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2019 Cadillac XT4: First Drive Review

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author photo by Rob Nestora October 2018

Small luxury SUVs are all the rage these days with stellar recent entries like the Volvo XC40, the Lexus UX and the BMW X1, so far be it from Cadillac to miss out on the action. Enter the 2019 Cadillac XT4 -- the compact crossover from the American luxury stalwart that once reigned supreme as the market standard for excellence. Cadillac has big plans over the next few years, and the XT4 is just the tip of the spear. The brand is planning to release a new model every 6 months through 2020, so prepare yourself for a swath of new Caddies for your driving pleasure. Keeping in the spirit of luxury and utility of the segment, I headed to Seattle, the jewel of the Northwest to see what the new XT4 was really all about.

Exterior

It's hard to deny the eye-catching design of the XT4 with its sharp lines and aggressive front fascia. According to Cadillac, it's intended to look like a "baby Escalade" and pulls off the little brother role effectively without seeming cheap or too derivative. And although there's a definite family resemblance, the XT4 is certainly its own man. Depending on which trim you decide on, exterior elements vary slightly like the roof rack and the front grille -- sport versions get a gloss black front mesh grille and gloss black roof rails, whereas the Premium Luxury version includes satin aluminum roof rails and other metallic exterior design elements. Despite being a bona fide head-turner, I do think the Cadillac badge on the grille is slightly undersized in comparison with the rest of the fascia, but that's merely a matter of taste.

Interior

The inside of the XT4 is beautifully appointed, and not just in the way you would expect from a Cadillac. The cabin feels almost European in fit and finish with smooth, almost minimalist design cues that exude class and refinement. The leather appointments are buttery soft and remind me of the designer leather jackets I used to feel compelled to caress while shopping in nicer department stores like Lord and Taylor or Nordstrom. It isn't gaudy or over the top, but rather wholly appropriate given its Caddy lineage. Luxurious interior options include heated/ventilated seats and a wonderful massage feature. At the same time, the XT4 has more interior space than the X1 and the Lexus UX in some key areas.

Aside from being stylish, the cabin is quite spacious, too. The front seats provide ample legroom and really give that lux feel that you expect from Cadillac. The rear seats supply plenty of comfort, as well, even for taller folks. Despite being 6'2", I was able to sit in the rear passenger area without feeling cramped or claustrophobic -- a huge bonus for a compact crossover.

Infotainment

Whereas some infotainment systems are unattractive and protrude from the dash, the system on the XT4 blends into the dashboard quite well, seeming at home and natural. The system itself functions well, allowing for users to swipe to view for additional content much like using a smartphone. Even the screen is a gorgeous high resolution 8-inch touchscreen that looks just about as nice as any I've experienced in the segment. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included (as well they should be), making linking to the system quick and easy. There's also available wireless charging and GM's well-known OnStar telematics system offering a variety of features such as automatic crash response, roadside assistance and turn-by-turn navigation. Cadillac also offers Amazon In-Car delivery -- a feature that allows Amazon purchases to be delivered into your car while it's parked. Finally, the available 4G LTE hotpot allows for up to 7 mobile devices to be connected, supplying internet access for all occupants, almost anywhere.

Safety

The XT4 has a wide variety of available features you would expect from a modern crossover. There's available low-speed forward-automatic braking, front pedestrian braking, forward-collision alert and lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning control that comes with the Driver Awareness Package -- a $770 option. The Driver Assistance package upgrades the forward-automatic braking and adds reverse-automatic braking and adaptive cruise control for an additional $1,100. Finally, the inclusion of the visibility package for $1,500 brings a rearview camera mirror, high definition surround vision and automatic parking assist with braking to minimize the chances of scratching your gorgeous new XT4 while parallel parking on a cramped city street.

Engine

Under the hood of the Cadillac XT4 is a direct-injected 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 245 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque. The engine construction utilizes an aluminum block to save weight and comes in 15 pounds lighter than Cadillac's current 2.0-liter engine. Efficiency is also improved over the current 2.0-liter engine as much as 15 percent in certain conditions, thanks to a variable valvetrain that has three specific modes. To deliver maximum power, there' s a high-valve-lift mode as well as a low-lift mode for better efficiency. If the load on the engine is very light, there's an active fuel mangement system that disables two cylinders for maximum fuel efficiency. The bottom line is that these three options help provide power for situations that require it and efficiency for those that don't. Fuel economy comes in right around 25 miles per gallon in combined driving, which is respectable but not spectacular.

The Drive

Behind the wheel, Cadillac's XT4 is a pleasure to drive. Acceleration is far from feeling sporty, but adequate given that this is a small luxury SUV. Putting the XT4 through its paces on Bainbridge Island's windy roads was impressive and loads of fun. Even in the Premium Luxury trim, cornering felt precise with little body roll even when taking turns slightly above the speed limit or recommended curve speed. The Caddy's surprising nimbleness was likely due to the high strength steel used on the chassis that adds to stiffness in the body and suspension that's tuned for both fun and comfort. In addition, a lateral-cross brace and a solid mounted front cradle add to the rigidity of the XT4, resulting in a ride that feels solid and confidence-inspiring. The twin-clutch all-wheel drive system helped handling, as well, directing torque to appropriate wheels depending on weather condition.

Even though driving the baby Escalade was quite enjoyable, there were a couple of disappointing things of note. First, the adaptive cruise control didn't always work as expected and occasionally wouldn't detect the vehicle in front of you. This is likely fixable through a software update, but it's slightly frustrating nonetheless. Second, I did experience a small hiccup with the transmission displaying an alert while driving, but after the system was reset by Cadillac engineers, the issue appeared to be resolved, and no other drivers reported problems.

Conclusion

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 is a solid entry into the luxury compact crossover class and offers a stylish alternative to other similar models from higher-end competitors. Pricing is reasonable, starting right around $36,000 for the base Luxury trim and just over $40,000 for the Premium Luxury and Sport trims, meaning you won't have to sell a kidney to get behind the wheel of one. The luxury compact crossover class is highly competitive, and while the XT4 might not be a home run for Cadillac, it's a solid double versus some heavy hitters. One this is for sure: This Caddy came to play.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Cadillac XT4: First Drive Review - Autotrader