Launched in late 2015 at the Dubai and Los Angeles Auto Shows, and on sale as a 2017 model year car, the XT5 is an important model for GM’s most prestigious brand, Cadillac. Replacing the SRX, and the first in what we were told would be a series of crossover models using XTx badging, the XT5 is what is known as a mid-sized vehicle. Yes, I know, to a European, it looks pretty big, but think Escalade to realise how small this is in comparison! and it soon became the best seller in Cadillac’s range. GM have a whole panapoly of crossover vehicles across their US brands, and they share most of the bits you can’t see, but the outside of this one does not look like any of their other products and its sharp-edged styling definitely follows the current Cadillac design direction, with a strong visual link to the other models in the range. Cadillac have tried hard to get the balance right between style and function, realising that the outgoing SRX might have looked on message, but it was a bit comprised from a space point of view inside, and buyers do value that as much as the looks and brand image. Whilst any crossover is going to struggle to look as good as a traditional saloon, to my eyes, the designers here did a decent job, though you could say that the result is a bit unmemorable from some angles, especially the back. The XT5 started to appear in the rental fleets not long after the car went on sale throughout the US, but there were only ever a handful of them and they were always popular, so I have struggled to source one until now. My opportunity came when yet again the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport Hertz location was very low on inventory and I spotted this one being parked up in the President’s Circle area. I quickly grabbed it before anyone else thought it would be better than a sea of mid-sized sedans. I had the best part of a day, my last day in Phoenix for this trip, to see what I thought of it.
All XT5 models come with a 3.6 litre V6 engine which puts out a respectable 310 bhp, and which is coupled to an 8 speed automatic gearbox. Front wheel drive is standard with AWD an option on some models, though this was not fitted to the test car. The engine is smooth and refined but the XT5 did not seem all that quick, probably a reflection of the weight of the vehicle, even though the statistics show that it is actually decently brisk. Noise levels are low, so this is the sort of car that would take a long journey in its stride, with ample acceleration available for passing manoeuvres or for squirting into gaps in traffic. The XT5 has a cylinder deactivation technology fitted, which is intended to improve fuel economy under light throttle loading. During my day with the XT5, I covered 150 miles and the car needed 5.8 gallons to fill it right up, which computes to 25.86 mpg US, or 30.9 mpg Imperial, which is a decent result, though I do have to point out that the majority of this mileage was at a steady 65 mph or so on the Route 87 up to the photo locations, so this is probably about as good as you will ever see.
If a sporting driving experience is what you are looking for, the XT5 is not for you. The steering is very light and felt quite vague near the straight-ahead position, though it did gain a bit of weight and feel the more you turned the wheel, but still not what you would call engaging. It made the Cadillac easy to manoeuvre, which is doubtless what concerns the target buyers more than anything else. Take swooping bends with some enthusiasm and there is evident understeer and if you really push things the car has quite a bit of body roll. This is evidently a machine made more for manicure boulevards than the twisty roads up in the hills. It did ride pretty well despite coming on some large 235/55 R20 wheels. The brakes were well up to par and as usual, these days, there is an electronic handbrake thing in this case with a button mounted in the dash to the left of the wheel. Visibility was generally good, though the rear end design and those small third windows meant that the over the shoulder is a bit restricted. There is a blind spot warning system and the XT5 features the increasingly common Lane Departure Warning system which irritates more than it adds value.
The interior follows the current Cadillac house style, though it does make use of a lot of individual components from the GM parts bin. It is mostly of a decent quality, both perceived when you look at it, and real when you touch it. Swathes of leather are used on the dash and door casings and there are brushed metal effect inlays which look better than the plastic wood so beloved of many. The cabin appears light and airy thanks to a large, standard fit glass sunroof. The steering wheel is leather wrapped, with a heating element in it and proved pleasant to hold. The instrument cluster contains a centrally positioned half moon speedometer, with a comprehensive digital display area under it for trip computer functions, with selection of the various menus and options done with buttons on the right hand steering wheel spoke, and to either side there are also half moon gauges, but on their side, for the rev counter and combined fuel level and water temperature. There are twin column stalks, familiar items from the GM parts bin as are the buttons on the steering wheel boss for cruise control and audio repeater functions. The centre of the dash contains a neatly integrated 8″ colour touch screen for CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment functions. There are no buttons, so you have to use the touch screen or voice controls. It was a frustrating experience some of the time. Graphics on the touch screen look good, and the menus are easy to navigate. Other functions are a bit hairier. Instead of distinct hard buttons or knobs, most other controls on the centre stack are touch-sensitive haptic buttons. For example, audio volume is controlled by an unintuitive touch slider that can be difficult to adjust. The system does not lack function, with a 4G LTE WiFi hot spot and for the GM OnStar services, an 8-speaker Bose sound system which includes Satellite XM radio as well as AM and FM wavebands, a navigation system, Apple Car Play and Android Auto and a weather app. Beneath this unit are physical buttons for the dual zone climate control. The overall impression is one that is neat and relatively uncluttered, but it is not all as usable as I would like.
These days what looks like leather upholstery often is not. And if you buy an entry level XT5 that would be the case here, too, but the test car was in Luxury trip, and that means that the seat coverings do come from a cow and are rear leather. They are 8-way electrically adjustable and there is lumbar support, as well. Once you have found the ideal position, there are 2 memory settings to store your chosen setting. Both heating and cooling are also included. I found the seat to be a bit shapeless and too flat, wanting a little more support and something to better hold one more firmly in position. the central armrest is quite high, so you don’t feel that the interior is quite as spacious as it actually is, with plenty of elbow room and even allowing for the sunroof more than enough headroom.
The XT5 is a little larger than its most immediate rivals and this is perhaps most obvious from the fact that there is plenty of space for those who sit in the rear of the XT5. Legroom is generous even when the front seats are set well back. The backrests are split three ways and you can recline each individual element to a certain extent, to choice. Even with the backrest relatively upright, the SUV styling means that there is more than enough headroom. Occupants here benefit from a drop-down central armrest with cupholders in the upper surface, their own climate controls, map pockets on the back of the front seats and stowage bins on the doors.
The boot is not that deep but it is quite long, which means that overall capacity, provided your items are the right sort of shape, is decent enough. Access is through an electrically assisted tailgate, which you probably need as this is a large item and is heavy. There is a retractable load cover provided. Under the floor you will find a collapsed space saver tyre and the means to inflate it, with no real space to add any bits and pieces around it. You can, of course drop the seat backrests to create a much longer luggage area. They are split 40:20:40 and dropped down the resulting area is flat. Befitting the looks perhaps more than something you would actually use, there are roof rails included. Inside the cabin, there is a good-sized glovebox, the usual collection of door bins and a central armrest cubby as well as a recessed area in front of the gearlever and there are lidded cupholders in the centre console.
The Cadillac XT5 is available in four trim levels: XT5 (base), Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum. The 3.6-litre V6 engine eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard across the lineup. All-wheel drive is optional on all but the base trim and comes standard on the top Platinum trim. The test car was a Luxury and had front wheel drive. Highlights of the XT5 base trim include 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, a power liftgate with height memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated-leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats (eight-way driver, six-way passenger), a 40/20/40-split rear seat (folding, sliding and reclining), a power-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless ignition and entry, and remote ignition. All-wheel-drive models have heated front seats. Tech features include an 8-inch touchscreen, voice controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, OnStar services (includes a 4G LTE data connection and Wi-Fi hotspot), four USB ports, and an eight-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The XT5 Luxury trim upgrades include a panoramic sunroof, front parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers, leather upholstery, heated front seats with adjustable lumbar and eight-way passenger adjustment, a heated steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, wireless smartphone charging, and a cargo management system. Now standard for 2019 are safety aids such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and GM’s unique Safety Alert seat, which vibrates to warn of potential collisions to the left or right side of the car. Available options include ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a navigation system bundled with an upgraded 14-speaker Bose surround-sound system. Checking off the box for the navigation and Bose bundle also allows you to replace the standard halogen headlights with LED lamps as well as opt for three-zone climate control. The Premium Luxury trim adds the above Luxury options plus 20-inch wheels, ventilated front seats, interior accent lighting, and an adaptive suspension that constantly adjusts to road conditions. There’s also an optional Driver Assist package, which bundles adaptive cruise control, forward and reverse automatic braking, and an automatic parking system. Finally, the Platinum includes Driver Assist plus standard all-wheel drive, unique 20-inch wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, a hands-free liftgate, upgraded gauges, a head-up display, a top-view camera system, and a rear camera mirror, which projects a real-time image from a liftgate-mounted camera.
Having read several reviews of the XT5 when it first went on sale, none of which were effusive in their praise of the car, my expectations were not that great for it, and yet what I found was a perfectly pleasant vehicle that was nicely finished and which had no serious weak points. It did not really have any obvious strengths, and that would seem to be at the root of those luke-warm reviews. What’s more it competes in a class of premium-badged mid-sized Crossovers that are dripping with talent and desirability, ranging from Germany’s Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC, to the recently refreshed Volvo XC60, Jaguar’s much lauded F-Pace (and deservedly so, now I have had the chance to drive one myself) and the Alfa Stelvio, and of course in America, Lexus is hugely popular with a lot of buyers. The only good reasons I could think of for choosing an XT5 over such talent would be if you were hell-bent on selecting an American product or if you are particularly attracted to the distinctive styling. The XT5’s only real rival with an American badge on it comes from Lincoln, and despite the valiant efforts being made by the Ford Motor Company to try to reanimate this brand, it still does not stand for quite the same as a Cadillac. So a good car, but not, perhaps, a great one.