Customers. They can be a fickle lot, hard to gauge and harder to please. Nobody knows this better than Cadillac. Beleaguered by constant complaints from its customers about how its cars have gone down in quality and competency over the decades, the American luxury marque pumped in billions of dollars into new platforms, new tech and new power trains. The results were simply staggering. Starting with the brilliant ATS, followed by the CTS and their madder V variants, Cadillacs were back with a bang.
Or so we believed. Just when Cadillac thought it had given customers what they’d always clamoured for, and that they’d throng showrooms to buy these new resurgent models, they go ahead and buy more SRX crossovers. Yes, the same old SRX that we last reviewed back in 2011 has been the brand’s bestselling vehicle globally until last year and even up to early this year in the American market. And bafflingly still, it’s been the only Cadillac model to feature in the first 15 bestselling premium vehicles in that all-important market. While still trying to make sense of this trend, Cadillac wisely decided to capitalise on it and build a successor to the SRX, the all-new XT5.
While promising to provide customers more space, technology, luxury and efficiency than the SRX, the XT5 is also the first in a series of four new crossovers from Cadillac. Built on a completely new chassis and structural make-up, the XT5 is 126kg lighter than its predecessor, and even lighter than rivals like the Audi Q5. While the overall length, width and height have been reduced a tad compared to the SRX, the wheelbase is 50.8mm longer and the track is 25.4mm wider. These add up to lend the XT5 a bolder visual presence than the SRX, although the overall styling is slicker and less angular.
As with most new Cadillacs, the front fascia is its most attractive bit, and is also the biggest distinguishing factor. There’s no mistaking the XT5 for anything but a Cadillac, even from a distance. The profile is smoother than before, and with the shorter overhangs, gives the XT5 a more planted stance. The rear isn’t as striking as the front, but is still unique with those upright LED tail lights.
The cabin also feels decidedly more upmarket than that of the SRX’s with an abundance of leather, wood, and brushed metal surfaces all around. The predominantly horizontal layout, along with the large panoramic sunroof, add to the overall sense of roominess. Despite the reduction in overall dimensions, the passenger cell is more spacious than before, with rear passengers benefiting from an increase of 81mm in legroom.
The dashboard is kept simple with just the bare minimum of buttons, and the remaining controls are accessed via the updated Cue infotainment interface. While the rest of the interior is modern, the displays, both the central one and the one in the instrument cluster, stand out as anachronisms with their grainy resolution. But for this one quibble the XT5’s cabin is a marked improvement over the SRX’s; it is a comfortable place to be in. The ride quality is also good, although not quite up to the levels of refinement in an Audi Q5.
Under the bonnet is a 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6, which Cadillac says has been completely redesigned but at 310bhp, the power output is just two horsepower more than the block with the same displacement that powered the SRX. However, at 366Nm, there’s a more substantial bump up in torque vis-à-vis the previous model’s 353Nm. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with an electronically controlled shifting mechanism. Moving away from a standstill, the gearbox does a good job tapping into the engine’s reserves, but it struggles when you call for sudden acceleration from cruising speeds, and requires you to kick down a couple of ratios. While the engine is perfectly fine for normal driving, it doesn’t seem equipped to handle above-average enthusiasm. This would have been an infinitely better car, if Cadillac had used the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 from the CT6, which is good for 404bhp and a massive 542Nm of torque.
The all-wheel drive system is capable of sending 100 per cent of available twist to either the front or rear axle, and alternatively, uses the electronically controlled rear differential to direct the torque to either wheel laterally. While this could come handy in snowy conditions elsewhere, the XT5 simply doesn’t have the ground clearance for the kind of off-road trips you might take here. But on the road you’ll benefit from numerous tech features like the Rear Camera Mirror system, hands-free operation of the lift gate, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, adaptive cruise control and Automatic Parking Assist.
The XT5 is a massive improvement over the SRX, and it would have been one of the best in the segment if Cadillac had dropped a more potent power plant into the engine bay. Nevertheless, at just over Dh200,000 for the top-spec Premium Luxury trim, it’s the most value-for-money offering in the segment right now. But it could well turn out that more buyers have now started buying ATSs and CTSs. These customers!