Early Prototypes Key to Improving the Cadillac XT4’s Quality

The fresh-faced XT4 should be a welcome addition to the Cadillac lineup, but this compact luxury crossover is newer than you might realize, something that could spell trouble.

It’s relatively rare for automakers to completely overhaul a vehicle. Often what happens is they’ll introduce a brand-new architecture but stick with tried-and-true powertrains. The exact opposite is also true; a new engine or transmission will hit the market in an existing vehicle. But bucking this trend, the XT4 rides atop a supposedly brand-new platform and is powered by an engine that is a clean-sheet design.

Maintaining high vehicle quality is always difficult, but it’s even more problematic when everything’s new and relatively unproven. Ensuring this small Cadillac launches smoothly rests on the shoulders of Todd Pawlik, XT4 chief engineer.

One of the most important changes they made during this program was to get prototype models out in the wild much sooner. “We used to refrain from putting drivers into camouflaged vehicles,” explained Pawlik. They’re easy prey for spy photographers and on top of that, competitors can learn what products an automaker is working on before they’re publicly revealed. Jettisoning these concerns, “I was driving a camouflaged vehicle as my personal vehicle six months earlier than I had in the past,” noted Pawlik.

This strategy shift should have allowed engineers quash more of the issues that pop up during the product-development process, things like electronic gremlins and squeak-and-rattle issues, because no amount of computer simulation or laboratory testing can replace real-world use.

In addition to getting prototypes on the road sooner, Pawlik explained, “We also had our suppliers onboard earlier than traditionally.” This allowed them more time to assist in ironing out the issues that inevitably crop up.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 looks like a promising entry in the burgeoning compact luxury utility vehicle segment. At least according to Pawlik, its quality should also be high. “I’m very comfortable [with it],” he said. “We would not ship if we’re not hitting quality objectives.”

a version of this article first appeared on AutoGuide

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