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Car Reviews Cadillac ticks the luxury-crossover boxes with the new XT6

The 2020 Cadiiliac XT6.

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Not a lot of people know this, but Cadillac has been building some cracking good cars these past few years. In a former world, sedans such as the ATS and the CTS would have been Cadillac’s ticket back to market dominance.

Trouble is, today’s luxury-market buyers don’t care about great-driving cars. They want SUVs and crossovers. And in its quest to reassert itself, Cadillac has been slow to cater to that shift.

The new XT6 should go a long way toward fixing that. Along with the new-last-year small XT4, the two-row, mid-size-ish XT5, plus full-size and oversize versions of the Escalade, the large mid-size, three-row XT6 fills out Cadillac’s coverage of the CUV/SUV market.

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While the Escalades are traditional body-on-frame SUVs, the XT6, like its smaller XT siblings, is a crossover based on a car-like front-wheel-drive architecture (in this case, loosely shared with the GMC Acadia). Its overall length of 5,050 millimetres positions it in the heart of a peer group that includes the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and Infiniti QX60, to name but some.

Only one powertrain is offered: a 310-horsepower, 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V-6 teamed with a nine-speed automatic transmission. (Some rivals offer more powerful engines, albeit at a price.) Premium Luxury ($60,998) or Sport ($63,798) trims and up to four selectable drive modes should let buyers pick a drive to match their tastes on the luxury-versus-lithe spectrum.

Those starting prices position the Cadillac above obvious Japanese competitors and the Volvo XC90, but below its German rivals. Based on preliminary info, they will also handsomely undercut Lincoln’s new Aviator.

The Sport is more than a cosmetic package. It includes a twin-clutch AWD system that provides active yaw control for keener steering turn-in, as well as continuously variable damping and a quicker steering ratio with increased feedback.

Black window surrounds and 21-inch wheels help distinguish the Sport trim.

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Really, though, it’s all about the passengers. “Every seat is the best seat in the house” says Canadian Steve Carlisle, former GM Canada president and now overall head of the Cadillac division. In short: a refined, comfortable place to connect and enjoy the ride.

The latest version of Cadillac’s user interface adds a rotary controller with twist-tap-or-toggle functionality. Each row of seats gets two USB ports, while user profiles stored in the cloud can allow customers access to their custom profile in other properly equipped GM vehicles.

A wide range of automated driver aids are standard or available.

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Cadillac’s introductory drive in Virginia provided wheel time in both the Premium Luxury and Sport trims, but my choice to drive the Premium Luxury first turned out to be the wrong call. If the prelunch drive route provided a limited selection of gearhead-playground roads, the return leg in the Sport provided effectively none. The Sport’s steering did seem livelier on-centre, and it handled competently enough, but it still felt like a big, heavy SUV.

Even this little storage cubby is finished in cut-and-sew leather.

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Perhaps some seriously challenging roads would reveal a depth of athletic talent that remained hidden on our sedate route, but first impressions suggest the Premium Luxury trim does luxury more convincingly than the Sport does sporty.

Over all, the XT6 fulfills a need for Cadillac and for its customers, but it’s hardly reaching for the stars. While Cadillac’s recent sedans were ambitious, engineered-from-scratch challenges to the benchmark European car-istocracy, the XT6 – which shares much of its basic engineering with the GMC Acadia – feels more like a commodity. It’s a passionless check-all-the-boxes product designed to fit a specific market segment.

Tech specs

The XT6 is powered by a 3.6-litre V-6 engine.

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  • Price: From $60,995
  • Engine: 3.6-litre V-6
  • Transmission/Drive: Nine-speed automatic/all-wheel-drive
  • Fuel consumption (L/100 km): 14.0 city/9.7 highway
  • Alternatives: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Infiniti QX60, Land Rover Discovery, Lexus RX350L, Lincoln Aviator, Volvo XC90

Looks

The Cadillac look is very evident in its face, arguably less so as you move back along the body. Wheels are 20-inches on the Premium Luxury and 21 on the Sport, and two levels of all-LED lighting are offered. Modest ground clearance and the deep front “chin” suggest limited off-pavement potential.

Interior

The appearance of the dashboard is similar to that of other Cadillacs but with improved functionality.

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All key passenger-room dimensions hew closely to the average for like-sized SUVs, although according to Cadillac they are best-in-class among its most direct, similarly priced competitors. The third row is only two seats, and although adults can fit back there (with their knees pointing skyward), the second-row passenger needs to sacrifice some knee room.

Conventional analog gauges flank a digital centre panel.

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The driver’s office is hospitable and functional – although the seating position could be loftier – with ample minor-control redundancy, including a twist/toggle/tap rotary controller to supplement the touch screen. The screen itself is rather small by today’s standards, though, and the conventional analog speedometer and tachometer look dull in this age of bright digital “virtual” gauges.

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Performance

The XT6 aces what industry insiders call the “60-foot test.” From the moment you first pull away it just feels right: light control efforts and a smooth, linear (no turbo lag) powertrain response together serve up a sense of relaxed, effortless refinement in all normal driving situations. That counts for a lot. Still, we expected it to feel quicker on a hard launch from rest, and the engine note turns rather raspy – albeit enthusiastic – when you work it hard.

Technology

GM’s customary cutting-edge connectivity and telematics apply, including a 4G LTE hot spot, SiriusXM 360L support, near-field phone connectivity and updated navigation functionality with natural address-entry. Some of the above-and-beyond standard or optional driver alert-and-avert aids include rear as well as front automatic braking; rear pedestrian-alert; night vision; hitch-guidance; surround-vision recorder; rear-camera mirror and a remote washer for the rear-camera lenses.

Cargo

The second and third rows fold flat to provide class-leading cargo space.

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Buttons inside the cargo door can be used to raise or lower the third-row seats and remotely lower (but not raise) the second row. All the seats fold flat and flush with the main deck and provide class-leading cargo volumes behind the second and first rows.

An underfloor compartment compensates for the modest space behind the third row.

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All-seats-up cargo volume of 12.6 cubic feet behind the third row, conversely, is inferior to that of most rivals (although there is a useful hidden compartment below the floor).

The verdict: 7.5

Priced thousands or even tens of thousands below German alternatives, and with more room than rivals that cost less, the XT6 gives three-row luxury crossover buyers what they expect.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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