by Gerhard Horn
The Cadillac XT5 has done wonders for the brand. It took the carmaker a while to introduce a vehicle in the luxury crossover segment, but it went flying off the shelves once it did. Since 2017, the XT5 SUV has been the best-selling Cadillac. That being said, the Caddy doesn't compete with its siblings but rather the oversaturated midsize and compact crossover segments. Sitting somewhere in between, Cadillac probably thought the new XT5 would have a little niche all to itself. Unfortunately, being stuck in the middle, wearing a premium badge, it faces twice as many rivals. With competitors like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, the XT5 is fighting an uphill battle. Both have lower entry-level prices, and if we glance at the 2020 sales figures, we can see that the US market is not as patriotic as one might think, with both German brands selling more than Cadillac in 2020.
Cadillac deserves some praise for continually updating its vehicles to keep them competitive. Last year it introduced a new engine and an all-new nine-speed gearbox. This year, it includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in Alexa function, 20-inch alloys for the top-spec Sport, and three new exterior colors. Other upgrades include a better digital display in the instrument cluster and a higher definition camera for the rearview camera system. Later on in the year, Cadillac will also add more advanced driver-assistance features, like night vision.
See trim levels and configurations:
Cadillac has a striking design language at the moment, which translates to handsome sedans and crossovers/SUVs. The XT5 is immediately identifiable as a Caddy thanks to the signature headlights, which are LED across the range. The taillights are LED as well, as are the daytime running lights. Premium and Luxury models come with additional metallic accents and brushed aluminum roof rails, while the Sport trim gets black roof rails. All models get a power tailgate, while the two upper-trim models add a hands-free system. The standard rims are 18-inch alloys, with the Sport featuring a set of 20s.
The Caddy's overall length is 189.6 inches, while the wheelbase is 112.5 inches. It stands 66.1 inches tall and 74.9 inches wide, excluding the mirrors. The lightest XT5 weighs in at just under 4,000 pounds - 3,915 lbs to be exact. The heaviest model is the Sport with all-wheel-drive, tipping the scales at 4,338 lbs. A BMW X3 sDrive 30i weighs 3,931 pounds, while a similar Audi Q5 weighs 4,079 lbs.2
There are eight colors available for the Caddy XT5. There's no need to upgrade to a higher spec to get a specific color, as all colors are available across the range. Satin Steel metallic is the only no-cost option, and the five metallic hues are $625 extra. Metallic colors include Stellar Black, Shadow, Garnet, Dark Moon Blue, and Wilder. There are two further options costing $1,225: Crystal White Tricoat and Infrared Tintcoat, both of which look particularly striking in images.
Last year, Cadillac finally joined the modern world, adding a small-capacity turbocharged engine to the existing naturally-aspirated V6. It's available in both front- and all-wheel-drive. The V6's performance was already underwhelming, so the smaller engine was unlikely to provide proper fireworks. Acceleration isn't impressive; Cadillac doesn't even offer claimed acceleration figures.
The V6 produces 310 horsepower, while the turbocharged four-pot delivers 235 hp. Independent tests have shown that the V6 makes the 0-60 mph sprint in a modest 6.5 seconds. Audi claims 5.9 for the Q5, while the four-cylinder turbocharged X3 will do it in six seconds flat. Comparing apples to apples, the six-cylinder BMW will sprint to 60 mph in less than five.
The Cadillac XT5 SUV also fails to impress with its limited towing capacity. The BMW can tow 4,400 lbs, while the Caddy can only manage 3,500 lbs.
Two engine options are available. Caddy's turbocharged four-pot produces 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The older, naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 delivers 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque. The small engine is the only engine option for entry-level Luxury, while the mid-spec Premium Luxury is available with both. With a Sport badge attached to it, the top-spec model is only available with the V6 and all-wheel-drive. All models use a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The four-cylinder turbocharged engine's power outputs are on par within the segment, and the weight differences between it and competitors are negligible. With that in mind, the Cadillac should deliver similar performance to its German rivals, but it just doesn't. The main problem is the gearbox, which is tuned for fuel economy rather than performance. It lacks the urgency of the Germans' eight-speed boxes, taking a split-second longer to kick down.
Still, both engines are perfectly fine around town, but the 3.6-liter is much better at merging with the freeway and overtaking. Neither engine likes being pushed hard, with the V6 sounding particularly stressed and unrefined at higher revs.
The Cadillac is quite agile for what it is. It's happy on a winding road but not especially pleased when you chuck it into a corner. That's pretty par for the course in this segment, with the BMW X3 being the only exception to the rule. The semi-adequate engines also don't deliver the kind of performance that would lead you to push on anyway, so the Caddy is best enjoyed at a moderate pace.
The steering starts off light and gains weight as you speed up, but it doesn't provide any sort of feedback. That's to be expected in this segment, though. The brakes inspire confidence and are easy to modulate in all driving situations.
As for ride comfort, the XT5 is above par. With an independent suspension tuned for ease rather than speed, it takes some severe undulations to upset the ride quality. The Sport model has an adaptive suspension as standard, but not for sporty driving. We reckon Caddy chose to include it as standard to offset the impact of the standard 20-inch wheels. The sound dampening isn't great, with wind and road noise being constant companions on every journey.
The turbocharged four-pot XT5 delivers an EPA-estimate of 22/29/24 miles per gallon city/highway/combined. Add two cylinders and remove the turbo, and it will deliver 18/26/21 mpg in all-wheel-drive guise. In comparison, the rear-wheel-drive BMW X3 sDrive 30i delivers 25/29/27 mpg, while the all-wheel-drive six-cylinder M40i can theoretically do 21/27/23 mpg. The XT5 is not a class leader in this segment, but you get a decent-sized fuel tank on both models. A 19.4-gallon tank is standard on FWD models, while AWD models get a larger 21.7-gallon tank. The XT5 with the best gas mileage can do an impressive 466 miles between refills, while the AWD with a larger gas tank can do 499 miles.
Cadillac's high pricing starts to make a lot more sense once you take a closer look at the interior. Not only is it spacious, but Caddy includes a lot of standard features from the base model upwards. The seats are incredibly comfortable, but we think the most significant secret lies with luxury features siphoning down to the entry-level car. When it was launched, the base XT5 was a bit mediocre specification-wise. But over the years, Cadillac kept adding more to it, with the highlight this year being the wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The high-res infotainment is also easy to understand.
The interior is also high-quality and features some excellent design elements. We like the steering wheel's look, as it's a nice blend of modern leather and buttons with an attractive old-school wooden strip running underneath it.
The cabin is large enough to seat five adults, with the only drawback being the sloping roofline. Even so, rear headroom is acceptable at 38.4 inches without a sunroof, and 36.6 with one. Front headroom is 39.7 inches, similarly dropping to 37.9 inches with a sunroof. The XT5 excels in the legroom department, with front passengers getting 41.2 inches and rear passengers getting 39 inches.
Six-way heated and power-adjustable seats are standard in the base model, upgrading eight-way power adjustment in the Premium Luxury and Sport. The C-pillars create large blind spots, and, sadly, blind-spot monitoring is not standard fitment on the base model.
The base Luxury model only has one leatherette option: Jet Black. The Premium Luxury and Sport, however get leather upholstery with mini-perforated inserts, available in Jet Black, Cirrus, or Sedona Sauvage. The latter is not available on the Sport trim. Konda Brown Sauvage will cost you $1,445 extra, though. Jet Black and Maple Sugar semi-aniline leather seats with Chevron inserts are available as a no-cost extra, but you have to opt for optional packages to get them. The available trims include titanium, carbon fiber, aluminum, and a selection of wood trims.
The Cadillac manages to outclass most of its rivals in this department, offering 30 cubic feet of storage space with all seats in place. That's ample space for the daily grind, as well as the monthly grocery shop or a week away with the family. If you need more space, the rear seats can be folded down, which more than doubles the cargo space to 63 cubes. Interior storage includes the obligatory center armrest bin, a small storage space next to the shifter, four cupholders, and a glove compartment.
From the base model upwards, Cadillac includes a lot of standard features. Driver assistance features include basic cruise control, a teen driver system, forward collision avoidance, lane keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a high-definition rearview camera. The standard luxury item list is seriously impressive, consisting of an eight-way power driver's seat (six-way for passenger), heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, remote engine start, keyless entry and ignition, and power adjustment tilt-and-telescoping steering column.
The Premium Luxury trim adds a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power sunroof, and a hands-free power liftgate. In terms of safety, it adds lane-change alert, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The XT5 comes as standard with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with an HD display. This is still on the small side compared to some rivals, but the high-definition display and intuitive interface make it easy to use. It now supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Alexa. In addition to all of that, you also get Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM, and the ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. Premium Luxury and Sport models can add navigation. Four USB ports are standard, while the Premium Luxury adds a wireless charging pad, which has also been upgraded for faster charging.
An eight-speaker Bose sound system is standard, but a 14-speaker Bose system is available. You can add a rear entertainment system consisting of two eight-inch screens and headphones if you have little ones.
The 2021 Cadillac XT5 received 82 out of a possible 100 points in the J.D. Power survey. Owners were particularly impressed with the dealership experience, which scored 86 points from their reviews. Caddy's XT5 wasn't recalled in 2019 but there were three recalls in 2020. So far, one recall has been issued for 2021 concerning over-cured tires that may break in the sidewall. The issues for 2020 included possibly overcured tires, an insufficient fuel supply to the fuel pump's jet nozzle, and a roof rail airbag that may not deploy.
Each new 2021 Cadillac XT5 SUV sold in the USA gets a 48-month/50,000-mile limited warranty and a 72-month/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
In its review of the Cadillac XT5, the NHTSA gave it an overall safety rating of five stars. Only the rollover crash test received a slightly lower score of four stars. The IIHS gave the 2021 a rating of Good in all categories, aside from the headlights, which scored a Marginal.
The Cadillac comes standard with ABS, traction and stability control, seven airbags, an HD rearview camera, and front and rear park assist. The driver-assistance features include forward collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and a teen driver system. Higher-spec models feature blind-spot monitoring, lane change alert, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display, and a surround-view camera system. Optional packages can also include niceties like night vision.
Cadillac entered the crossover segment a bit late, but this gave the automaker time to survey the territory properly. Instead of following the same formula as every other car, the XT5 is a little bigger so that it can include everything you need as standard.
The larger dimensions allow for more passenger and luggage space when compared to compact crossovers, while the quality materials give it an upmarket vibe. However, it has to be said that some shoddy materials are noticeable upon closer inspection.
The base model comes with a lot of features. Looking at the standard-spec, we wonder why it's even worth having other models in the range. It's only problem is the somewhat lethargic turbocharged four-pot engine. Still, if you want something to cruise in, the smaller engine should suffice.
It has a higher starting price than its German rivals, but it's easy to see why when making a spec-for-spec comparison. The Caddy comes with several features that some German manufacturers charge extra for. Caddy fans will undoubtedly continue to purchase this car, and it's worth stating that it's nearly as good as the European rivals. It's still not 100% there, but closer than ever before.
The base Luxury model carries an MSRP of $43,995. The Premium Luxury model with the four-cylinder engine retails for $48,795, while the V6 costs precisely the same. Adding a four-wheel-drive system is an additional $2,000. The top-spec Sport with AWD included as standard has an MSRP of $55,095. These prices for the 2021 Cadillac XT5 exclude the $995 destination charge.
The Cadillac XT5 is available in three trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport. The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder developing 235 hp and 258 lb-ft. The older, well-known 3.6-liter delivers 310 hp and 271 lb-ft. Both engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic, with FWD being the standard setup. AWD is an optional extra on all but the Sport model. The Premium Luxury is available with both engines, while the Sport is only available with the V6.
The base model gets 18-inch alloys, forward collision avoidance with automatic braking, lane departure warning, front and rear park assists, and an HD rearview camera. On the inside, it boasts an eight-way power driver's seat, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, leatherette seats, an eight-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an eight-inch Bose sound system.
The Premium Luxury adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change alert. A heated leather steering wheel, a power sunroof, and a hands-free power liftgate are also standard.
The Sport trim is more of a style upgrade since it adds 20-inch alloy wheels, black exterior trimmings, and model-specific badges. AWD is standard, and adaptive damping is also included.
The base XT5 vehicle can only be ordered with a few packages that help with illumination and cargo storage, while the Premium Luxury gains access to the $4,850 Platinum Package. This adds the semi-aniline leather seats with Chevron perforated inserts, chassis damping control, a performance suspension, and a leather-wrapped instrument panel, console, and door trim, to name just a few.
The $2,275 Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package includes an eight-inch display in the instrument cluster, a washer for the rear camera, surround-view camera system, rear pedestrian alert, and automatic parking assist. The $1,300 Driver Assist Package adds adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic emergency braking, reverse automatic braking, and automatic seat belt-tightening. All three packages are available on the Sport, but the Platinum Package only costs $3,650 since this particular model is already equipped with some of the features as standard.
For once, the best model in the line-up is the base. We may refer to it as base or entry-level, but it's far from. The Luxury comes with all the gadgets and gizmos you could need, now including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has just enough driver-assistance features to get by. The only downside is that it's only available with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and not the more powerful naturally aspirated V6. Upgrading to the Premium Luxury to get the V6 will cost an additional $5,000, and, frankly, for that kind of money, we'd stretch the budget a bit and rather buy a six-cylinder German SUV.
Audi's Q5 is a highly accomplished SUV. The only fundamental flaws are the smaller trunk and the generic Audi styling. Still, 25.1 cubes is more than enough for a compact SUV.
Every Q5 comes standard with Audi's quattro AWD system and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Its engine produces 248 hp, but the entire drivetrain works in perfect harmony. The less powerful Audi is surprisingly faster than the V6 XT5.
The Audi also matches the Cadillac when it comes to standard luxury and driver-assistance levels and comfortably beats it for interior quality. The Audi's engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission combo are also more efficient, which is the final nail in the coffin as far as we're concerned. The Audi is not just a better car, but better value as well.
The XT4's review reads the same as the XT5's. It's just a size smaller and fits perfectly into the compact SUV class. Unlike the XT5, it's not available with the more powerful V6 engine, but the turbocharged four-pot feels more capable thanks to a lower overall weight.
Caddy is also incredibly generous with the XT4's standard specification. It may look like a better deal than the XT5 but it suffers from the same problem as its big brother. The competition is simply too intense, and both Caddies are rather mediocre. Cadillac's XT4 has it even tougher, as there are even more rivals to consider.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Cadillac XT5: