Cadillac's Updated XT5 Doesn't Move the Needle

Annie White
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

As Cadillac's best-selling vehicle, the XT5 pays a lot of the brand's bills, even if it isn't the most interesting model in the Cadillac showroom. A host of mid-cycle updates that further refine the XT5 should help maintain its status for the 2020 model year, regardless of whether or not they significantly alter the XT5's reserved character, or elevate it from its position at the back of its segment. (They don’t.)

We had a range-topping XT5 Sport model for this review. As standard, it includes General Motors's familiar, 310-hp 3.6-liter V-6, adaptive dampers, and a trim-specific mesh grille and dark exterior trim. All-wheel drive is included here, but it's a $2000 option on the lower Luxury and Premium Luxury trim levels. The V-6 is also now a $1000 option on those lesser variants, as a new 237-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four base engine has been added for 2020. Along with some minor interior revisions and massaged front and rear fascias, a nine-speed automatic replaces the previous eight-speed unit as the sole transmission choice.

Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver

We haven't driven a 2.0-liter model yet, but the switch to the nine-speed did make for a measurable improvement with the V-6 at the test track. Weighing a considerable 4370 pounds, our test vehicle ran from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds at 96 mph. Those figures are 0.4 and 0.5 second (and 3 mph) quicker than the last XT5 we tested, a 2017 model. Our XT5 was 1.2 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the 295-hp Lexus RX350L we tested in 2018. Our long-term 2019 Volvo XC60 T6, however, made it to the same mark in 5.4 seconds with its 316-hp turbo- and supercharged inline-four.

The nine-speed transmission is smooth and downshifts quickly, making it easy to pass slower traffic. Shifts can slip by unnoticed even under hard acceleration. Unfortunately, the Sport only averaged 16 mpg in our care. That's 4 mpg less than its EPA combined estimate. Opt for the 2.0-liter, and that combined fuel-economy figure can climb as high as 24 mpg for a front-driver. Subtract 1 mpg with all-wheel drive for either engine.

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The XT5 is composed on the road and largely pleasant to drive, with accurate responses to steering inputs that don't feel overly boosted. This Cadillac goes around corners in a tight and controlled manner, although it hardly feels eager to do more than just cruise. The jittery ride quality over rough pavement that we noticed in the Sport might be ameliorated in Luxury models with their softer damping and standard 18-inch wheels. (The 20-inchers are standard on the Sport and optional on the Luxury models.) Shod with 235/55R-20 Michelin Premier LTX all-season tires, our vehicle managed a respectable 0.87 g of grip around the skidpad and stopped from 70 mph in a decent 174 feet.

Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver

Pricing for the 2020 XT5 starts at $45,090, but you'll have to allocate $56,090 to get into the Sport, or several thousand dollars more than a comparatively outfitted Lexus RX and Volvo XC60. Our example stickered for just shy of $60K with a couple of technology packages that added navigation to the 8.0-inch central touchscreen, a premium audio system, a head-up display, an upgraded 8.0-inch display in the instrument cluster, and a parking assistant. A central control knob for the XT5's many infotainment functions has also been added as part of the latest update.

Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver

The XT5's cabin is practical and rather spacious for a vehicle of this size. Yet, given the outlay for the Sport and the comparatively rich trappings of many of its rivals we expected a more luxurious finish inside. Instead, you get a smattering of carbon-fiber trim and lots of unimpressive plastic pieces. If it were our money, we'd spring for the $3650 Platinum package, which on the Sport brings both of the optional tech packages on our test vehicle plus three-zone automatic climate control, a microsuede headliner, semi-aniline leather upholstery, and additional leather trim on the doors, dash, and center console.

While the bold, upscale design of the new 2021 Escalade may portend promising things for Cadillac, the XT5, even with its latest improvements, doesn't yet carry a similar degree of prestige and presence. But these modest improvements to the already well-packaged, if rather devoid of character, XT5 should only help it appeal to a larger group of buyers. Which means it will continue to be a moneymaker for the brand.

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