Built for the modern family. It isn't as big as the titanic Cadillac Escalade, but the 2021 Cadillac XT6 plays many of the same roles. With three rows and optional second-row captain’s chairs, this is a family hauler that starts nearly $30,000 cheaper than the brand's flagship.

The XT6 is a true crossover, eschewing the Escalade’s body-on-frame construction in favor of a unibody. It feels modern inside, too, with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and six USB ports.

Cadillac hasn’t always been a leader in the safety department, but the XT6 is working to change that. Every model comes with automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist, and crash test scores are excellent. Our only complaint is the lack of Cadillac’s autonomous Super Cruise system, but it’s a minor omission.

Skip the base engine. Even without the truck construction, the XT6 is no lightweight. It’s about 400 pounds heavier than the midsize Cadillac XT5, but uses the same two engines.

That puts the smaller four-cylinder engine at a severe disadvantage. The top two trims get a 310-horsepower V6, which is better suited to the XT6 and cooperates well with the nine-speed automatic transmission.

The news isn’t all good, as we found the driving experience strange at points. The throttle is sensitive, and the brakes felt unnecessarily firm. The Sport trim adds some heft to the steering, which we appreciated.

The XT6 redeems itself with the ride, which is smooth and comfortable as long as you stick to the 20-inch wheels. The Sport’s adaptive suspension controls body motion well, but it pushes the price uncomfortably high.

Cadillac XT6

More comfort up front. Especially in the first two rows, it’s hard to complain about the XT6’s cabin. Seats are comfortable and supportive, and the front row is heated and power adjustable on every trim. We like the second-row captain’s chairs more than the bench, but both get more than 40 inches of leg room.

The third row only seats two, and it works better for younger passengers. With only 29.5 inches of third-row leg room, the XT6 falls short of rivals like the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, and the mechanically similar Buick Enclave.

Cargo capacity is mediocre as well, with only 12.6 cubic feet behind the third row. Space improves with the second and third rows folded, but all three of the above competitors can do better.

Luxury value. The addition of the smaller engine brings the XT6’s starting price down from last year, and it’s cheaper than European luxury like the BMW X5. If prestige is important, the XT6 is a much cheaper way into a Cadillac badge than the Escalade.

For the price, it provides some of the same bling factor. The vertical headlights and mesh grille are suitably imposing, and the upright body is unremarkable but pleasant enough.

On the other hand, interior quality is mixed. Low-cost materials show in places, and the design is generally dull. For a vehicle that only debuted last year, we hoped for a little more polish.

That goes double when considering cheaper competition. The cheapest XT6 costs around the same as a maxed-out Palisade, and we’re not convinced that the XT6 wins that duel.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Cadillac XT6 has it where it counts, with plenty of comfort up front and the right features for a modern hauler. We have some quibbles with the tuning, but the ride is smooth and the V6 powertrain is up to the task.

It’s worth cross-shopping with the Palisade/Telluride family, but the XT6 deserves a place on the shopping list for luxury buyers.

Check prices for the 2021 Cadillac XT6 »