2019 Cadillac XT4 Sport Review - The Caddy That Flops

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport Fast Facts

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (237 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,000 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
22 city / 29 highway / 24 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
10.9 city, 8.2 highway, 9.7 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$41,795 (U.S) / $42,795 (Canada)
As Tested
$50,685 (U.S.) / $53,270 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,200 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 cadillac xt4 sport review the caddy that flops

Cadillac is a brand beleaguered. Part of the reason is its misadventures in Crossover Land.

In a world where Acura, Lexus, and others are serving up premium crossovers at premium prices, and building competitive vehicles while so doing, Cadillac has served up something that’s more like a glorified Chevy.

That, obviously, is a problem.

I drove the Cadillac XT4 back-to-back with a Chevrolet Equinox, and while the XT4 sits on a different platform, the experience was instructive. The Caddy felt a bit too much like the Chevrolet, and that’s not, well, good.

(Ed. note: I’m aware our friends at Hooniverse dropped a review of the XT4 that was fairly negative earlier this week. The timing of our publication is a coincidence. The draft of this post was already roughly 60 percent written when I saw the Hooniverse piece had published.)

When a companion of mine who knows little about cars mistook the XT4 for the Equinox, I knew Caddy had failed. The fact that they were both the same paint color doesn’t excuse this.

[Get new and used Cadillac XT4 pricing here!]

Cadillacs have to feel special. They have to feel like more than a dressed-up Chevy. Parts binning shouldn’t be obvious to anyone except us cranky keyboard warriors who get paid to shout our thoughts about cars into the void.

This was Lincoln’s problem for a long time, and the brand has only recently turned it around. Cadillac needs to look to the crew in Dearborn for the way to do it right. Shuffling offices back to Detroit isn’t going to move metal – only good product is.

Cadillac produced some lovely vehicles during the “Art and Science” era, but most were cars, often sporty ones, instead of crossovers. The SRX that once formed part of the brand’s lineup was done well enough, but remained unremarkable. The XT6 is similar – a box of “meh.” Only the Escalade stands out when it comes to Cadillac utility vehicles.

Cadillac had a chance to make a splash here, to live up to those ads showing impossibly attractive and happy people dancing in their vehicles as they dash all over tony Manhattan neighborhoods. And instead, it flopped.

In fairness, the XT4 is not, in a vacuum, a terrible vehicle. It drives well enough for urban maneuvering, although its dynamics are closer to mid-pack than Cadillac would like. But the problem here isn’t acceleration that’s merely adequate or ride and handling that’s neither unremarkably bad or good.

The XT4 does ride on a “car” platform – the E2 platform, shared with the Chevy Malibu and Buick Regal TourX, among others, and that helps.

While great performance, even by crossover standards, would surely be helpful, dynamics aren’t the concern. Nor is the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (237 horsepower/258 lb-ft of torque) or the nine-speed automatic – as noted above, acceleration is adequate, and the trans goes about is business without much in the way of harsh shifts. The all-wheel-drive system needs to be engaged via a drive-mode selector, but it can be set and left on.

No, dynamics isn’t the concern. The lack of Cadillac feeling, especially in the interior, is.

Outside, the styling is actually attractive, even if it’s close enough to Equinox (despite platform and slight size difference) to cause mistaken identity (to be fair to Cadillac, the person who made this mistake doesn’t know much about cars) among the hoi polloi. It’s what’s inside that counts, in this case.

The cabin’s styling isn’t at issue. It looks upscale enough for a premium brand. The feel is where it falls apart.

Yes, the infotainment system is well integrated. Yeah, the sweeping dash looks upmarket.

But much of the switch gear and other bits and pieces one touches while operating the XT4 just don’t feel premium.

No one expects Cadillac to not use the parts bin at all. Given the costs of production and Cadillac and General Motors’ expectations of making a profit, or at least not losing money, that would be unrealistic. An unreasonable expectation. Furthermore, we all know that even luxury brands that get praised for quality use some parts from their less-expensive counterparts. It’s not a secret that there are Camry and Avalon parts in use in the Lexus ES interior.

There’s a trick to balancing the need to keep costs down while still using certain materials to convey a sense of luxury. I don’t doubt it’s hard – that’s why I sit here and write about cars instead of working at GM in product planning.

Yet if Cadillac could get that right, it could get back in the crossover game.

As I said, the XT4 doesn’t drive particularly poorly, nor is its styling a turnoff. But if one is going to pony up for luxury, one must feel the extra dough was worth it.

There are other positives for Cadillac here – the story isn’t totally dour. Cadillac User Experience, otherwise known as CUE, has been improved over the buggy systems of recent years, although work remains to be done. Headroom, legroom, and cargo room all feel acceptable when measured informally (i.e., sans tape measure), and a glance at spec sheets shows the XT4 is on par with or better than the RDX and X3 in most categories. The XT4 isn’t vault-like, but it’s quiet enough and NVH is (mostly) quelled well enough to be at least class acceptable.

The features list, at least on the Sport trim I tested, is also acceptable, if not remarkable. All the expected comfort, convenience, and safety goodies are available, although I question the choice not to make at least heated seats standard at this price point. Which brings up problem number two: the Sport is the top trim, yet a few features that are standard on other vehicles, or at least standard on the upper trims of those vehicles, requires a lot of option-box ticking. It’s one thing to have downmarket materials in a premium-brand vehicle. It’s another thing to add insult to injury by charging more for what the others don’t charge extra for.

Maybe it’s the luxury hotel business model – ever notice it’s only the five-star joints that charge for Wi-Fi, while roadside dumps usually don’t? It’s because those who have more will pony up.

My Sport test car wasn’t even fully loaded. Among the options were heated seats and steering wheel, as part of a package. CUE with navigation was also on the list. A few more clicks on the consumer Web site would bump the price by a few grand.

Again, the XT4 isn’t a bad vehicle. Far from it. I just don’t find many compelling reasons, except for the luxury dealer experience and the exterior styling, why I’d choose this over a perfectly cromulent Equinox, while pocketing roughly $15K.

Lexus gives you a reason to get the RX, and it’s not because the dealership experience is more pleasant. Likewise, BMW and the X3, Acura the RDX, and so on and so forth.

Cadillac seems to have gotten the message with the next CT cars, at least based on what I’ve seen on paper. And the XT4 and XT6 may be victims of timing – the long lead times inherent in product development mean that even if the brand’s brass is aware of its flaws and hard at work on corrections, we won’t see the fruits of that labor just yet.

Until then, the XT4 lacks the panache needed to compete in a premium class. That’s too bad, because it’s a perfectly acceptable ride otherwise.

Problem is, acceptable doesn’t cut it.

[Image © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jun 18, 2020

    In all fairness this review was lacking more than this Cadillac. It felt like more of a lecture and opinion rather than actual facts. I too have driven and spent lots of time in an Equinox, a 2020 LT 1.5T AWD actually and just do not see the resemblance to this Cadillac. If anything this XT4 looks like a smaller scale XT5 if anything. I also do not think the Equinoxes interior is up to the standard of this XT4 either. There are far more padded and upscale surfaces to be had, a more modern shifter mechanism, even if it more annoying, and a quieter cabin but not as quiet as it should be. This vehicle basically shares nothing with the Equinox, even the 2.0 liter engines are different. With that said this is not up to "standard of the world" status as GM would like you to believe. For starters the 2.0T LSY engine is actually down on HP and torque by a considerable amount compared to the old LTG 2.0T as used in previous Cadillacs. Even in the Nox and Terrain it cranks out 17 more horses being an upgradable option. The interior while being an upgrade over the Nox just looks too plain and not at all special as stated here and the dash does look like something from a Chevy. The fact that the base model doesn't include seat heaters is bad enough considering Lincoln makes them standard on all trims but they aren't even leather unless you move up to the 41-45k Premium Luxury trims. They didn't even include basic things like rear cross traffic alert, F/R park assist or side blind zone alert! Comparing base engines this Cadillac does have the edge in both power and refinement compared to the lower trim Noxes but take note that you must use premium fuel as indicated on there website to get these rather low figures of 237/258 which is just plain poor engineering. A mere move up to the optional 2.0T in the Nox/Terrain gives you more power and torque compared to the LSY for about the base price of entry into a FWD version of the XT4. The XT4 has 22.5" of cargo space with the seats up and 48.9 with the seats down. The Nox has 63.9 of the latter so even in that metric the Cadillac is behind. If you want navigation or advanced radar cruse control you need to shell out an additional 1500 bucks for the first item and an additional 1100 for the driver assist package! And that is on the top line Sport! After all Mary needs to make profit hand over fist to fund her "triple zero" yo... Then you have the meaningless name, the WTF newton meter torque rating rounded up on the trunk lid and a shifter lever that nobody likes. The fact that the lackluster new CT5 is now Cadillac's flagship speaks mountains on where this division of GM is heading- to the graveyard in the sky. If it wasn't for the Escalade that is exactly where they would be juddering around aimlessly at sea by a clueless woke SJW who is more worried about those things than making best in class quality products that people actually want!

  • Canadian driver Canadian driver on Jun 22, 2020

    I have to say this seems to be a very odd review. As others have noted, the author grudgingly admits that most aspects of the vehicle are class competitive, or minor issues. I don't think any objective person could claim that this vehicle looks remotely like an Equinox. The proportions and details are so different. As for the interior, I have spent a fair bit of time in both the Corsair and the XT4, and I have to say I really prefer the Cadillac, and not just a little. I thought the Cadillac interior looked a bit plain when I first saw the pictures, but after having sat in and driven a number of models, I find the XT4 interior to look very sophisticated and upscale. In fact, I like it much more than the BMW interiors as well. It is, to me, simple and elegant. This is hard to pull off, and I think Cadillac has succeeded. It does seem like Cadillac takes a lot of unwarranted heat in comment sections, perhaps based on past sins. But that doesn't automatically make these negative comments valid. I do wish they would drop in the 2.7L engine though!

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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