XT5 wins Cadillac alpha-numeric quiz

May 15, 2020 by
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

XT5 wins Cadillac’s alpha-numeric quiz

Cadillac made the XT5 a full 7 inches longer than the XRS it replaced and used the extra room for the comfort of rear-seat occupants.
By John Gilbert
Maybe Cadillac is planning to give us all a quiz. Line up all the luxury car buyers and see if they can identify and distinguish from the names alone an ATS, CTS,  XT4, XT6,  CT6, XTS, XRS, and an XT5.

Then ask which are SUVs, which are cars, and which are a combination combining the station wagon of the old days, the crossover SUVs so popular today, and the luxury sedan that we used to know and love.

The surprise is still to come, when you roll out an actual XT5.

I recently road-tested the new XT5 for a Coronavirus Pandemic week of social distancing on the streets around Duluth, Minnesota, and it caught me my surprise. I’ve driven several Cadillac models, as General Motors’ elite brand tries to pull itself up to compete with the best luxury vehicles from Germany, Japan, the UK, and even Korea.

But I am a purist for type-face fonts. I absolutely hate the futuristic font on the Minnesota Vikings uniform numbers, with serifs jutting up, looming down, or melting off the edges, everywhere. I want to be able to distinguish the numbers at a glance, so make the uniform numbers as simple and straightforward as you want — maybe making them italic if you want to get daring. The numeral 5, for example, should have the top horizontal bar end, just end. If you put a serif on the tip of it, now at a glance you have no idea whether it’s an "S" or a "5."

That being imbedded in my brain, when I saw I was going to get an XT5 for a test, I was certain it was going to be an XTS — which I’ve driven, but is always pleasant to drive.

Then Cadillac scored an “Aha" moment on me when the vehicle showed up as a quite sleek, station-wagon-wannabe, with nice lines and the dramatic grille Cadillac has featured recently. When I pulled out the equipment sticker, it said “2020 XT5 Sport AWD.”

No serifs, so the 5 is a 5 is a 5, as it were. I had driven an XT4, which is similar and powered by a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder. And I’d driven an XT6, which came with a 4, a V6, a V8, and turbo versions of most. I had to do a little research on the XT5 Sport. And then I figured the heck with it — let’s drive!

Impressive interior, high-tech switchgear, comfortable bucket seats, in white leather, thank you, and only a requisite few minutes to make sure I realized how the shifter works.

With all the LED lights and accent lights and ambient identifying lights on the roadway below your doors and tailgate at night, the XT5 certainly signals when it arrives or departs or stops to let you in or out. A panoramic sunroof covers both front and back buckets, and the storage area in back has a neat, sliding aluminum barrier that you can use to isolate grocery bags or other items to prevent them from flying around.

Most impressive is when you get into D and pull out into traffic. Swift and sure, this thing has enough power to keep up with any of the luxury cars or SUVs, even if you’re still not sure which category this belongs to.

The test car, being a Sport model, rises above the 2.0 turbo and was fitted with the venerable 3.6-liter V6, with direct injection, turning out 310 horsepower at 6,700 RPMs, and  271 foot-pounds of torque at 5,000 RPMs. The engine is mounted in front, and at the touch of a switch goes from front-wheel-drive to all-wheel-drive. A twin-clutch unit controlled by a 9-speed automatic transmission that can be manually operated via paddles on the steering wheel.

I may be one of the rare auto journalists who likes and uses paddles, because I’m a long-standing stick-shift guy, and being able to run the revs up and shifting when you want, or using the left paddle to downshift, which is a huge advantage when you drive down one of the many ultra steep avenues in Duluth, avoiding any threat of sailing right on into the bay.

There is a luxury version above this Sport, but this one had enough high-tech options to boost the price from $55,000 to $59,340, including the advanced visibility and tech package. Oh, and the attractive “Shadow Metallic” paint is worth $625.

If you think the XT5 seems a little longer than you anticipated as you approached, it is. It came to life to replace the SRX two years ago (a good reason why I couldn't find stats on the SRX!), and it rides on the new redesigned Cadillac “global” chassis, which stretches the XT5 out 7 inches longer than the old SRX, with wheelbase 2 inches longer, and the track 1 inch wider.

Modern building techniques and materials conspire to make the XT5 slightly smaller and sleeker-looking than the SRX was, yet with more interior room to play with. Most of that was spent on improving rear seat riding in the two-row vehicle, with 3.2-inches more legroom, and the added feature of reclining rear seats.

The ride is comfortable and interior luxury is enhanced by real wood, real carbon-fibre, and real leather. The handling feel is good, too, and for a big vehicle its agility is very good. For some reason, though, I found that in performance steering, there was a little looseness between the steering wheel and the agility. But that might be because I had the mode set to “Tour” rather than a higher-performance Sport setting, which might have taken care of my nitpick.

All of the contemporary connectivity stuff is on board, and thankfully Cadillac has improved its “Cue” system to not go haywire every time you tried to change the station or go to a different screen on the dash unit.

One other catchy attraction is that the XT5 had the optional "pearl nickel" painted 20-inch wheels, mounted with 255-35/20 Michelin tires that helped keep us planted in every sortie.

Not sure how much importance buyers of a $60,000 Cadillac car-wagon-suv vehicle would put in fuel economy, but with EPA estimates of 18 city, 25 highway, we averaged 20-24 mpg, usually about 21.4, in mostly city driving.

This might be among the most impressive vehicles Cadillac has brought out in a decade or two, but remember, if you go into a showroom to check one out, jot down the numbers and letters that matter most — X, T, and 5. And when you specify the XT5, hold the serifs.
Plush white leather seats, real wood, carbon-fibre and aluminum trim new interior. At right, shifter requires clocking the “P” button to get “Park.”
Viewed from the rear, or front corner, or driver’s seat, the CT5 sets a midsize standard for Cadillac.

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