2020 Cadillac XT4 Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jun 16, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Cadillac deals!

Like every other luxury car company, Cadillac is moving toward a SUV-heavy lineup. In fact, Cadillac has doubled the number of SUVs it sells in just the past two years, adding the compact XT4 and midsize 3-row XT6 on either side of the midsize 2-row XT5.

Though the model debuted just last year, the 2020 Cadillac XT4 receives several updates. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking (AEB), and a vibrating safety-alert driver’s seat are now standard. Cadillac also drops the spare tire in favor of a tire inflation kit, and adds new SiriusXM 360L service to the XT4. Premium Luxury and Sport trim gain a standard hands-free power liftgate, and Cadillac now offers an enhanced AEB system and a rear pedestrian alert system for this SUV.

2020 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury Silver Front ViewPhoto: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a 2020 XT4 in Premium Luxury trim. It came equipped with the Comfort and Convenience, Cold Weather, and Driver Awareness option packages. Additional upgrades included 20-inch aluminum wheels, a navigation system, and a Bose Centerpoint premium surround sound audio system. The price came to $45,660, including the $995 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Cadillac deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the Cadillac XT4, it is helpful to understand who buys this compact premium SUV, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

In terms of gender, Cadillac XT4 owners align with the segment. J.D. Power data shows that 56% are men (vs. 55% for the segment). Cadillac owners are, however, significantly older, with a median age of 64 years (vs. 58). They earn less money, too, with a median annual household income of $130,819 (vs. $156,990).

Cadillac XT4 owners are primarily Practical Buyers (40%) while compact premium SUV owners as a whole mainly identify as Performance Buyers (40%). They’re also pre-disposed to buy American, with 84% agreeing that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company.

People who own the Cadillac XT4 agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (90% vs. 84%). They are also less willing to pay extra for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (52% vs. 57%). Otherwise, XT4 owner sentiments closely align with those of all compact premium SUV owners.

Owners say their favorite things about the XT4 are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, seats, driving dynamics, and visibility and safety. Owners indicate their least favorite things about the XT4 are (in descending order) the infotainment system, climate system, engine/transmission, storage and space, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Cadillac deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the Cadillac XT4 measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the 2019 APEAL Study.

Exterior

Especially when equipped with larger 20-inch wheels, the Cadillac XT4 is a rakishly handsome little crossover SUV. The company’s latest design cues fit naturally, and Cadillac deserves credit for not pitching this as a coupe – even if the dramatically angled rear roof pillars and back glass lend themselves to such characterization.

2020 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury Silver Rear ViewPhoto: Christian Wardlaw

Interior

Equipped with the Light Platinum over Jet Black interior color scheme, the tested XT4 had an appealing, high-contrast cabin aesthetic. Metallic accents and wood trim lent the XT4 a clearly premium look and feel, too.

2020 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury Gray Interior DashboardPhoto: Christian Wardlaw

Controls are arranged in horizontal rows, with classy piano-key buttons for the climate system. On the center console, buttons and knobs operate the infotainment system. Alternately, users can use the touchscreen, voice commands, and switchgear on the steering wheel.

Seats

The Cadillac XT4 looks small from the outside, but is unexpectedly roomy on the inside.

Up front, the seating area is spacious, and the well-equipped test vehicle had heated, ventilated, and massaging seats wrapped in soft and supple leather. Over time, though, the driver’s seat felt somewhat hard and uncomfortable, suggesting room for improvement in terms of long-distance support. The XT4 is an athletic handling vehicle, too, so the front seats could use better side bolstering.

In back, adults will find generous space for a compact crossover. The bottom seat cushion is mounted a little low, though, and the resulting body position is somewhat awkward.

Climate Control System

Thanks to the ventilated front seats and effective air conditioning, the Cadillac XT4 served as a chilly sanctuary during a Southern California heat wave. It has rear air conditioning vents, too, though they’re rather unrefined when you adjust the air vanes.

If you live where winter brings cold temperatures, the XT4 also offers heated front and rear seats as well as a heated steering wheel.

Infotainment System

Modern Cadillac infotainment systems are nothing like the original Cadillac User Experience (CUE) technology foisted upon consumers a decade ago. Smartphone-style screen operation, modern graphics, quick response to input, and multiple paths to interaction make Cadillac competitive on the infotainment front.

In the XT4, you can use the infotainment system through the touchscreen, steering wheel controls, voice commands, and hard controls mounted on the center console. To preserve the clean and uncluttered interior design, stereo controls are not located on the dashboard. They are on the center console, easy to find and use without looking down.

The collection of controls on the center console mimics the approach taken by Audi, BMW, and Mazda. Daunting at first, using them becomes second nature in short order. However, in the Cadillac, the main menu shortcut buttons surrounding the center control knob could use topographical detail in order to improve operation by touch.

Cadillac has work to do on the XT4’s voice recognition system, too. It found my Spanish-language street address and the closest example of my favorite coffee shop chain without any trouble. It found the closest Chipotle only when searching “Chipotle Mexican Grill.” And instead of directing me to “The Grove mall, Los Angeles” it gave me a bunch of “Grove”-related destinations in Kansas.

Storage and Space

Cadillac XT4 owners rank storage and space near the bottom of their list of favorite things about the SUV. It must be the paltry 22.5 cubic-foot trunk and comparatively small maximum cargo space of 48.9 cu.-ft., because the XT4’s interior is loaded with storage spots.

Clearly, providing places in which owners can stash their stuff was a big priority. There is storage everywhere within this Cadillac’s cabin, and the company even provides umbrella holders in the lower front door panels.

If you want a bigger trunk than the XT4 offers, but you still want a Cadillac SUV, perhaps a similarly priced, certified pre-owned XT5 might be more to your liking.

Visibility and Safety

Though Cadillac introduced the XT4 just last year, the SUV gets a safety upgrade for 2020. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and low-speed automatic emergency braking are now standard on every XT4, along with a safety alert seat that vibrates when a safety threat exists in order to get the driver’s attention.

The Premium Luxury test vehicle also included a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change alert. These systems, in combination with large side mirrors, a useful reversing camera, and excellent forward visibility, made driving the XT4 a pleasure.

Missing from the test car, adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking, and reverse automatic braking are bundled together in the Driver Assist package ($1,100). Cadillac also offers an Enhanced Visibility Package ($1,550) that installs a rearview camera mirror, a rear pedestrian alert, a high-definition surround view camera, and an automatic parking assist system that controls both braking and steering. A head-up display is also available for the Cadillac XT4.

In crash tests, the Cadillac XT4 earns an overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had not completed testing as this review was published, but the SUV earned top marks for moderate overlap frontal impact and side impact protection.

Engine/Transmission

A turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is paired with a 9-speed automatic, and this combination makes 237 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,500 rpm and 4,000 rpm. An automatic engine stop/start system is standard, and drivers can choose between Tour and Sport driving modes. With the optional all-wheel-drive system, an AWD mode is also available.

Cadillac XT4 owners appear to be dissatisfied with the SUV’s engine and transmission, ranking it among their least favorite things about the vehicle. Indeed, using the electronic shifter can be aggravating. You push up to engage Reverse, down to engage Drive, and push a button to engage Park.

At one point during testing, I thought I’d engaged Park but had actually chosen Reverse. As my family and I prepared to exit the SUV, I released the brake pedal and realized we were rolling backwards. That could be a reason XT4 owners are unhappy about the powertrain.

Otherwise, based on my testing, the transmission shifts smoothly and unobtrusively, and the engine delivers robust power. You can hear some turbocharger whine under hard acceleration, and the plastic paddle shifters are genuinely disappointing in terms of how they feel and how the transmission shifts when using them, but those are the only two potential demerits aside from the shifter’s unnecessarily complex operation.

Fuel Economy

On the standard testing loop, which includes city, freeway, country, and mountain driving, the XT4 averaged 24.8 mpg. That’s a little short of expectations, given that the official EPA rating for combined driving with front-wheel drive is 26 mpg.

Driving Dynamics

According to XT4 owners, driving dynamics are high on the list of favorite attributes. That’s great, because it means the people that bought this SUV like the ride and handling characteristics. My impression, however, is not as favorable.

Equipped with Premium Luxury trim and optional 20-inch wheels, I thought the tested XT4 was loud on anything but perfectly smooth pavement. Surface bumps, potholes, and undulations also made me wish for an adaptive damping suspension, which is an option for the XT4 Sport. In Tour mode, the steering also feels light and disconnected, and the brake pedal is firm and hard to modulate.

Mainly, these traits drew attention to themselves during typical daily driving situations, such as the excessive nose bobbing over the speed humps leading to my daughter’s elementary school. In the nearby mountains, switched into Sport mode, the XT4 demonstrated impressive handling characteristics, making the SUV plenty of fun to drive.

But that’s not how people are going to use the XT4 the vast majority of the time.

Final Impressions - Find the best Cadillac deals!

Stylish inside and out, roomy for everything and everyone except for luggage, and technologically advanced when you’re willing to spend the extra money, the Cadillac XT4 is worth consideration.

There is, however, room for improvement. The optional adaptive suspension should be offered with Premium Luxury trim in addition to Sport trim, and the transmission interface needs a re-think. A fully natural voice recognition system would also be nice to have, as well as improved front seat cushioning and rear seat positioning.

There’s no fixing the small cargo area, though. If you need more space, get a bigger vehicle.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2020 J.D. Power

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