Test Drive:2020 Cadillac XT6

Ron Sessions | Aug 26, 2019
2020 Cadillac XT6 photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Introduction

Long a laggard in the luxury sport-utility space with just a pair of offerings compared to as many as six or seven at some competitors, Cadillac bolsters its SUV lineup for 2020 with the XT6. The new XT6 fills a gap in Cadillac’s SUV lineup, giving buyers a sorely needed three-row midsize model choice for the first time. In the Cadillac showroom, buyers no longer have to move to the full-size truck-based Escalade to get three rows of seating.

It joins the 5-passenger XT4 and XT5 as well as 7- passenger Escalade and Escalade ESV in a market that’s been ditching sedans for SUVs. Cadillac launches XT6 with a simplified two-model lineup. Including the $995 destination charge, XT6 trims include the $53,690 Premium Luxury and $58,090 Sport. All-wheel drive is a $2625 upcharge on the Premium Luxury model and standard on the Sport. An optional Platinum package, available on both models, upgrades content further.

I spent a day driving the 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport and XT6 Premium Luxury models in the busy streets and congested beltways of Washington D.C. and on winding rural two-lane roads in the Virginia countryside.

2020 Cadillac XT6 side view photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Styling and Design

Less sculpted than the compact XT4 and midsize XT5 and considerably less bulky than the full-size, truck-based Escalade, the clean and angular XT6 carries itself in understated elegance. Working off the platform of the 5-passenger XT5, Cadillac designers stretched the body behind the rear wheels and literally raised the rear of the roof, making room for a modest-sized third-row seat for two passengers.

In the SUV space race, a larger box wins. The taller roof improves passenger space with the XT6’s third-row headroom beating that offered by other 3-row luxury SUVs such as the BMW X7. Third-row legroom is pretty decent as well with 29.5 inches of space, almost 5 inches more than available in the much larger regular-wheelbase Escalade but nearly 2 inches shy of that of Hyundai’s new 3-row flagship, the Palisade.

Aside from the squared-off shape, the XT6 is also identifiable by its slender horizontal LED headlamps that manage to give it a more refined look than the larger and more adventurous-looking vertical headlamps on XT4 and XT5.  

Inside, the understated elegance theme continues. There’s nothing that jumps out as ground-breaking design element, just a well-done cabin exercise that’s both attractive and soothing to the senses. The dash has a strong horizontal theme that sweeps into the doors. Thin windshield pillars, small A-pillar windows and pedestal-mounted side mirrors afford good visibility to the front and sides.

Cabin fitments in the Premium Luxury model include Black Olive Ash wood trim accents, while the Sport model is studded with carbon-fiber details. Moving up to the Platinum package optional on both trims adds softer semi-aniline covered seats and leather coverings for the doors, console and instrument panel.   

2020 Cadillac XT6 dashboard + front row seats photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Features and Controls

There really isn’t a base version of the XT6. The least expensive Premium Luxury trim comes with a high level of standard content. This includes first- and second-row leather seat coverings, power heated front seats with power lumbar adjustment, a 2-passenger third-row seat, a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel with power tilt and telescope functions, three-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams and six USB ports, two Type A ports for the Luddites among us and four of the new Type C ones.

Buyers can choose between a second-row split-folding bench or a pair of captain’s chairs. The second-row seats can be folded down remotely via a switch inside the cargo liftgate aperature. Access to the standard third row seating is made easier with a tip/pitch and slide feature for the second-row seats. Also standard is a power-folding third-row seat. An in-vehicle air ionizer, and adaptive remote start are options.

With both the second- and third-row seats folded flat, the XT6 offers a generous, but not segment-leading, 78.7 cubic feet of cargo space. That drops to 43.1 cu ft with just the third-row seat folded and a compact sedan’s trunk-sized 12.6 with all seats up. There’s additional hidden storage for purses, camera bags and a computer or two under the cargo floor.

The rear liftgate is power operated and its opening height can be adjusted to suit the height of the driver. Also available is a hand’s free liftgate that can be opened by waving a foot between the rear bumper and a projected Cadillac crest logo on the ground.

Optional are super-soft semi-aniline leather seat coverings, plus automatic heated and ventilated front seats and heated outboard second-row seats.

2020 Cadillac XT6 infotainment control photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Safety and Technology

In a move to improve the XT6’s consideration compared to some of its European branded rivals, Cadillac will make most of the XT6’s safety and driver-assistive systems standard, including front and rear parking assist, a forward collision alert, a backup camera with its own lens washer, a following distance indicator, a speed limiter, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, a haptic safety alert seat, front pedestrian and automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

Available options include adaptive cruise control, a rear camera mirror, a high-definition surround vision backup camera, a color head-up display, rear pedestrian alert, reverse automatic braking, and automatic parking assist with braking (you still need to steer and shift gears).  Smart towing with hitch guidance is also an option.

A new night vision system uses an infrared camera and displays an image in the instrument panel between the tachometer and speedometer. Driving around the monument section of the nation’s capital in mid-evening with the system turned on, it was reassuring to be able to see the system spot excited, statue-gazing tourists darting out between parked cars in the shadows and be able to slow down or give them wide berth.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has published crash safety ratings for the XT6 yet.

The Super Cruise hands-free smart cruise control system that debuted two years ago on the Cadillac CT6 flagship sedan and works on limited-access highways and interstates will come to the XT6 sometime after the 2020 model year.

On the smallish side compared to the screens in some luxury competitors, the XT6 features a standard 8-inch color touchscreen for the Cadillac User Experience infotainment system. New to the Cadillac lineup is an Audi-style console-mounted rotary controller for the infotainment screen with added jog functionality. First introduced in last year’s XT4, the rotary controller gives the driver another path to work with the infotainment system which also includes touchscreen, steering wheel and voice commands. Over-the-air vehicle software updates.

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 features standard 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 15-watt wireless charging, and NFC automatic pairing for Android phones.

The standard sound system is an 8-speaker AM/FM/SiriusXM-ready stereo with eight Bose speakers, but audiophiles will want to option up to the considerably richer-sounding Bose 14-speaker premium audio system.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Rear photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Driving Impressions

Both XT6 models are powered by General Motors’ proven 3.6-liter V6. The all-aluminum, direct-injected DOHC V6 delivers a peppy 310 horsepower and more-than-ample 271 lb-ft of torque. It’s a good all-around performer and the same basic powerplant that sees duty in everything from the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XT5 to the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. A well-sorted 9-speed automatic handles shifting duties seamlessly, providing a wide range of ratios for good response around town and on the highway. Cadillac claims a 0-60 mph trim of 6.9 seconds for the XT6.

Aiding fuel economy is an Active Fuel Management cylinder-deactivation system that idles two of the six cylinders under low-load cruising conditions and a stop/start system that shuts off the engine at stoplights and restarts automatically when the driver lifts a foot off the brake pedal. EPA estimates are 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined for the front-drive model and 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway/20 mpg combined for the XT6 with all-wheel drive. Unlike many of its European brand competitors, the XT6 runs less expensive unleaded regular fuel. During a half day in the AWD XT6 Sport, I saw an indicated 19.6 mpg average fuel economy, not bad for a luxury 6-passenger dealing with busy city traffic and extended periods idling for photo purposes. The front-drive Premium Luxury XT6 driven in the shorter afternoon session achieved 22.1 mpg in mostly highway driving.   

Quiet tuning is apparent, lowering background noise for easier in-car conversation. A Bose active noise cancellation system installed in all XT6 models uses the vehicle’s speakers to helps tame intrusive sounds.

Sport models get a quicker steering ratio, standard active damping and more aggressive throttle and shift maps. Also standard on Sport models is all-wheel drive with a dual-clutch rear differential that individually controls drive torque distribution to each rear wheel. Activate Sport mode and active yaw control uses drive torque to help reduce understeer and improve steering response in a turn.

Overall, the XT6 offers predictable and stable handling and precise steering with a modicum of road feel. Despite standard 20-inch wheels and available 21s, impact harshness over bumps, potholes and rough pavement is luxury-vehicle worthy, never punishing. It is, after all, a Cadillac.

On-demand selectable driving modes include Tour, Snow/Ice and Sport. AWD models add AWD (instead of Snow/Ice) and Off-Road modes.   

2020 Cadillac XT6 on the road photo
Photo: Ron Sessions

Conclusion

The XT6 isn’t going to raise the bar in the 3-row midsize luxury SUV segment or send competitors back to the drawing boards. Aside from night vision, there’s little content in the XT6 that buyers can’t find elsewhere in other luxury SUVs. But just having a credible car-based 3-row sport-utility with a strong menu of standard comfort and convenience features and a long list of safety and driver-assistive systems gives luxury buyers with growing families an attractive choice. Best of all, it’s a modestly handsome 3-row Cadillac SUV that will fit in the garage.

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