The 2020 Cadillac XT6 is good, but not nearly good enough
It happened at the media preview of the 2019 Los Angeles International Auto Show at the Cadillac stand. There, standing among the priciest vehicles that General Motors builds, I stopped and looked across the aisle at Lincoln and wondered if there a single Cadillac I’d buy instead of a Lincoln.
I continued to examine the 2020 Cadillac XT6, the brand’s new car-based, three-row crossover that slots below the Escalade, which uses the Chevrolet Suburban’s body-on-frame platform, and above the two-row XT5, which uses a car-based crossover architecture. Its design tames the brand’s aggressive styling with mixed results.
The front end, clearly inspired by the Escala concept, is beautiful and quite memorable. But walking around to the back, I was unpleasantly surprised to find Cadillac is abandoning vertical taillights, a signature styling element that has been a brand signature since the 1960s. Worse, the rear three quarters view looks similar to a Kia Telluride.
Design sells cars as much as ride and handling, so I looked forward to a test drive, which I concluded last week. Here’s what I found.
Like many crossovers, the XT6 is offered in Premium Luxury and Sport models. Front-wheel drive is standard on the former; all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option and standard on the Sport. Critically, the XT6 uses the XT5’s platform rather than the rather than the C1XX platform used for the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. Being shorter than its three-row GM cousins reduces the XT6’s cargo capacity. In fact, with all three rows in use, there’s less than 13 cubic feet. Cadillac also uses the same 310-horsepower V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission used in the less expensive offerings rather than installing a more powerful alternative. Here once again we see the cheap nature of GM product development rearing its head.
That said, the XT6 does offer some fine design details, such as semi-aniline leather, a suede headliner and real carbon fiber trim, which you’d expect given its price. I appreciated that designers placed the center air-conditioning vents away from the driver’s right hand, not to mention the standard power-folding third-row seats, remote folding second row seats and a power lift gate that make loading the XT6 easy. The instrument panel’s luxurious simplicity is especially welcome, with a center-mounted 8-inch touchscreen underpinned by a row of easy-to-use climate control buttons. The screen is augmented by a rotary knob on the center console, which can also be used to control the screen. And there are two USB ports in each row.
However, most of the XT6’s tech package is optional, including Night Vision, wireless charging, surround vision camera, surround vision recorder, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a head-up display. And you have to wonder who decided there should be no latch on the center console lid. This allows it to flop up and down constantly, with larger bumps causing it to fly fully open. Is a simple latch too expensive for Cadillac? It isn’t for Chevrolet. Finally, passengers complained about comfort of the seats, which are park bench firm. This is a luxury SUV, not a racecar. Is it too much to ask for a little cushiness?
Nevertheless, the cabin is quiet, with the V-6 and nine-speed automatic proving to be an impressively smooth combination that make it easy to drive smoothly, provided you don’t ask for more power. While there’s enough muscle in most instances, the XT6 lacks the effortless authority one expects from a luxury vehicle. So maybe it’s good that the XT6’s large windows provide a clear view in all directions.
If you opt for an XT6, step up to the Sport model, which includes Continuous Damping Control. It provides a more controlled ride and impressive bump isolation. It also has a twin-clutch all-wheel drive system that provides better control through corners.
Surprisingly, the XT6 isn’t offered with Super Cruise, Cadillac’s hands-free driving system, although forward collision warning, cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning are standard.
Once done driving last week, I confirmed what first occurred to me in L.A.
While the XT6 offers a very comfortable ride and precise handling, it’s not nearly as luxurious or as well executed as the new Lincoln Aviator, which offers more power, a hybrid variant and a far nicer cabin, not to mention rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Where the Aviator feels indulgent and special, the XT6 doesn’t — a Cadillac problem for far too many years. That’s why there’s not a single Cadillac I would choose over a Lincoln, or many others.
It’s a brand that still doesn’t seem to know what it needs to be as it ignores its rich heritage and as accountants continue to allow it to be good but not nearly good enough. If you need proof, just check out the latchless center console lid that flops up and down; it’s a Cadillac XT6 exclusive.
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