PowerSteering: 2017 Cadillac XT5 Review
With the new 2017 XT5, Cadillac replaces its best-selling SRX model and at the same time introduces new naming conventions that will be applied to the company’s future crossover SUVs. Currently, there are no plans to change the name of its flagship SUV, the Escalade.
Cadillac says the XT5 is a midsize SUV, and that might be true as far as passenger space is concerned. Cargo volume measurements, however, fall on the smaller side of the spectrum. All XT5 SUVs have a 3.6-liter V-6 engine and front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive (AWD) an optional upgrade except for the top trim level, on which it is standard. Trim levels include standard, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum.
For this review, our expert evaluated a 2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum without options. The price came to $63,495, including the $995 destination charge.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 XT5, it is helpful to understand who bought the SUV it replaces, the SRX, and what they liked most and least about it.
According to J.D. Power research data, only 39% of all Midsize Premium SUV buyers are women, but the Cadillac SRX enjoys significant appeal among female purchasers, with 48% of all sales going to women. Cadillac SRX owners are also older, at 64 years of age, compared with 57 years for the segment, and they are less affluent, with an average median household income of $121,652 compared with $188,247 for the segment. Only 16% of SRX buyers are members of Gen X (born 1965-1976) or Gen Y (1977—1994), compared with 35% of buyers in the segment.
Though the SRX was built in Mexico, 83% of its buyers agreed that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a U.S. company, compared with 37% for the segment. With the new XT5 being manufactured in Spring Hill, Tennessee, SRX owners should be pleased when trade-in time comes.
Furthermore, SRX owners are more likely to agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (90%, compared with 83% segment average) and are more likely to agree that they avoid vehicles they think will have high maintenance costs (87% vs. 81%).
Buyers say their favorite things about the SRX are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, driving dynamics, seats, and engine/transmission. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the SRX are (in descending order) fuel economy, the climate control system, the infotainment system, storage and space, and visibility and safety.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2017 Cadillac XT5 performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
Conservatively attractive, the XT5 presents bold front styling and traditional Cadillac design cues. In Platinum trim, Dark Adriatic Blue paint combined with polished 20-in. wheels and lots of chrome looks terrific, especially at a time when matte finishes, dark trim, and black wheels are increasingly the norm.
The test vehicle’s Maple Sugar interior proved visually delicious. Blending wood, polished metal accents, piano black trim, and a two-tone cabin treatment with dark carpets, the test XT5’s interior sure was yummy. In Platinum trim, simulated suede is applied to the dashboard, pillars, and headliner for extra decadence. The one change I would suggest is to swap the saddle-color dashboard top for black in order to cut down on the windshield reflections.
As lovely as the interior looked, Cadillac needs to step up the quality. The XT5’s lower front door panels are covered in Chevy-grade plastic, complete with unfinished storage pocket edges. Seat foam was poking out from beneath the test vehicle’s semi-aniline leather at the driver’s seat base and from under the rear center armrest. When reaching under the left rear seat seeking the release handle to slide the seat forward and back, I instead grabbed what I assume is the rear-seat cushion heating wire. Not good.
No matter where you’re sitting, the XT5’s seats feel firm but prove comfortable and supportive on longer trips. Up front, they could use additional cushion tilt for better thigh support. That change would make the test vehicle’s manually extending thigh support cushion more useful. Still, it doesn’t extend very far, so I can’t figure out why Cadillac bothers.
With the XT5, Cadillac resolves the old SRX’s cramped back seat. Rear legroom and foot space are both generous, and the seat cushion sits high with excellent thigh support. It also slides fore and aft, reclines, and can be folded down with no more effort than using release handles in the cargo area.
Climate Control System/Infotainment System
Climate Control System
The test vehicle had a triple-zone climate control system with separate controls for rear-seat occupants. Automatic seat heating and ventilation can be programmed using the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) display screen on the dashboard. A heated steering wheel is also available.
Despite a large panoramic sunroof, which is tinted to an appreciable degree, the climate system works effectively. Rocker switches control temperature adjustment, and Cadillac layers a thin skin over buttons to activate other climate functions. The result is a clean look combined with positive tactile reinforcement that you did, indeed, issue a command to the system.
Given a choice between Cadillac’s CUE and Chevrolet’s MyLink, which are similar systems, I’ll go with MyLink every time even if it’s not quite as “fancy.” Apparently considered to be an upgrade, CUE’s proximity-sensing screen isn’t one. You can turn it off, but then half the screen has virtual function buttons sitting on it, making it really hard to reference the navigation map.
Cadillac could fix this by removing the virtual radio station and navigation destination pre-sets on the bottom of the screen and placing actual buttons for these functions on the dashboard, similar to BMW’s layout. Add knobs for power/volume and tuning/mute functions on either side of this row of buttons and the CUE display would boast greater real estate. In turn, its user wouldn’t be nearly as aggravated by the virtual navigation system buttons that pop up when the screen detects approaching fingers.
Storage and Space
Offering 30 cu. ft. of cargo space behind the rear seat and 63 cu. ft. of maximum volume with the rear seat folded down, the XT5’s capacity measures up against compact rather than midsize SUVs.
Cadillac hopes XT5 buyers will appreciate the available cargo management system, which includes a metal divider that can be adjusted and locked into position within tracks embedded into the cargo floor. There are two problems with this setup:
1) The divider buzzes and rattles on less than perfect pavement.
2) The adjustment tracks will collect all manner of dirt, sand, pet hair, and what-have-you.
If Cadillac ditched the cargo management system and made the cargo area just a few inches wider and deeper, this SUV could easily serve a family of four. As it stands, the cargo area is slightly too narrow to stack four full-size suitcases on end, and is also slightly too short to then also cram a compact folding stroller in between the luggage and the liftgate. Instead, those four suitcases need to be stacked flat, and a stroller fits only if the cargo management system is tossed out.
Visibility and Safety
Forward visibility is not a problem, and large side mirrors with blind-spot warning make it easy to see to the sides of the XT5. The reversing camera with available top-down surround view is only moderately helpful because the image resolution is too low and doesn’t provide a 180-degree vantage point. That said, the rear cross-traffic alert system with seat alert functionality is definitely helpful.
One reason the reversing camera image isn’t clearer could be attributed to Cadillac’s new rear camera mirror option. With this upgrade and the flip of the lever under the rearview mirror, it changes from a traditional mirror to a high-resolution display providing a wide-angle view of what’s behind the XT5.
I am not a fan of this technology for several reasons:
1) It forces the driver to adjust focus when referencing the camera mirror when the image appears blurry at first. Then the driver’s eyes must adjust again when looking back at the road. This can be disorienting.
2) It is harder to identify vehicles behind the XT5 such as, say, a black-and-white Ford Crown Victoria or Explorer. The regular mirror setting is much, much better at helping to distinguish vehicles.
3) The regular mirror also provides a deeper field of view, compared with the broader field of view for the camera. You can see farther back in adjacent lanes.
4) The camera supplies a grainy, pixelated view at night, and it pales in comparison to the clarity provided by a standard mirror.
5) It is a regular source of peripheral distraction.
6) If you want to check your hair, or your face, or see if a nose hair is hanging out and needs plucking, you can’t.
Furthermore, despite my efforts to make sure they were programmed to function at normal sensitivities, I was never entirely sure the XT5’s safety technologies were working properly. If they were, they don’t do a very good job of identifying lane markings, or sounding warnings, or identifying potential forward collisions.
Normally, driver-assistance systems from General Motors are hypervigilant and sometimes scare you when they flash and beep. In the new Cadillac XT5, they’re seemingly somnambulant.
A 3.6-liter V-6 engine making 310 horsepower is standard for the XT5, and it is a gem of a motor, sounding good and delivering robust acceleration.
The standard 8-speed automatic transmission is less satisfying. Switch from the Tour driving mode to the Sport driving mode and it seems to be a little more responsive. A Manual mode allows the driver to use the shift paddles mounted to the steering wheel, and in this mode the transmission matches revs when downshifting.
If Cadillac expects the XT5 to go head-to-head with German SUVs and the Infiniti QX50/QX70, it needs adaptive software that does a better job of identifying aggressive driving and adjusting shift patterns accordingly.
By far, what most disappointed owners of the outgoing Cadillac SRX was the fuel economy. Based on this test of the XT5, Cadillac has made improvements on this front.
According to the EPA, the XT5 with AWD should return 21 mpg in combined driving. On the test loop, the test vehicle averaged 21.9 mpg.
Sharing a platform and an assembly plant with the redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia, the XT5 doesn’t drive like other Cadillacs. Mainly, it lacks refinement in terms of suspension isolation and road noise, the ride quality is too stiff, and its front-drive platform provides a palpably different experience, compared with the company’s rear-drive sedans.
The test vehicle came with an adaptive suspension with driver-selected Tour and Sport settings. Regardless of choice, sharper impacts are transferred directly into the cabin. The amount of racket from the underpinnings, the unexpected amount of tire roar, and the tight suspension tuning were the first three things my wife complained about with regard to the XT5, and rightfully so. Switch to Sport mode and the resulting unyielding ride is downright harsh, brittle, and choppy.
The only time the XT5 felt anywhere close to soft, absorbent, and luxurious was when crossing speed bumps in Tour mode. Under these conditions, regularly encountered on the street where our kids’ elementary school is located, the XT5 adopted a degree of softness combined with a little bit of bounce and rebound.
When equipped with 20-in. wheels and tires the XT5 has no trouble gripping the road. Still, the XT5’s nose-heavy weight distribution limits dynamism. The brakes appear undersized for enthusiastic driving, anyway, fading to an appreciable degree during a lively mountain descent with temperatures in the mid-70s. The brake pedal could use additional fine-tuning, too, as it appears to do little but activate the brake lights when the driver steps lightly upon it. Push harder and slowing begins.
My favorite thing about driving the Cadillac XT5 was the steering. Not once did it feel over- or under-assisted, loose and disconnected on center, or excessively eager to return to center. Plus, the steering wheel itself is a pleasure to grip.
If Cadillac is targeting Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz with the new XT5, it has some soul searching to do. This is a Lexus RX alternative, a Lincoln MKX alternative, or even a Volvo XC60 alternative. Only one of those models poses a sales-chart challenge: the rather wild-looking Lexus.
While the XT5 represents a significant improvement over the old SRX, style is what makes it compelling. It has a conservative and tailored appearance, inside and out, one that is both attractive and inoffensive. But even on this front, the sleek and shapely new Jaguar F-Pace may have upstaged the Cadillac.
General Motors supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Cadillac XT5 review.
For more information about our test driver and our methodology, please see our reviewer profile.