• Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review: 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Cadillac finally has its zig back

Evan Williams By: Evan Williams October 18, 2019


    • What's Good: Looks, interior, ride
    • What's Bad: Transmission, lower dash, bundling of options


It’s taken Cadillac a long time to figure out just what its place in the market is. Getting close to 40 years, depending on where you start with the company’s near-constant attempts at rebirth. But now, finally, it seems to have found itself. With offerings that find a blend of the company’s traditional luxury values with a bit more contemporary performance. The latest one is the company’s new big three-row crossover. The XT6.

Like the rest of its recent offerings, the XT6 is being broken out into two lines. Premium Luxury and Sport, and it’s pretty easy to tell the goal for each one of those trims. Cadillac hasn’t had a hard time with Luxury of late, but sport is a different story. Fortunately, we’re testing out the Sport version.

Sport trim, in Cadillac-speak, means more than just gloss black in place of dark chrome accents on the outside, the blacked-out taillights you’ll see when you walk around, and even more than the mesh grille. There are real attempts here to make this a more sporting crossover than its Premium Luxury stablemate: it also means an adaptive suspension system that makes this one of the better-damped big crossovers around.

Those dampers do the impressive job of eating up even the most massive of potholes and jagged bridge expansions (no small feat with these massive 20-inch alloys and enough sidewall you’re not afraid to drive over a crack in the pavement) while limiting body roll and managing to calm the worst dynamic behaviour of the three-row crossover: the heart in your throat feeling that comes with either suspension rebound from a dip or the feeling of being launched over a bump. That weightless feeling is the kind of behaviour that makes your passengers, especially those in the third row, feel carsick, and the XT6 should be a nice help if that’s an issue.

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

The steering too, is a pleasant surprise. There’s little in the way of feel, but what modern crossover does offer feel? Instead, there’s good weighting, a quick response when you ask the quicker rack of the Sport trim to change direction, and it’s easy to wrangle when you’re parking. Where the dynamics let you down are when you’re asking for lots of power with the steering wheel turned. Especially in situations where the angle of the pavement is changing.

Picture crossing the lane markings on a road while hard on the gas, like you’re passing another vehicle. There’s enough torque steer to start to make things way more interesting than they should be in a midsize crossover at normal speeds. It gets a bit hairy, is what I’m trying to say. Toggle AWD or the sport mode that enables AWD and things are just fine since power is quickly sent to the rear wheels, but the front-wheel only experience in those situations is a stark contrast to the rest of the Cadillac’s behaviour.

Since this is the Sport trim, that AWD system is an active twin-clutch system that uses electronics to send power to the places that make it more dynamic, not to just add grip in slippery situations. It’s not really the sort of thing you’ll notice in normal cornering, but it definitely tames the XT6’s handling as compared with the front-drive mode.

Under the sharp hood of the XT6 is GM’s corporate 3.6L V6. It delivers 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque in the same smooth fashion it does in the rest of the crossovers and sedans it’s put in. That 271 lb-ft converts to about 367 Newton-metres, which rounds up to 400 and gives the tailgate its badge. For the XT6, though, Cadillac wants it to sound more aggressive. Not necessarily louder, but more assertive because that’s what the company thinks buyers want. And yes, it does get a bit more of a grumble, especially noticeable as you wind it out to 7,000 rpm, a rev range the nine-speed automatic is surprisingly happy to approach, even if you’re not in sport mode. It’s never loud, since this is, after all, a Cadillac. That means there are loads of measures to keep things quiet in here, but there are some very pleasing noises underhood.

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

The nine-speed automatic, though, is not as assertive as the engine noise. In most situations, it was quick to shift up or down to choose a new gear ratio. Low-speeds were a different story, one where the XT6’s box got clunky and indecisive. Using the elegant-looking shiny metal shift paddles felt great, but didn’t elicit a particularly quick response either. It’s a common affliction to the 8+ speed automatic, but in this price range and in a Cadillac it’s much less acceptable than it would be in an economy car.

The inside of the XT6 is an impressive effort from Cadillac, especially when it’s equipped with the Platinum package like this one. A suede headliner in maple, with a matching strip of suede along the dashboard really sets it off. It’s enough to look more upscale than the trims that don’t have it, but it’s not so wide that it’s going to leave you with a matted and unpleasant mess before your lease runs out. Then there’s the wood. It’s real wood, with a beautiful grain structure and multiple colours on display. If that’s not to your liking, there are other choices, including more modern metals and the Sport’s carbon fibre with gold weave. Well, we said all-out, but there is one glaring stand-out: the plastic around the cubby below the climate control system buttons, where you’d drop your keys or wallet, and where the driver’s right knee hits, is not up to the standards of the rest of the interior. It’s downright cheap looking and feeling, something that’s amplified by the quality of the rest of the cabin.

Cadillac has loaded this crossover with tech, starting with the NFC feature that lets you quick-connect your smartphone via Bluetooth and the phone home that lets your phone charge wirelessly in a convenient storage nook under the leading edge of the armrest. It’s one of the best phone-spots in the business, though it does make it easy to forget your phone is there. There’s also an available night-vision camera mounted in the nose that displays through the dashboard display. The ability to pick out pedestrians and animals at a distance on a dark and rainy night is a delight, and it genuinely reduces the stress of driving in poor conditions. But, it’s expensive. The feature itself is only $2,300, but in order to get it you need to add a total of $13,680 in options.

Not that you won’t want those other options, since it includes the driver assistance package with adaptive cruise and enhanced automatic emergency braking, the enhanced visibility and tech package with the driver information center in the dash and the head-up display, and the Platinum Package with its upgraded leather seats, microfibre suede headliner and trim and the calico wood trim. It just seems expensive, though option out any of the German competitors to try and get a top-level feature and you’ll see this is just the way of the segment.

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

Review 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

In typical Cadillac fashion, there’s plenty of room in the XT6, and that’s something that applies not to just first and second-row passengers. Slide the middle row forward just a touch and there’s even room in the third row for passengers well over six-feet tall. Maybe not for an all-day drive, but certainly for a run to a show or home from the airport. Getting back there doesn’t require a contortionist either, thanks to the passenger middle seat that can tilt and slide forward for easier access.

With 2,228 L of space with every row folded, the XT6 has loads of room for your gear. The 356 L with all the seats in place is respectable as well, plus the XT6 will project a Cadillac crest on the ground as you approach the vehicle that shows you exactly where to kick for the hands-free tailgate to open for you.

Cadillac is continually updating its infotainment system and interfaces, and this latest one is one of the best around. That’s thanks to not just the underlying software for the 8.0-inch system that is smooth, intuitive, and responsive, but also because of the new control dial. It can jog in all directions, not just turn, making certain functions easier to complete. And if you don’t like the dial, use the touchscreen. If you don’t like the touchscreen, you can use the real buttons for the climate control system as well.

Buyers looking for a three-row luxury crossover might think about the Escalade and move away from Cadillac, ignoring this new model. That would be a mistake. The XT6 isn’t perfect, but it’s an appealing package for hauling around up to seven passengers or a whole lot of cargo.

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport

BODY STYLE: 5-door, 7-seat midsize crossover
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, All-wheel drive
ENGINE: 3.6L V6 (Power: 310 hp @ 6,600 rpm; Torque: 271 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular Gasoline in L/100 km) 13.5 city, 9.7 highway
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 10.2 L/100 km (mixed driving)
CARGO CAPACITY: 356 litres behind third row, 1,220 behind second row, 2,228 with all folded
PRICE: $63,798 (base); $81,228 (as-tested, includes $2,100 delivery charge)