2020 Cadillac XT6 Nails the Three-Row Part, Needs Work on the Luxury Part

From Car and Driver

Calling crossovers and other tall, family-oriented vehicles boring is now a trope. Of course boxy wagons designed to ease the schlepping of children, stuff, or some combination of both through Americans’ daily lives aren’t going to stoke embers in car enthusiasts’ loins the way, say, Cadillac’s 640-hp CTS-V sports sedan might. So, we’re not going to fault Cadillac’s all-new three-row XT6 for being bland-even if the only splash it makes is when the first customer car encounters a puddle. Instead, we’ll call it out for failing to make an appropriately luxurious impression while praising its excellent packaging.

A Bigger, Roomier XT5

Positioned above the mid-size, two-row XT5 in Cadillac’s expanding SUV lineup, which also includes the smaller XT4 and the larger, iconic Escalade, the XT6 is handsome yet somewhat plain. Its styling pushes no new boundaries for Cadillac. The interior looks like a scaled-up version of the compact XT4’s-itself notable only for seeming stripped down and basic compared to the mediocre-quality yet bombastically overwrought innards found in the rest of Cadillac’s products. Given more real estate to occupy in the larger XT6, the cheaply detailed, minimalist look doesn’t improve.

On the flip side, the XT6’s inoffensive, rectilinear styling is probably a net plus to most luxury consumers, and we really like the way the crossover sits on its wheels. The designers are not hyperbolic in the least when they croon over the XT6’s wide-track look. Best of all, although assembled from blasé materials, the Cadillac’s interior is cleverly packaged to afford generous room in the second- and third-row seats-the entire point of a vehicle such as this. The way-wayback third row, in particular, is a triumph. This average-height author fit easily back there, with plenty of headroom and kneeroom; the seat cushion is slightly too low, but not nearly as floorbound as the vast majority of the kid-only third-row seats in the XT6’s competitive segment.

Photo credit: Brad Fick – Car and Driver

What makes the XT6’s roomy packaging so surprising is that Cadillac uses the shorter-wheelbase version of GM’s three-row-crossover platform; that means this XT6 is essentially the same size as the GMC Acadia (their shared 112.7-inch wheelbase is only 0.2 inch longer than the Cadillac XT5’s), making it notably smaller, dimensionally, than GM’s gigantor Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave (both of which share a longer 120.9-inch wheelbase). To carve out more actual and perceived roominess in the XT6’s rear relative to the Acadia’s, Cadillac raised the roof-literally-0.2 inch higher than the GMC’s. That extra height runs nearly the entire length of the boxier roof, further allaying third-row passengers’ claustrophobia, as do the XT6’s large rear quarter-windows, which let in plenty of light and are said to offer better blind-spot visibility.

Even getting into and out of the third-row seat is a relative snap, again thanks to the tall door opening that the heightened greenhouse affords. On both six- and seven-passenger XT6 models (the former has two second-row captain’s chairs, the latter has a 60/40 split-folding three-across bench), the passenger-side second-row seat can be manually folded and slid forward using one hand for access to the third row. (The seat gymnastics can be done even with a baby seat installed, as in Infiniti’s QX60.) The driver’s-side second-row seats slide forward and their backrests tilt forward in a less complex motion than on the passenger side, making access from the left slightly more cumbersome.

Standard equipment includes two USB ports for each row of seating, power releases for folding the second- and third-row seatbacks (with controls in the trunk and in the passenger-side rear door area), and a hands-free power-opening liftgate. Fold the second- and third-row seats flat, and they create a consistent load floor from the rear bumper to the front seats and a useful 79 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold only the third row, and cargo space shrinks to 43 cubic feet; leave all the rear seatbacks up, and there is a mere 13 cubic feet of storage space left over. That volume sounds small-and it is-but it’s the same as the Acadia and just 2 cubes shy of the vastly larger Cadillac Escalade’s figure-and it’s accessible at a much lower height.

Photo credit: Brad Fick – Car and Driver

It’s a Cadillac, Albeit One Still Wanting for Luxuriousness

It’s just too bad that, luxury of space aside, occupants in every row of seating inside the XT6 must touch and interact with decidedly non-luxurious materials and design. Cadillac has had a problem with subpar interior quality for years, and the XT6 doesn’t solve it. The car simply doesn’t feel very premium inside, even the top Platinum trim level. For the most part, everything plastic below elbow level on the door panels and dashboard is hard and poorly grained. The sliding cupholder cover in the center console and the useful storage drawer that deploys between the rear seats both operate with an audibly plasticky, low-rent action. That’s fine in a bubble, but Cadillac says the XT6 will go up against the likes of Acura’s MDX, Audi’s Q7, BMW’s X5, and Volvo’s XC90-all of which are vastly nicer-feeling inside and sweat the details better. Frankly, a high-spec Mazda CX-9 Signature’s cabin gives the XT6’s a run for its money-and that three-row costs less than $50,000 fully loaded.

Every XT6 will come standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen as well as a 4.2-inch driver-information display between a pair of analog gauges in the cluster (an 8.0-inch display, still between analog gauges, is optional). Cadillac has responded to criticism of the XT4’s small, cheap-feeling control knob for the infotainment system, installing a larger and more substantial-feeling metal knob in the XT6. It also added a joystick-like tilt function to the knob, similar to Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND controller and BMW’s iDrive widget, so that users can quickly jump between menu items on the central touchscreen. And did we mention those six USB ports scattered throughout the interior? Anyone with kids wielding iPads, phones, and other rechargeable devices will understand how critical those are, although we should note that the third-row ports are the newer USB-C style, while there are regular ports in the second row and a mix up front.

Photo credit: Brad Fick – Car and Driver

Beneath the XT6’s sharp-edged exterior and useful interior sits a mechanical package pulled straight from the XT5, GMC Acadia, and Chevrolet Traverse: a 310-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and a strut-type front and multilink rear suspension. Based on our experience in recent Caddys and other GM products, the chassis setup should deliver an admirable ride quality and tidy handling and body control.

Cadillac will offer the XT6 in two primary trim levels: Premium Luxury and Sport. They share the same engine and transmission, although the Premium Luxury model is available with front-wheel drive or a regular on-demand all-wheel-drive system that can mechanically decouple the rear wheels from the driveline to save fuel. The Sport comes standard with all-wheel drive and adds the same Twin Clutch torque-vectoring rear axle offered in the GMC Acadia. Cadillac says the extra yaw control the Twin Clutch unit affords better lives up to the Sport mantle than the non-torque-vectoring rear end, not to mention the Sport model’s quicker-ratio steering.

Lots of Safety Tech, But No Super Cruise (Yet)

It’ll be fairly easy to tell the Premium Luxury and Sport XT6s apart. The Sport blacks out pretty much all of the Premium Luxury model’s exterior trim and has darkened headlights and taillights. Both versions come standard with 20-inch wheels; the Sport can be upgraded to 21-inchers. A Platinum package is available on both, adding special interior appointments (which, by the way, were the underwhelming innards we experienced in person) and extra features. Cadillac nailed the XT6’s standard safety equipment, which includes forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring. Adaptive cruise control-but not, for the 2020 model year, Cadillac’s Super Cruise function-is available, as is a head-up display, surround-view parking camera, and automated emergency braking that works when the vehicle is in reverse.

Photo credit: Brad Fick – Car and Driver

With a solid roster of safety equipment, a roomy and flexible interior, and decent looks, the XT6 is everything a mid-size three-row crossover needs to be. Notice, however, that we didn’t use the word “luxury” in describing it, as in “everything a mid-size three-row luxury crossover needs to be.” It fails to match its competitors’ luxury quotients or meaningfully set itself apart from its GMC- and Chevrolet-badged siblings. And for now, the rig’s pricing is an open question: Cadillac so far only will say that the XT6 will be priced between the XT5 and the damn near $100,000 Escalade, a $50,000 chasm that we hope the XT6 falls near the bottom of.

Based on the two-sizes-down XT4’s ambitious pricing, which peaks dangerously close to $60,000(!), and the XT5’s pricing, which tops $70,000, the outlook for the XT6’s making up for its shortcomings with value isn’t promising.

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