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2017 Cadillac XT5: First Look

If you’re looking for information on a newer Cadillac XT5, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Cadillac XT5 Review

Cadillac has a knack for picking beautiful locations to showcase their cars and SUVs. This time, it’s Monarch Beach in the city of Dana Point, California. The white 2017 Cadillac XT5 is parked on a low, white stage that has a slightly glossy look. The red taillights, blue Pacific and specks of red and gold in the Cadillac logo are the only indications that I’m not looking at a life-size black and white photo — the vibe is simple and stunning. It looks very clean, crisp and modern — all things Cadillac has gone to great lengths to associate with the style of their cars. One thing’s for sure: The XT5 is a huge step in the right direction for Cadillac.

And while the actual cars seem to be exactly where they ought to be — sporty but elegant; European but not harsh; packed with value but not cheap — the message surrounding Cadillac still feels unclear. "Modern luxury" and "Millennials" were mentioned, but I’m hard-pressed to figure more than a few dozen 20-somethings who can afford a $60,000 SUV.

Naming Conventions

While Cadillac was extolling the virtues of the new 2017 Cadillac XT5 (and there are many), they mentioned that all Cadillac vehicles would be changing names to align with a larger strategy of using alphanumeric characters to name their cars. The reason for this change seems unclear. Cadillac reps even admitted that they think names such as Eldorado and Seville actually communicate more about luxury versus just letters and numbers such as CT6, I35, Q50 or 550i. Ultimately, the real reason for the new model names seems to be something along the lines of "everyone else is doing it." Surely, the exception is Escalade — that vehicle’s very successful name recognition disproves the theory that numbers and letters communicate more about a luxury car than a well-chosen, heavily marketed name.

One interesting note about car names that consist of letters and numbers: Cadillac says luxury buyers want to know the hierarchy of models. In other words, "which one is better?" My guess is those buyers are more interested in letting others know where they fit into the BMW, Mercedes or Cadillac hierarchy. In a strange way, this kind of makes sense. See the 2017 Cadillac XT5 models for sale near you

Cadillac Style

In many ways, the Cadillac XT5 is the kind of small crossover luxury SUV they should have been making all along. It has a sort of "baby Escalade" look but also delivers the ride and handling that a Mercedes-Benz GLC300 shopper would instantly recognize. Plus, in the higher trim levels, the Cadillac actually looks and feels more sophisticated.

I wouldn’t call the XT5 sporty, but there’s a predictability to its handling that makes it fun on mildly twisty roads. The interior also remains reasonably quiet — even on the highway — and there’s plenty of power from the 3.6-liter engine. The XT5 is quite good but really makes me question the decision to make all Cadillac vehicles a combination of letters and numbers. The idea that "everyone in the luxury space is doing it" doesn’t help. Cadillac has done its best work when they’re not following the crowd. Cars such as the Catera, Cimarron and the most recent version of the SRX felt like "me too" cars.

But when Cadillac breaks away from the crowd or tries to outdo the competition, the results are compelling. The Escalade, 1957 Eldorado Brougham, Elmiraj concept, original Seville and the first and second versions of the CTS are all great examples of ground-breaking Cadillacs. On the other hand, the more recent SRX felt like a car Cadillac was forced to build or thought they "ought to have."

Worth Considering

Thankfully, the XT5 feels more like Cadillac breaking out on its own and trying something new. The SUV doesn’t feel constrained by a targeted ultra-low base price, and the driving dynamics feel like a near-perfect balance of comfort and sport. Add comfortable seats, a decent-sized cargo area and a sharp, modern exterior look, and the XT5 should have no problem meeting sales targets.

The new XT5 isn’t perfect. I’d like to see more headroom in the rear seat and an even richer-sounding audio system in the upper trim levels — something on par with Lexus’ Mark Levinson system.

Still, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 is a very good small luxury SUV. It’s the kind that might show up on "The Real Housewives of Orange County" — even without a product placement deal — or the kind of small luxury crossover that Miami Beach buyers might buy just so everyone else will know how well they’re doing. As it turns out, in the luxury-car world, that’s a really good thing. Find a Cadillac XT5 for sale

 
Brian Moody
Brian Moody is an author specializing in transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used, and certified pre-owned advice. He also specializes in liking ridiculous cars like the Buick Reatta, Studebaker Lark, and the GM A-Body wagons from the late 80s and mid-90s. Why? You'd have to ask him. Brian graduated from Cal State Long Beach and has been creating written... Read More about Brian Moody

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