightly lower than the Lexus RX 350 and Audi Q5 (my two favorites in this segment), but a fully loaded XT5 Platinum will cost you more than the Lexus (provided you stay away from the hybrid model), about as much as a soup-to-nuts Audi, and significantly less than a fully optioned Mercedes-Benz GLE 350.
I’m a big fan of the XT5, a luxury SUV that delivers a posh, roomy interior, handsome styling, and a satisfying driving experience — and at a price that compares well to its competitors.
The new Cadillac XT5 is great. Buy one. End of story.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2017 Cadillac XT5 page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Image credit ©Aaron Gold / AutoWeb