On my way to Fogo Island, Newfoundland to test drive the all-new 2017 Cadillac XT5, the small plane I was flying in had to rise back up in the air after its initial landing attempt was foiled by caribous running across the strip. From the window, I took another opportunity to gaze at the beautiful landscape I would later be traversing behind the wheel of the compact luxury crossover.
When I finally exited the plane, I felt a sweet gust of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. Then I saw a convoy of bright-coloured, chrome-accented XT5s and couldn’t help but notice how they contrasted with the venerable rock formations proudly dispersed on the island.
Refined inside and out
The upscale Cadillac XT5 stands out with typical Caddy styling, looking modern, sleek, and sporty at the same time. Under the sheetmetal is a vastly improved architecture compared to the outgoing SRX. The new model rides on a 1” longer wheelbase and 2” wider tracks, which results in 3.2” of extra rear-seat legroom and about 3% more cargo room farther back.
The hands-free power liftgate opens up when you sweep your feet right below the rear bumper. My driving partner and I easily loaded our minimal gear, but we could have also fitted a standard hockey bag just as well. The sliding rear bench folds 40/20/40 in case you have much more cargo to haul.
The new dashboard design in the XT5 is a fresh departure from the previous cluttered layout. New processors make the brand’s CUE infotainment system a lot quicker to respond to input. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both compatible, and the centre stack retains only a trio of physical controls (that could be improved, by the way).
Let’s get the Cadillac XT5 going!
When my turn came to sit behind the wheel of the 2017 Cadillac XT5, I started adjusting my seat and the steering wheel, but soon found out that the power tilt and telescoping steering column has limited travel. I pushed the button with more conviction, but it wouldn’t move any closer to me. Oh well. The front seats sure are comfortable and very supportive, and the various controls on the steering wheel are now clearer and easier to access.
The new XT5 features a new 8-speed automatic transmission with a ZF-style gear selector like those found in Chrysler products, for example. Its operation is similar, except for shifting into reverse which demands some getting used to. I caught some of my fellow auto journalists repeatedly voicing the procedure out loud to help themselves out.
After just a few minutes, it became evident how the 2017 Cadillac XT5 is lighter and more nimble than its predecessor. It lost 300 lbs in large part thanks to a new modular architecture in high-strength steel that also considerably reduces body roll in corners while leaving the vehicle’s capacities unaffected. Called “C1XX,” this platform will be stretched for the all-new 2017 GMC Acadia and the rumoured 2018 Chevy Trailblazer and Buick Enspire.
I just loved attacking the winding roads of Fogo Island in the Cadillac XT5, cradled by the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Steering is very driver-friendly, almost as light as the Audi Q5’s. The new chassis utilizes a Continuous Damping Control system that adjusts suspension settings in real time, while the 20” Michelin tires seem to devour every inch of pavement in corners. I also liked the innovative digital rear-view mirror that increases visibility by 300%, day or night.
You should know that these premium features are exclusive to the top-of-the-line XT5 Platinum starting at $68,595. Other trim levels get a fully independent suspension connected to 18” wheels, a Bose audio system, and a conventional rear-view mirror.
Except for the base model, which is available in front-wheel drive configuration only, all 2017 Cadillac XT5 models offer all-wheel drive, although the Luxury model requires a $2,870 extra. It’s a new AWD system developed by General Motors together with GKN Driveline. The most interesting addition is a dual-clutch rear differential that can not only send 100% of available torque to either the front or rear axle, but also up to 100% to either rear wheel, maximizing grip when you need it most, delivering a RWD feel in Sport mode, and contributing to better fuel economy when the driver disengages the rear axle.
Not quite properly motivated
The 3.6L V6, shared with the new Cadillac CT6 flagship sedan, was completely revised and fitted with new solutions to improve efficiency, such as Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation technology. However, my AWD-equipped tester averaged nearly 12L/100km, which was disappointing. No doubt the 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo, available in other markets including China, would have proven less thirsty, although likely at the expense of the 3,500lb towing capacity.
Unsurprisingly, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 seemed to struggle a bit when heavily pushed. Hammer the throttle from any cruising speed, and the engine must reactivate the two idling cylinders while the transmission sometimes needs to downshift up to five gears. Ultimately, you have 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque at your disposal. It’s a shame the engine sounds so dull, though. If you crave performance and auditory thrills, you’d better turn to German or British competitors.
Summing up the XT5
The all-new 2017 Cadillac XT5 certainly delighted me with nimble handling, classy interior appointments, and numerous innovations. On the other hand, it didn’t feel that powerful, and towing capacity is average at best.
As you can see, I’m not totally sold on the XT5, but future owners will find many ways to like it, I’m sure.