2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD Review

This Caddy Needs a Mulligan

In case your zip code happens to be in the middle of a stone quarry or if you’ve otherwise been residing beneath a large slab of shale for most of the last decade, crossover vehicles are hott with two T’s right now.

It doesn’t matter if they’re top-shelf models from prestigious brands or subcompact bottom-feeders, drivers are buying them in ever-increasing numbers.

But Cadillac is one conspicuous automaker that has missed out on much of this boom. The brand hasn’t cashed in on the burgeoning car-based utility craze, instead fielding but one model that’s been mediocre at best for more than a generation.

Its SRX has done little to break new ground in the segment or otherwise impress critics. However, after years of muddling along, GM’s luxury division has at long last thrown the baby out with the bathwater by delivering a brand-new offering that promises to rival models like the Audi Q5, Lincoln MKX and best-selling Lexus RX.

New Model, New Name

Called the XT5, which is shorthand for “Crossover Touring 5,” this utility continues the brand’s questionable new nomenclature. Fortunately, less-than-perfect names rarely sink good products, and on paper, this crossover has a lot going for it. According to brand chief Johan de Nysschen, it’s the first of four new crossovers in the works, so it’s a harbinger of things to come.

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Unfortunately, this vehicle’s styling is rather frumpy. The exterior design just looks chubby or otherwise bloated, with a huge, glittering grill and ungainly proportions. Elegant, the XT5 is not.

Giving it a solid foundation, however, the XT5 rides atop a new architecture. According to GM, it makes the vehicle nearly 280 pounds lighter than its predecessor, which is a colossal reduction, but that’s not all. It’s also around 100 pounds less massive than an Audi Q5 and carries 650 fewer pounds than the hulking Mercedes-Benz GLE- Class. You can thank things like laser welding, the implementation of ultra-high-strength steel and advanced computer-aided engineering for the trim waistline.

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Helping improve interior space, the XT5’s wheelbase is about two inches longer and its track is one inch broader than the SRX’s. Keeping it maneuverable, overall width, length, and height are slightly less. Overall, rear-seat legroom has been increased by more than three inches, a boon for passengers trapped in steerage.

Technology, Technology, TECHNOLOGY!

Ensuring it appeals to the digital generation, Cadillac’s XT5 offers plenty of high-tech goodies. There’s an available hands-free liftgate, 4G wireless connectivity, WiFi, and an optional heads-up display. Beyond all of this, Apple’s CarPlay connectivity system is offered along with Android Auto for safer phone integration.

The company’s much-maligned CUE infotainment system has also been revamped. It’s still a little confusing to use, but it gains a faster processor for dramatically improved responsiveness, plus there’s even wireless charging for supported mobile devices.

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But one of the niftiest features in the new XT5 is Cadillac’s Rear Camera Mirror System, which replaces a traditional piece of glass with a high-definition display and wide-angle camera. Supposedly, it broadens the driver’s field of view by around 300 percent, dramatically shrinking blind spots.

SEE ALSO: How Cadillac’s Blind-Spot Busting Mirror Works

Power to the People, Just Not Too Much

The only engine offered in the XT5, for North American customers at least, is a refined and eager 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6. It’s rated at 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, a little more than what you get in an RX 350, but far less than an EcoBoosted Lincoln MKX.

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Making the most of the abovementioned stable is an eight-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox is quite well behaved, swapping ratios promptly and with minimal fuss, if only the shifter didn’t look like the offspring of a Nokia 3310 and a sex toy.

Providing four-corner traction is an optional driver-selectable twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system. This arrangement can send 100 percent of available engine torque to either axle. In addition to this, at the rear, it can vary all of that from one side to the other, enhancing the vehicle’s ability to rotate during enthusiastic driving. Maximizing fuel economy, drivers can switch this system off when extra grip isn’t needed.

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Speaking of efficiency, Cadillac says an all-wheel-drive XT5 should sticker at 18 miles per gallon city and 26 highway, figures that result in a combined score of 21 mpg, just one less than a similarly equipped Lexus RX, though a few better than a turbocharged MKX.

Cut-and-Sewn Cockpit

Sit inside the XT5 and you’re treated to a high-quality interior that’s constructed of real materials; the leather is genuine, wood authentic and metal accents actually extracted from the earth’s crust and refined in a furnace.

Overall, the design is clean and modern, with cut-and-sewn materials draped across the dashboard and door panels. As you’d expect, assembly quality is top notch, but not everything is perfect.

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The driver’s seat is quite uncomfortable, at least for me. The lower cushion is too hard for long-distance comfort. Additionally, headroom for outboard riders in the back is severely lacking (plus one of the seats squeaked madly whenever a bump was hit). At least the backrests adjust for a little more flexibility.

The Drive

Despite having “just” 310 horsepower, the XT5 moves with authority. While not the fastest vehicle in its class, you’ll never be wanting for power, perhaps unless you’re climbing Pikes Peak with five occupants on board and a camper in tow. The well-behaved transmission makes the most of its available power.

Steering and braking performance are class-competitive, not standing out in any particular way. Regrettably, the same cannot be said about ride quality.

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The XT5 rolls along like an economy car. Despite offering a driver-selectable suspension system the vehicle seems way too stiff, even in Touring mode, something that offers no perceptible handling benefit. It clops along like a horse walking on cobblestones, totally inappropriate for a luxury vehicle.

This Cadillac may be a bantamweight in a segment of heavies, but it seems that engineers took mass out of it by removing sound-deadening material. The XT5 feels loud for such a premium vehicle. The RX and MKX certainly seem quieter while in motion, with noticeably less tire and wind noise.

The Verdict: 2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD Review

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 offers a lot of luxury and technology, including some features that are nowhere to be found in competing vehicles. However, its raucous interior, undesirable ride quality, dowdy styling and fatiguing seats are hard-to-ignore downsides.

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This vehicle is a rare miss for Cadillac, which has been on a roll, introducing one home-run product after another. The ATS, CTS and CT6 are all knock-outs, wowing us with their impressive dynamics and luxurious trimmings. Unfortunately, that design and engineering magic never made it to the XT5. Regrettably for GM’s luxury brand, I find the Lincoln MKX and Lexus RX to be more competitive products.

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