Long in the tooth. Once upon a time, Cadillac sat smug as the Standard of the World. These days, the venerable automaker has been surpassed by most other luxury marques, and now it's Cadillac that is trying to scramble back towards the top. One of the key players in its bid to return to relevancy is the XT5, a compact crossover that slots in between the smaller XT4 and the three-row XT6.
If the XT5's shape seems vaguely familiar, that's because it is: the body isn't much more than a gently-massaged second-gen SRX. For reference, that model was built from 2010 until the XT5 was released in 2018. Seeing the styling carry on without any major changes has left this Cadillac feeling outdated upon first glance, especially when standouts like the Volvo XC60 and upcoming Genesis GV70 can be nabbed for a similar price.
Tasteful cabin. At least the interior is tastefully modern. While one would assume Cadillac would emulate Mercedes and go all-out in showy details, the cabin features a restrained design. The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen is nicely integrated into the dash, which itself is low-set and helps provide excellent sightlines.
Our only beef with the interior design is the weird, amorphous bit of surface that sort of bumps and folds its away across the driver's half of the dashboard. It doesn't look especially well thought-out; it hardly looks like a finished product. We think that it would've been a better look had the dashboard been allowed to stretch unbroken across the width of the cabin.
Like a proper Cadillac, the big, comfy front seats provide plenty of cushion and support. Do we wish they were button-tufted like the old land yachts of yore? Of course, but times change, and we're just happy the new thrones wear the subtle little V insignia on the seatbacks. We're also happy that right out of the gate Cadillac gives heated front seats and multi-way power adjustability. Good luck finding any similarly-priced Mercedes with standard heated seats.
Tech and safety. Cadillac gives every XT5 an 8.0-inch touchscreen running the latest CUE software. Anyone who remembers CUE when it first came out is probably shuddering right now, but fear not: the latest software is far more refined, to the point that this has become one of our favorite infotainment systems in the segment. It is quick, easy to navigate, and requires minimal effort to use while driving. The new-for-2021 wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto only makes things even better.
We do wish Cadillac made a bigger screen available on the higher-priced cars, however. Remember, this is a crossover that can hit nearly $70,000 with every option checked; to cost that much and only get the same infotainment setup as the base model is a bit insulting to customers paying top dollar. Cadillac already puts 38 inches of screen in the new Escalade; surely high-zoot XT5s deserve at least 10 inches of haptic goodness.
If there's any consolation, it's that plenty of other goodies can be ordered up. Night vision, new for this year, headlines the extravagant extras that are available. Other neat features include a head-up display, navigation, a 14-speaker audio system, and a rear-view camera mirror.
On the safety front, every XT5 gets automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, and active lane control. Moving a bit further up the trim ladder adds blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change alert. Optional kit includes adaptive cruise control, high-speed forward automatic braking, and rear automatic braking.
The big missing feature from this list is Super Cruise, which Cadillac debuted a year or two ago on the CT6 sedan. It remains one of the best semi-autonomous driving features on the market - but is only just starting to trickle down into lesser Cadillacs. Such a feature would give the XT5 real standing in a highly competitive segment, but we don't expect it to be offered until the next-generation model is released.
Road manners. The XT5 is no CTS-V, even when equipped with the optional V-6. It is marked by acceleration that is more sluggish than slingshot, particularly with the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The standard engine only musters 237 horsepower in a segment where some models come bristling with close to 280 horses from the same displacement. The competition has generally done a better job quelling noise and harshness from their powertrains as well.
The 3.6-liter V-6 is certainly faster, and how the big V-6 delivers power is something of a treat in this era of small turbo engines. We would say it is well worth upgrading to, but unfortunately the XT5 can't be had with it for less than $55,000. At that price point, the crossover is a dubious value, even if it's pushing 310 horsepower and flaunting sportier handling.
About that handling: the V-6 gets adaptive dampers that do a nice job keeping the 20-inch wheels from rattling your fillers out. But ride quality can become flinty over punishing roads, and whatever handling gains come from the V-6's retuned suspension don't turn this into an exciting handler. Overall, the base suspension tuning is fine with us, which is more in tune with the proper Cadillac tradition of comfortable, regal, and unruffled.
The XT5's fuel economy of 22 mpg city, 29 highway, and 24 combined in its thriftiest form is about on par with the competition. Buy a Mercedes GLC300 or Volvo XC60 and the figures are nearly identical; a BMW X3 gets 25 mpg city but the same 29 mpg highway. A V-6 XT5 isn't so hot at 18/26/22 mpg; if you're willing to quaff fuel at that rate, there are plenty of fire-breathing, corner-carving crossovers that would be a better choice.
Final thoughts. The Cadillac XT5 is a nice crossover in a sea of great crossovers. It offers plenty of value and gets some great excellent standard and optional features, but in other ways we can't help but be disappointed. Styling, for instance. The mediocre powertrains. The lack of a bigger touchscreen or Super Cruise.
Fine has never cut it among luxury cars, and it won't now. Until the XT5 gets redesigned, it will continue to suffer from just being okay in a segment that demands utmost excellence.
Check prices for the 2021 Cadillac XT5 »