First Drive: 2020 Cadillac XT6 by Evan Williams July 29, 2019August 8, 2019 Share Comments It wasn’t the first time I had seen the Cadillac XT6. I’d seen plenty of it in photos, but I had also seen it in the metal more on more than one occasion. But this time, I saw a trio of them. In traffic. In Sport trim with dark pewter paint. No longer did I see a big SUV that departed from the elegance that was the CTS and the XT4 with their swooping lines and big boomerang headlights for no good reason. Well, I did still see that departure, but there was more of a reason. Presence. It’s hard to give a vehicle presence without context. And there is very little context to be had when a vehicle is sitting under the bright lights of a reveal event. Surrounded by glare, masses of reporters, and walls designed to be miles away and unnoticed. Put the XT6 in traffic, surrounded by the blobs that are so many modern crossovers and tall sedans, and this stands out. If that was the goal, then mission accomplished. Even in a city where dark SUVs with blacked-out windows and ominous-looking drivers are the norm, the XT6 demands attention. From any view that lets you see even a sliver of the nose, then there is no mistaking the XT6 for any other SUV. This isn’t the last generation of Cadillacs, but that presence makes the XT6 unmistakeably of the brand. The styling makes a big promise, but can the rest of this crossover deliver? It’s a new entry for Cadillac, and the automaker says that this fills their SUV and crossover lineup. From the compact XT4 to the Iowa-class battleship that is the Escalade ESV. This one’s just under the Escalade, though it’s really a big jump from one to the other. Not just in price, but in size and the amount of truck-like you’re willing to accept in your luxury ride. This one’s firmly a crossover. Based on a version of the platform that underpins the smaller XT5 but also the even larger Buick Enclave. That means the engine option is GM’s familiar 3.6L V6. 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque on offer, with an engine that’s more than happy to rev past 7,000 rpm. Cadillac says that in this trucklet the engine’s tuned for a more aggressive, more sporting noise. Probably infuriating the engineers who implemented the extensive sound-deadening measures on the rest of the XT6 that include hush panels, dash mats on both sides, hinge pillar changes, new window seals, a spare tire insulator… you get the point. And the engine does remain quiet but with a bit more growl than in other models. Not much, mind you. Cadillac says buyers want a “powerful powertrain sound” but they don’t want all that much of it. The nine-speed auto gets shorter steps between gears and Cadillac says it was a wider spread of ratios. Like in the rest of the applications for this box, it’s just about invisible. Especially by 8+ speed gearbox standards. Quick to grab gears, eager to hold them, and only rarely succumbing to the low-speed yield-sign clunk that gets all but the best boxes. Cadillac has taken two tacks with the drive of the XT6. There’s the Premium Luxury trim and there’s the Sport. Premium Luxury gets what Caddy calls a traditional steering rack ratio. The Sport is quicker, needing fewer turns to hit lock. Sport comes standard with adaptive damping, set up for a more sporting ride. Premium Luxury gets a conventional suspension standard, set up to be softer. Even the optional active damping is set up softer here. On the road, you can feel that softness. It’s not old-school floaty, but it’s definitely a bit more squirmy than Sport. The Sport version is never too far to the stiff side, but it shows visibly less body motion on the road. The Sport also gets a heavy-duty cooling system as standard, in case you’re planning on taking seven passengers to a track-day or some such foolishness. Inside, this is much more typical modern Cadillac. That’s a compliment. The 8.0-inch touchscreen with the brand’s latest interface sits in a wide and simple dashboard. With a range of woods and the gold-thread carbon fibre-look weave making this an elegant ride. There are soft-touch and premium materials, with Platinum trim even getting a swath of suede running between the face and the top of the dash. Which makes the small cubby under the easy to use climate control buttons a bit of a disappointment. With everything else going on in here, that bit of fake-stitched plastic looks downright cheap. With the new Cadillac shifter and infotainment rotary control knob with the new jog function right below it and making it easier to use than before, that one bit is a bit of a sore thumb. The XT6 also gets Cadillac’s now trademark phone house directly in front of the center armrest with cleverly routed channels to make it easy to plug your phone in and then remove it. It’s a spacious cabin, but that’s a given in something this size. The front and middle rows have loads of space. Then I asked one of the engineers, incidentally the tallest one there, how large of a passenger the third row was meant to hold. He said it would hold both of us. With our average height somewhere just shy of six-foot-six, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t raise an eyebrow. So we both walked up to the nearest XT6, slid forward the easy access passenger middle seat and hopped in. It was more comfortable than some compact hatches I’ve shared recently, but we had the middle seat far enough forward I’m not sure I’d have fit in that row. Still, it’s a surprisingly usable third row for this class, one that most passengers would be perfectly comfortable in for medium-length drives. Like any modern luxury crossover, it’s loaded with high tech stuff. A rear camera with washer jet is standard along with collision alert, low-speed auto braking, pedestrian braking, park assist, lane change and blind spot alerts, lane-keeping, and even rear cross traffic. Tick some boxes and get a rear camera mirror, forward and reverse auto braking, adaptive cruise, surround-view, and even Cadillac’s cool night vision that spots pedestrians and animals on dark roads. Cadillac expects this one to add a healthy dose of volume to its sales. They’re namedropping competitors like Acura and Infiniti, but this one’s sitting in a bit of a strange spot. It’s more expensive than those (because it’s more nicely finished, larger, and better equipped), but is well under a comparable Audi Q7 or Mercedes-Benz GLE. With great space, great presence, and a very well-appointed cabin (except for that one little cubby), this should definitely attract buyers who maybe hadn’t thought about Cadillac in a long time. The 2020 Cadillac XT6 is available now, starting from $53,690 if you want a front-driver. All-wheel drive starts at $55,690 for Premium Luxury or $58,090 for Sport. For Canadian buyers, that’s $60,998 for a Premium Luxury with AWD or $63,798 for Sport.