It happened during the media preview of the 2019 Los Angeles International Auto Show at Cadillac’s booth. I examined the 2020 Cadillac XT6, the new three-row car-based crossover that fits under the Escalade, which uses the Chevrolet Suburban’s body-on-frame platform, and above the two-row XT5, which a car-based crossover architecture. The design tames the brand’s aggressive styling with mixed results.
The front, clearly inspired by the Escala concept, is beautiful and quite memorable. But as I walked to the rear, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that Cadillac is ditching the vertical taillights, a signature styling element that’s been a brand signature since the 1960s. Even worse, the rear three-quarter view resembles a Kia Telluride.
Like many crossovers, the XT6 is offered in Premium Luxury and Sport models. Front-wheel drive is standard on the former; four-wheel drive is a $2,000 option and standard on the Sport. Critically, the XT6 uses the XT5 platform instead of the C1XX platform used for the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. Being shorter than its three-row GM cousins reduces the XT6’s payload capacity. In fact, with all three rows in use, there is less than 13 cubic feet. Cadillac also uses the same 310-horsepower V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission used in the lower-cost offering, rather than installing a more powerful alternative. Here we again see the cheap nature of GM product development rear its ugly head.
The XT6 offers some nice design details, such as semi-aniline leather, a suede headlining and real carbon fiber upholstery, which you would expect given the price. I appreciated that the designers moved the central air conditioning vents away from the driver’s right hand, not to mention the standard power-folding seats in the third row, remote-folding seats in the second row, and an electric operable lifting gate that makes loading the XT6 easy. The luxurious simplicity of the instrument panel is particularly welcome, with a center-mounted 8-inch touchscreen supported by a row of easy-to-use climate control buttons. The screen is complemented by a rotary knob on the center console, which can also be used to operate the screen. And there are two USB ports in each row.
However, most of the XT6’s tech package is optional, including night vision, wireless charging, surround vision camera, surround vision recorder, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a head-up display. . And you have to wonder who decided that there should be no lock on the lid of the center console. This allows it to constantly pop up and down, with bigger bumps causing it to fly fully open. Finally, passengers complained about the seating comfort, which is firm on the park bench. This is a luxury SUV, not a race car.
Nevertheless, the cabin is quiet, with the V-6 and nine-speed automatic proving to be an impressively smooth combination that makes it easy to drive smoothly, provided you don’t ask for more power. While there’s plenty of muscle in most cases, the XT6 lacks the effortless authority you’d expect from a luxury vehicle. So maybe it’s a good thing the XT6’s large windows offer unobstructed views in all directions.
If you opt for an XT6, switch to the Sport model, which includes Continuous Damping Control. It provides a more controlled ride and impressive shock isolation. It also has a dual-clutch four-wheel drive that provides better cornering control.
Surprisingly, the XT6 isn’t offered with Super Cruise, Cadillac’s hands-free driving system, although Forward Collision Warning, Intersecting Traffic Warning and Lane Departure Warning are standard.
While the XT6 offers a very comfortable ride and precise handling, it’s nowhere near as luxurious or as well-executed as the new Lincoln Aviator, which offers more power, a hybrid variant and a much nicer cabin, not to mention rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Where the Aviator feels indulgent and special, the XT6 doesn’t.