2017 Cadillac XT5 AWD Review - Tennessee Flat Top Box

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
Fast Facts

2017 Cadillac XT5 Luxury AWD

3.6-litre V6 (310 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm, 271 lbs-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Eight-speed automatic transmission w/ all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive available)
Fuel Economy (Rated, MPG): 18 city / 26 highway/ 21 combined
Fuel economy (Observed, MPG): 19.1
Base Price (FWD): $39,990 (U.S.) / $47,150 (Canada)
As Tested (AWD): $52,150 (U.S) / $58,480 (Canada)
All U.S prices include a $995 destination fee. All Canadian prices include $2,050 freight and A/C tax.

When the original Cadillac SRX appeared for the 2004 model year, it rode atop a rear-wheel-drive unibody platform, offered three rows of seats, and asked a question rarely asked today: “V8 with that?”

Six years later, General Motors saw fit to yank the SRX out of that class and plunge it into the murderously competitive front-wheel drive, two-row luxury crossover field, shoving it in direct competition with the segment’s dominant sales king, the Lexus RX. Hand-wringing ensued, yet that iteration of the SRX sold nearly 100,000 copies globally in 2015. Not bad for a five-year-old model on the outs.

For 2017, Cadillac — drunk on the New York City skyline and “image spaces” in SoHo — introduced its CT6 sedan before turning its attention to updating its best seller.

Will Cadillac’s new utility, now christened XT5 and built in Saturn’s old Spring Hill digs in Tennessee, follow the brand’s relentless path to Audi-ization?

The XT5’s sole available powerplant is a 310 horsepower, naturally aspirated, 3.6-liter V6 matched up to an eight-speed automatic. A stable of that many horses is on par with its competitors, but the XT5 could use more than its 271 pounds-feet of torque, particularly when you’re goosing this 4257-pound all-wheel-drive tester in highway passing maneuvers. China gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four in its XT5, which provides more low-end grunt. GM’s parts bin also contains a 404-horsepower twin-turbo V6. Either of these powerplants would make for a snappier driving experience.

The 3.6 in the XT5’s engine bay features cylinder deactivation and start-stop tech. While the former is imperceptible, the latter most certainly is not. The V6 restarts itself with a harumph, like a stern school principal addressing a roomful of miscreants.

The interior is well designed, with a beautiful swath of perforated leather on the dash punctuated by a large infotainment screen. Many journos have already complained bitterly about Cadillac’s CUE system, prompting me to not waste space on it here. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are present and accounted for. An electronic shifter, of the same design found in Buick’s new LaCrosse, frees up space below the console for a vast and rubber-lined pass-through bin, though drivers must be double-jointed to access it with any sort of ease.

GM’s new electronic shifter fits well here, even if it still takes some mental calisthenics to use properly, especially when trying to execute a three-point turn (push it forward to go backward). Weird mouse fur lines a cubby at the base of the centre stack while a nifty vertical cellphone holder wirelessly charges select phones and easily accepts my unnecessarily large and uncouth iPhone 6+. The sliver of a twin-vent atop the dash appears useless at first glance, but actually provides excellent airflow.

Buttons for the heated seats look capacitively activated, but actually have a physical detent when pressed. Volume control for the infotainment, though? Not so much. Volume is exceedingly tough to modulate unless one has cocktail sticks for fingers, a evolution not yet known to mankind. Precision is required when mashing the non-tactile surface masquerading as the XT5’s centre stack volume buttons. The driver has their own set of controls mounted to the wheel, but this helps the passenger not one whit — unless you’re Mark Stevenson’s girlfriend, who enjoys the dangerous activity of reaching across the car to press steering wheel-mounted buttons. At least temperature controls and fan speed receive dedicated real estate in the form of pleasingly shaped bi-directional chrome switches. Cadillac would do well to replicate these for volume duty.

This 6-foot-6 author had plenty of legroom in the back seat and sufficient headroom when taking advantage of the rear seat’s ability to recline a few inches. Straight up, my bald pate rubbed rudely against the sunroof’s brim, causing me to duck my head as if dodging seagulls on the government wharf. A flat floor frees up space for a centre rider while outboard guests enjoy plenty of toe room under the front seats. A convenient USB port adorns the rear of the centre console, making one wonder why another team in the bowels of GM deemed a 12V receptacle to be sufficient.

At the lower end of XT5’s price scale, our tester was shod with 18-inch rubber rather than the 20-inch dubs available on higher trims. The tires are shockingly plump 65-series hoops, a refreshing deviation from the newly accepted norm of shipping cars with extremely low profile tires that emulate tar brushed around a gigantic rim. The XT5’s ride is all the better for it, soaking up bumps like a slice of bread swished through a nearly empty soup bowl. Sport mode, activated by toggling through a tactile button near the shifter, changed the transmission shift points but altered the ride not one iota over the cratered roads near my rural home.

It’s fortunate the ride wasn’t firmed up to any degree, given I was being driven mad by an infuriating and grating high-pitched squeak emanating from somewhere under the rear seat on the passenger side. I recorded this video (with both hands firmly on the wheel, naturally) in an attempt to articulate my complaint.

See what I mean? The mouse-eats-cheese squeak appeared the moment I started driving and didn’t abate for the duration of the test. Moving the 40/20/40-split rear seat through its folding cycle between drives helped some, but the offending noise quickly returned each time. And it was here I began to worry about quality.

Plush leather was making an excellent effort to extract itself from its home on the steering wheel, aided by stitching more frayed than a cat’s nerves at the dog pound. The leather on the driver’s seat was badly creased, leading me to doubt its long-term durability. Make all the jokes you want about the seat being inhabited by a stream of shrimp-laden journalists; leather should not be crinkled to this degree on a luxury vehicle with 2,200 miles.

This is the stuff that separates the winners from the also-rans. It’s highly doubtful one would find these (admittedly, non-life threatening) problems on a new Q5 or GLE. Future owners might, but not the ones who just shelled out big bucks to have the newest model sitting in front of their McMansion. I will, however, posit that the XT5 will still be on the road, piloted by its fourth or fifth owner, long after an expensive mechanical malady has relegated its German competition to the dustbin, which supports my long-held belief that GM cars tend to run bad longer than most cars run at all. But when they’re brand new, that’s not the point.

Years ago, I remember Pat Bedard writing about the then-new Oldsmobile Aurora. If you’re too young to recall that model, here you go. Look up Pat himself while you’re at it, along with his crash at Indy in 1984. For the rest of us old timers in the room, Mr. Bedard wrote about how he took three friends to dinner in the Aurora, friends who owned BMWs and Mercedes. To his dismay, the climate control system was displaying, in bright green numerals as was GM’s style at the time, an interior temperature one-hundred degrees higher than its actual setting, evoking guffaws from his foreign-driving friends and cementing their decision not to buy from the General. This is the same thing, 20 years later. You gotta get this stuff right, GM. The rest of the XT5 is too good to be let down by it.

Styling is a very subjective area, but I’m still not sold on the new Running MascaraTM look, which first debuted on the CT6 and now appears on this XT5. It’s like a neutering of the brashness defined by the Art and Science era. Worryingly, the XT5s flanks were adorned with monochromatic versions of the Cadillac logo. This badge also appeared on the nose of the concept in Pebble Beach and I sincerely hope this is not a harbinger of future design choices. Consider that Cadillac has been paring down its logo for years: first, they removed the ducks, then the wreath disappeared. Now, the colour is disappearing. Audi’s badge is also monochromatic. Oh dear.

I’m going to let you in on a little social experiment I performed last week. Whenever friends and relations asked me what I was driving, I simply responded: “A Cadillac.” Invariably, their eyes would light up like a carnival ride and they’d blurt out: “Escalade?” When I explained what I was actually driving, they’d let out a noise resembling a deflating balloon. Then when I told them what it cost — and how expensive it could get — they’d reliably bray like a sunburned donkey, exclaiming, “I could get a [insert German marque here] for that!” then proceed to ask for advice on selecting their Fall fantasy hockey team.

Are you listening to them, Mr. de Nysschen? Cadillac’s image was founded and built upon making the biggest and brashest cars (and later, trucks) in the world. I’m not suggesting Cadillac needs to start building the 1976 Fleetwood Sixty Special Talisman again, and I do recognize the financial stability provided by crossovers like this XT5, but Cadillac does need to start building some of the bombastic show cars it has flung around with élan at Pebble Beach for the last five years. They’ve been big. They’ve been brash. And they fit, to a tee, the general public’s perception of Cadillac. Take the advice of your fourth grade teacher and be yourself. Emulating Audi is not a guaranteed path to success.

On the heels of debuting the angular Escalade concept, a car with presence — and, it must be said, an A7-esque rear profile — de Nysschen disclosed that the next Caddy flagship will not (emphasis his) be a four-door sedan. Huh? If that’s the case, forget the XT and CT naming schemes. They might as well call it the Cadillac WTF.

Pricing for the 2017 XT5 starts at $39,990 for a front-wheel-drive entry-level model, but good luck finding one of those on a dealer’s lot unless the Regional Allocation Manager is in a bad mood. An extra $6,000 will net buyers the Luxury model as tested here, which adds an expansive sunroof, a heated wheel and front seats, a raft of driving assists, and real leather seating surfaces instead of proletariat “leatherette” seats in the base model.

Customers who seek a few more driving aids, extra exterior bling, and standard 20-inch rims will need to take another $7,000 walk to the almost-top-of-the-line-but-can’t-quite-swing-the-payments Premium Luxury trim. That’s a big wad of cash. All-wheel drive is a $2,495 option on the Luxury and Premium Luxury trims.

But Cadillac saved its truly gonzo pricing for the top rung Platinum model, available solely in all-wheel drive, where a check-all-the-boxes example can breeze past $70,000. The same model in Canada is only two grand shy of eighty large. That, friends, is uncomfortably close to Escalade money.

Our more down-to-earth AWD tester rang the bell at $52,150 (USD) after adding $770 for Driver Awareness nannies, a $1,025 nav and 14-speaker Bose audio package, $900 LED headlights that lit up the dark side of the moon, and $495 Stellar Black Metallic paint to its $47,390 (+$995 destination) base price. Still, it lacked some features such as ventilated seats, around-view cameras, and tri-zone climate control found on similarly priced competitors. These goodies are available either as stand alone extras or included on the XT5’s more expensive trims.

Is it petty to complain about the relative lack of content? Yes, but Cadillac’s marketing department is asking us to Dare Greatly. As equipped here, drivers can only Dare Tepidly.

Selling Points: lovely interior, unobtrusive ride, taillights look like fins.

Deal Breakers: quality concerns, delusional pricing on top trims, could use more power.

The Bottom Line: it would be a better Cadillac if it wasn’t trying to be an Audi.

GM Canada provided the test vehicle and insurance for this review.

[Images: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Higheriq Higheriq on Sep 09, 2016

    Love it, hate it, but give Cadillac credit for keeping tailfins alive.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Sep 11, 2016

    Par for the course from Stantard of the World. Overall a nice review, and I especially appreciate the extra circled pics and video showing quality issues. The inclusion of the additional media making your QC point is brilliant. Screenshot it or it didn't happen.

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.