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2017 Cadillac XT5 First Drive

All across the country sedan sales are shrinking while crossover and SUV numbers continue to swell. It only makes sense, then, that the next stage in Cadillac's evolution would focus on expanding its lineup of people movers in a bid to catch up with the current luxury zeitgeist. 

Hot on the heels of a full portfolio of four-doors, the all-new 2017 Cadillac XT5 presents the leading edge of a strategy that will see the premium brand's showrooms grow with utility-focused models over the course of the next few years.

Make no mistake: The XT5 is no placeholder for Cadillac. Instead, it's a full-fledged challenger to segment leaders like the Lexus RX 350, Acura RDX, and Audi Q5 ― a daily commuter for the plush set that leverages the latest in driver technologies and design techniques in an attempt to dramatically refresh Cadillac's image in the mid-size arena. 

I had the chance to drive the 2017 Cadillac XT5 through the canyons surrounding Julian, California, an experience that revealed just how serious this crossover is about unseating the current co-holders of the luxury crown.

Right-sized, light-sized
The Escalade gets all the ink, but the smaller SRX crossover has been doing a lot of heavy lifting for Cadillac over the past several years. Recognizing the need for an all-new effort to replace the popular but aging SRX, Cadillac elected to go with a clean-sheet design that could build on its latest manufacturing techniques and drivetrain efficiencies.

The end result is impressive. Not only is the 2017 Cadillac XT5 lighter than the vehicle it replaces and several of its competitors, but it also expands on interior room (especially in the rear thanks to a significantly stretched wheelbase), all without increasing its exterior proportions to any great degree. The use of low-mass materials has helped make the XT5 more nimble than its predecessor, and of course it also explains the crossover's improved fuel mileage (which now stands at 12.1L/100km in the city and 8.6L/100km on the highway).

All the right angles
Starting from scratch allowed the 2017 Cadillac XT5 to hew closer to the automaker's corporate design cues, creating a first impression that is unmistakably tied to the rest of its stable mates. Rather than aping the stentorian styling of the full-size Escalade, the XT5 presents a broad, yet classy front fascia dominated by a large chrome grille with Cadillac's now-trademark LED lighting accents on each side. 

Along the flanks a sinuous crease rises from just below the side mirror to join the rear fender flare, while upright, but not blocky surfaces make a strong impression without dominating the conversation. The XT5's classic silhouette and lack of garish ornaments give it a leg-up over busier sheetmetal like that worn by the RX 350, while also standing out alongside more anonymous designs such as the RDX.

The strength-through-simplicity mantra is repeated throughout the Cadillac XT5's cabin. Clean lines and a smooth dashboard presentation gather most vehicle controls in around the do-everything CUE infotainment touchscreen (with the climate system sitting just below). Instead of tacking on touchpads or scores of buttons, Cadillac preferred to let the genuine wood and leather trim inserts speak the loudest. The interior feels bright and airy thanks to the additional shoulder and head room over the outgoing SRX, as well as the available panoramic sunroof.

Revised V6
Under the hood the 2017 Cadillac XT5 is the same 3.6L V6 engine, only it's one that's been significantly improved in an effort to reduce fuel consumption. Specifically, the unit now features cylinder deactivation technology (that allows it to cruise on four pots under light load) and automatic start/stop. Output rises to 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque, numbers that keep the XT5 competitive with the majority of its luxury rivals, but translate into only modest acceleration and passing power.

Of course, when paired with the new 8-speed automatic transmission, most buyers won't be concerned with 0-100 km/h times as they'll be too busy appreciating the smooth torque delivery offered by the gearbox. All-wheel drive is optional with the XT5 in the form of a redesigned, on-demand system that actually disengages the rear wheels during normal driving. Extra traction becomes available instantaneously should any spin be detected up front, while drivers also have the ability to lock in a more aggressive power split via the “AWD” and “Sport” driving modes.

Cadillac's best crossover to date
The 2017 Cadillac XT5 is the most complete crossover to have ever worn the crest. With a ride that's remarkably quiet and composed, confident handling, and just enough power, the XT5 provides exactly the right combination of characteristics to appeal to commuter-seeking luxury customers. This is even truer when factoring in its top-notch interior trimmings, practical cargo and passenger room, and long list of available safety features.

Sure, I could do without Cadillac's new rear camera mirror, a fussy piece of video technology that will unfortunately be knocked out of commission by the first snowstorm it encounters. Plus, the electronic shifter on the centre console feels clunkier than a traditional mechanical unit. That aside, the XT5 avoids much of the in-your-face gimmickry we find in opponents like the Lexus RX 350, while simultaneously making a stronger statement than the Acura RDX when it comes to style and grace.

Canadians have long loved the SRX, and it seems likely that the cult of adoration will continue for the XT5. Even more important for Cadillac, however, is the opportunity that this new family hauler offers to jump past the competition and take a turn leading the sales charts. The gap between the SRX and the best-selling Audi Q5 has always been a narrow one, and once the Cadillac XT5 goes on sale (starting at $45,100), it looks like it could shrink all the way to nil.

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2017 Cadillac XT5
cadillac xt5 2017
2017 Cadillac XT5
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