The 2020 Cadillac XT6 is Cadillac’s long-awaited answer to the numerous three-row luxury crossovers that have been on sale for years. It is not a shrunken Escalade. Instead, GM decided to pull one of its other well-used platforms for duty, with the XT6 being most similar to the GMC Acadia underneath. That means the Cadillac is rolling with similar running gear, too. Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V6 making 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but our Sport model has an upgraded all-wheel-drive system. It also has some other special mechanical bits to make it better than the standard XT6. For example, the Sport trim has continuously variable dampers that stiffen in Sport mode. That upgraded all-wheel drive system adds twin clutches on the axles to facilitate torque vectoring. And the steering ratio is changed to 15:1, as opposed to the 16:1 ratio used on Premium Luxury trim models.
This XT6 Sport also features some exterior and interior finishes not seen on other XT6 models. Black trim dominates outside, headlined by a large, black mesh grille. Then on the inside, we get real carbon fiber trim. There are plenty of cool features like Cadillac’s Night Vision and the rear camera mirror, but Super Cruise still isn’t available as an option on this Cadillac. GM has promised a wider adoption of Super Cruise for its lineup in the future, but we’re not there yet.
Before options, our XT6 Sport came in at $58,090, including the $995 destination charge. The $3,700 Platinum package adds semi-aniline leather seats, a suede headliner and premium carpeting throughout the cabin. A $2,350 Enhanced Visibility and Tech package brings us the eight-inch instrument cluster digital display, a head-up display, rear camera mirror, rear pedestrian alert and an automatic parking assist feature. Then, a $1,300 Driver Assist package adds adaptive cruise control and enhanced automatic emergency braking, including rear braking. Our car also has the $750 Comfort and Air Quality package, which adds heated rear seats, cooled front seats and an air ionizer for the cabin. The pretty Red Horizon Tintcoat costs $1,225, and the fancy Night Vision option adds another $2,000. That brings us to our grand total of $71,190.
Associate Editor Byron Hurd: I was on the XT6 launch with my previous publication, so I've had a decent amount of seat time in Cadillac's new three-row crossover.
The natural comparison point for XT6 is the Lincoln Aviator, which is a much more interesting design inside, outside and underneath the metal. Ford's quality control may be questionable (to put it mildly), but the Aviator itself is still plenty impressive.
The XT6, conversely, is very restrained. It's fundamentally front-wheel drive, has only one available engine, and has a very conservative design inside and out. This may sound dull, but at least it works. The assembly seems tight and consistent. The interior design is coherent and intuitive.
Spending some time with an old acquaintance: @therealautoblog's @Cadillac #XT6. I'm a fan of this carbon weave interior trim. Looks much more attractive and upscale than the available wood. pic.twitter.com/Wkh766s06s— Byron Hurd (@Byron_AB) February 26, 2020
I've found that the exterior has grown on me. This Sport model is probably the most attractive of the bunch, with blacked-out treatments rather than chrome all over. It looks especially sharp in red. I also like the carbon weave trim inside; it's much more attractive than the wood treatments offered on other variants.
Sadly, "Sport" is relegated to these visual touches. Unlike Lincoln (and BMW, Mercedes and, soon, Genesis), Cadillac is stuck with this relatively pedestrian Epsilon platform, which uses a transmission that is pretty much up against its torque limits with the 3.6-liter V6 under the hood. Cadillac's new naming convention would allow for a breathed-on V-branded crossover, but it would require more than simply throwing a boosted V6 under there. As heavily invested as GM is in both this architecture and its supported powertrains, I'm skeptical that Cadillac has plans to offer anything that is genuinely more potent. Here's hoping, though.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: Cadillac brings a solid entry to a vital segment. I’d stack it up there with the BMW X7 as middle-of-the-pack entries with a lot of style, good chassis tuning and decent interiors. The Lincoln Aviator (assuming the quality issues are ironed out) and Volvo XC90 are just two vehicles I’d place ahead of the Cadillac and Bimmer, primarily for their broader powertrains and classier interiors. The Cadillac is better than the Acura MDX, though non-luxury brands, like Kia with the Telluride, do an excellent job of undercutting this entire segment with sharp styling and premium features at a lower price.
But the XT6 is solid. It will do a decent job of winning over Cadillac and domestic-leaning customers, though there’s nothing about it that will conquest buyers. It’s about as good as much of the segment, but that generally doesn’t bring in new people. The V6 is a solid engine, and the nine-speed transmission is an agreeable partner. I'd say Cadillac needs to offer another engine to round out the portfolio -- perhaps something electrified -- but this 3.6-liter is fine for now.
I like the interior. Cadillac has done a nice job of creating a premium setting with soft leather on the door trim, instrument panel and console. The materials feel nice to the touch, especially the sill left of the driver that concaves toward the dash. There’s a subtle yet thoughtful color scheme with attractive accents. It’s a nice place to spend time.
Outside, the XT6 is one of the better-looking three-row crossovers. It wears Cadillac’s new styling well. For awhile, every Cadillac seemed to be riffing off the angular CTS. Now, the sharp surfaces are toned down. The headlights and taillights hang elegantly, and the grille is confident without being crass. The XT6 (and the CT4 and CT5) look great. While Cadillac has a ways to go to win over new customers, the styling part of the equation is there.
Managing Editor Greg Rasa: An XT6 recently shared space in my driveway with a competitor, the Volvo XC90. It was a study in contrasts: smooth, rounded and understated, vs. angular and bold. Each handsome in its own way. The $1,225 Red Horizon tintcoat was a rich color, on an overall sharp-looking SUV.
Inside, the XT6 was less memorable — a few weeks have passed, leaving few lasting impressions. Which is not what you want to hear about a $70,000 luxury vehicle. I was thinking about the Cadillac recently while driving a Nissan Altima Platinum, also with a deep red exterior and black leather interior, because the decidedly non-luxury sedan was exactly half the price of the SUV, yet its cabin wasn't that much of a step down. Maybe that's more a compliment to the new Altima. But the XT6 is coming to market late and knew the crossovers it was up against — its interior in particular will get held up against Audi, Lincoln, Mercedes and Volvo. Even non-luxury SUVs such as the Hyundai Palisade are punching above their weight. One distinctive touch in the XT6's cabin is that gold-weave (it looks more brown) carbon fiber trim, though it didn't quite work with the red and might look better with a different exterior color.
The XT6 rode and handled well for a big SUV. I was impressed when its pedestrian detection system pinged a cat darting across the road, but a couple of days later the emergency braking activated for no reason at 10 mph while pulling away from a stoplight. The night vision screen is a neat idea, but I was afraid to look down at it and risk missing something with my own eyes on the actual road. It would be cool to have that in a HUD. Little else stands out. It's another big, competent box.
If you're late to the party, you'd better make a grand entrance. What's the X factor here, the thing that makes Cadillac different? We drove it into the big city one night to see a play, and it was in its element there — the angles and red paint really popped under the streetlights. Maybe that's its special sauce: It looks good, so you'll look good driving it.
Really surprised by how much I enjoyed driving the XT6 Sport. I don't like the boring interior or design, but this is a good driver with AWD and GM's torque vectoring. Super comfortable on bad roads, and it even handles well for its size in Sport mode. @therealautoblog pic.twitter.com/jhrK565hO5— Zac Palmer (@zacpalmerr) February 21, 2020
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: I found the most rewarding aspect of the XT6 to be in the ride and handling department. Our tester, being the Sport model, was equipped with GM’s continuously adaptive dampers. Swapping through modes offered an appreciable difference in ride quality. In Normal mode, the XT6 is supple and supremely comfortable on rough pavement. Swapping into Sport mode stiffened the ride up significantly and gave the XT6 decent handling chops.
My expectations for this front-wheel drive chassis weren’t sky-high going in, but the XT6’s adeptness in corners still exceeded them. It’s not entirely obvious that the car is front-drive-based on a winding road, especially when the Sport’s torque vectoring system comes into play, effectively sending power to the outside wheel when cornering. Even the Sport's quicker steering (Luxury and Premium Luxury models have different steering ratios) was enjoyable. Three-row crossovers are not typically amusing drivers, but contrary to the spec sheet, the XT6 is encroaching on fun.
However, the Cadillac falls flat as I look beyond the ride and handling. The Aviator is better looking inside and out, and the powertrain options are much more tantalizing. After seeing the gorgeous dash and interior that Cadillac put together in the new Escalade, stepping into a brand-new XT6 already feels like a large step backwards. If Cadillac is able to give the XT6 the interior it deserves, it’d be a fair fight with the Aviator. As it stands, I’d take the Lincoln every day of the week.
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