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New Cars Review: The 2019 Cadillac XT4 looks to attract a younger breed of consumer

Cadillac may be a little late to the crossover party, but it’s making up for lost time fast with the XT4.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Cadillac has shied away from the spotlight recently, but that’s about to change. Big time. GM’s luxury arm is gearing up to revitalize the brand. A new model is to be introduced every six months through 2020.

“We’re going on the offensive. Starting today, it’s on," said Steve Carlisle, GM’s senior vice president and Cadillac president, during the global launch in Seattle of the new 2019 Cadillac XT4 compact luxury crossover.

A baby Caddy? That’s a daunting task for designers. After all, Cadillacs aren’t known for being small. Cadillac’s flagship vehicle is the iconic Escalade – a gigantic SUV with a big, bold body and massive proportions. So, how do designers envisage a small Caddy?

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Besides the over-size wheels pushed out in the corners, bold front graphics, and bright accents, designers focused on the XT4’s profile to make it more distinct.

“We got a lot of body-side drama," said the XT4’s lead exterior designer Robin Krieg. "There’s a big offset from the glass to the wheels, so we have a lot of sculpture in the car.

"Cadillacs aren’t necessarily known for having a lot of sculpture on the body side, but in this case, in a small car, we felt it needed to have that strength and core running through the vehicle. But there are still taut lines that tell you it’s a Cadillac.”

The XT4 does retain Cadillac’s distinct DNA on the outside. Even though it’s classified as a “compact” crossover, in American tradition, its proportions are slightly larger on the outside and inside. The cabin is modern, yet tech-savvy – a move to attract a younger breed of consumer to the brand, people craving tech gadgets at their fingertips.

Over-size wheels pushed out in the corners, bold front graphics and bright accents are part of the XT4’s profile to make it more distinct.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Inside, it’s filled with innovative connected technology such as wireless device charging with faster charge times, four USB ports, a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot so you’re not using expensive data plans on the road, Apple CarPlay and AndriodAuto smart phone capability, and a new rotary controller to access frequently used items faster.

There are traditional buttons for many functions like the HVAC system. An eight-inch touchscreen is nicely integrated into the dashboard design, so it doesn’t look out of place and is positioned perfectly within the driver’s line of sight.

And there are plenty of extras to add to the comfort level including heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, and massaged and air-conditioned front seats. You won’t be short on space inside.

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While many European and Japanese competitors are short on rear-seat space, the XT4 is well-proportioned and spacious – designed to fit a six-foot-tall man comfortably inside. In fact, there’s excellent headroom, shoulder-room, and legroom in all five seats.

My test vehicles – the XT4 AWD Premium Luxury and Sport models – were equipped with plenty of safety technology including adaptive cruise control, front pedestrian detection, forward collision alert, and lane-keep assist with a lane-departure warning system. You won’t see Super Cruise, Cadillac’s semi-autonomous driving technology for the highway, until the 2020 models are rolled out.

The XT4 plays in the industry’s hottest and fastest-growing segment – amid stiff competition all vying for a piece of the lucrative compact luxury crossover pie. But it has a fighting chance. The 2019 Cadillac XT4 goes on sale in October.

TECH SPECS

Base price: $39,900 (includes $2,000 delivery freight charge)

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo I-4-cylinder

Transmission/drive: Nine-speed automatic/FWD or AWD

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Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBA

Alternatives: Lexus UX, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Porsche Macan, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40

Looks

The XT4 features a distinctive rear end with unique tail-lamps and dual outlet exhausts.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

At first sight, it’s undeniably a Cadillac with expressive styling, taut lines, sharp creases and attractive design cues. Bold graphics on the front, a more modern take on the Cadillac grille, oversized 18-inch or available 20-inch wheels, and a distinct rear end with unique tail-lamps and dual outlet exhausts raise the bar in the exterior design. Besides boring old shades of silver and black, you can get daring shades such as twilight blue metallic and red horizon colours.

Interior

The spacious cabin has an elegant and upscale design.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Spacious, tech-savvy cabin with excellent room for five people. Elegant and upscale design with a beefy, three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel with steering-wheel mounted controls, a new rotary infotainment controller, and rain-sensing automatic wipers. Excellent headroom, shoulder-room, and legroom in all seats. There’s 1,004 mm of legroom in the rear seats.

Performance

Powered by an all-new 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder engine with 237 hp and 258 lb-ft or torque, mated to a new nine-speed automatic transmission. At times, the XT4 feels heavy and weighted down, especially when taking off from a standstill. It’s not as nimble and agile to drive as some of its competitors such as the Lexus UX and BMW X1. But it has pleasant road manners and fuel-saving technology such as an active fuel management system – aka cylinder deactivation – and an automatic stop/start function that kills when the engine when stopped to save fuel.

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Technology

The eight-inch touchscreen is nicely integrated into the dashboard design.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

No shortage of safety technology available – from adaptive cruise control to forward and reverse automatic braking to lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning. But be forewarned: Many of the features fall into bundled packages, such as a technology package, a driver assist package, and a driver awareness package, all of which cost extra.

Cargo

The XT4 has a spacious cargo area.

Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Spacious cargo area with 637 litres of space. Drop the rear seats and that expands to 1,385 litres of cargo capacity. A rear cargo cover keeps items nicely out of view; while cargo tie-downs keep items securely in place when driving. A hands-free power lift gate on my test vehicle makes it cinch to access the cargo area without fumbling for keys.

The Verdict 8.0

Cadillac may be a little late to the crossover party, but it’s making up for lost time fast with the XT4.

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

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