2019 Cadillac XT4 First Drive | Edmunds

2019 Cadillac XT4 First Drive

A Little SUV With a Lot Going On

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 is a small luxury SUV meant to compete with the new class of entry-level luxury vehicles. Once upon a time, entry-level luxury meant a compact sedan such as a BMW 3 Series. With the market-wide onset of crossover-itis, these days entry-level luxury means a small SUV. As such, the entry-level luxury SUV market is in the midst of a renaissance (even if the proportions are more Rubens than Raphael).

Cadillac hopes to attract shoppers looking at subcompacts such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus UX and Volvo XC40. Alas, the XT4 is more expensive and larger than those vehicles, lining up more closely to the compact Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX and Volvo XC60. Regardless of the group, most of these SUVs are either new or recently redesigned, making this a very young segment. The competition is stiff, and it's hard to think of another segment that has so many vehicles that are so new.

Into this churning feeding frenzy, Cadillac is throwing the XT4 with the hopes that having a slightly bigger fish will provide an edge.

2019 Cadillac XT4

The Caddy That Zigs
Cadillac is adamant that the XT4 isn't just a reskinned version of an existing General Motors product. It's easy to draw a comparison to the Chevy Equinox — a small SUV with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, nine-speed automatic, and available all-wheel drive — but the comparison can't survive scrutiny.

The Cadillac's 2.0-liter turbo has been extensively reworked with an eye to maximizing efficiency without sacrificing power. The XT4's motor makes 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque while using tricks such as cylinder deactivation and variable valve lift to return up to 26 mpg combined (24 city/30 highway). Overall, this means the XT4 makes good power for the segment, but either matches or lags behind competitors in terms of fuel economy.

The XT4 is built on its own platform. It's about 2 inches shorter than the Equinox, but it's still a mite large for the entry-level luxury SUV segment Cadillac is targeting. In fact, the XT4 is 7 inches longer than the diminutive Volvo XC40. While the Cadillac is meant to compete with subcompact-size crossovers, it's actually closer to compacts in terms of its overall size. This in-between form factor and extra length mean the XT4 has more rear legroom than other entry-level SUVs. Although adults over 6 feet tall may have issues with headroom.

Everyone who fits will be comfortable, however. The rear seats are nicely padded, but the front seats are the real stars, with excellent structure and adjustability. The seats made it easy to find a driving position that stayed comfortable all day. After our initial setup, we didn't feel the need to keep tweaking the settings. Some credit goes to the armrests, which are placed both high and close enough to be easily usable.

Beyond being comfortable, the cabin made a good impression. Almost every surface is covered with some sort of soft-touch or premium-feeling material, including some lovely aluminum-look accents. There are a few plastics to be found that are reminiscent of the Chevy Equinox, but most shoppers are unlikely to pick those out at first glance. The cabin is also very usable, with lots of pockets and bins to keep all your stuff organized and within easy reach.

2019 Cadillac XT4

A New Interface
Inside the XT4 is something else that makes it unique in Cadillac's lineup: a knob. The XT4's infotainment interface can be controlled via the touchscreen or by a rotary knob placed near the gear shifter. We have a soft spot for physical controls because they tend to be less distracting to use than touchscreens, but the XT4's knob feels a bit compromised.

For starters, the menu structures and interface are all optimized for traditional touchscreen usage. Navigating menus just isn't as streamlined when using the knob, especially compared to what brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have managed. Second, the knob's functionality is contextual. Enter the music screen, and the knob switches from navigating buttons to switching tracks. Launch the navigation screen, and the knob zooms in and out. Enter certain menus, and the knob stops functioning entirely, accompanied by a message letting you know it can't be used.

All this means is that while the knob is useful, it's also a bit nonintuitive. Cadillac is committed to touchscreen interfaces, so it seems unlikely that we'll see the level of streamlined integration competitors managed. Still, the knob is an easy alternative once you get used to it, and it feels chunky and solid, making it a pleasant touch point.

2019 Cadillac XT4

Technology (and Cameras) Galore
Of course, the XT4's technology features aren't limited to a knob. As a GM product, it has extensive connectivity features, starting with OnStar and a 4G LTE connection and Wi-Fi hotspot. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and the XT4 has USB and USB-C ports for both front and rear passengers. There's a suite of available active safety features and driver aids, including reverse automatic braking, which applies the brakes for you when it thinks you're about to back into an obstacle. Cadillac's hands-free Super Cruise freeway driving system will also be available.

One of the XT4's other tricks is the sheer number of available cameras. Past the 360-degree camera view, there's a veritable smorgasbord of different views and angles. No matter what tight corner you find yourself in, the XT4 has a camera display that will help you maneuver your way out of it.

There's even a rearview camera display for the rearview mirror. Just flip a switch and the mirror changes to a screen presenting a live feed of traffic behind the vehicle. It's a little disconcerting because it lacks the sense of depth you get from focusing on objects in a mirror, but it's a wide, bright view that gives you a good sense of what's following you.

We appreciated all these camera views because visibility is a bit of a weakness for the XT4. Thick roof pillars and a relatively high beltline hamper your view a little, both on the road and while maneuvering at low speed.

Overall, the XT4's list of tech features is very competitive but comes with two caveats. Many features — such as driver aids, active safety features, and the fancy cameras — are optional extras that can drive up the Caddy's price. The other caveat is that while the technology is both useful and user-friendly, the interfaces and displays aren't as impressive as what you find in other luxury brands. You don't really need to be told what tricks an Audi has to be impressed by how the cabin tech looks, but the Caddy is less obvious about the depth of its features. Whether that's a positive or negative is up to the buyer's preferences.

2019 Cadillac XT4

Big Truck Little
On the road, the Cadillac also distinguishes itself from competitors. Power delivery is smooth and strong, and the transmission is quick to shift, but the powertrain lacks a sense of urgency compared to more aggressively tuned rivals. The Caddy's ride, especially with our tester's 20-inch wheels, felt a tad stiff-legged and came off bouncy over larger bumps. The steering is light and precise, but there's no feel from the front wheels. Finally, the brake pedal is very firm and numb.

These traits all together made the XT4 we drove feel more like a larger SUV. The steering, ride, braking and power delivery are reminiscent of something much heftier. That said, there's none of the body roll of a large SUV, and the XT4 proved maneuverable and stable on twisty roads. The vehicle's actual dynamics fit its size, but much of the sensation of interacting with the XT4 reminded us of being behind the wheel of a larger GM product.

In many ways, these characteristics could fit GM's mission for the XT4: It becomes both an entry-level product for people who might eventually switch to a larger SUV, and it will feel familiar to buyers who are downsizing because they don't need all the extra space and capability of a large SUV.

All this definitely sets the Cadillac apart: Most competitors in the small luxury crossover segment are focused on feeling sporty or carlike. The X4's driving feel is another distinguishing characteristic, but whether it's good or bad will likely depend on what you want from your SUV.

2019 Cadillac XT4

Pricing and Availability
The XT4 arrives at dealers in October with a starting price of $35,790 (including destination and handling). But start adding options and the price can rise quickly. All-wheel drive is a $2,500 extra (with a penalty of 2 mpg combined), and the packages and options don't come cheap. The version we drove came in at $54,485, and there were still a few options boxes that weren't ticked. That seems like a lot for an entry-level SUV, but most competitors can break the $50,000 mark once you dive into the options menu. The XT4's extra size and space might be enough to make the in-between price palatable to the right buyer.

On the whole, the 2019 Cadillac XT4 is a comfortable, technology-packed, and usable entry-level luxury SUV that slots neatly into Cadillac's lineup. How it compares across this very hot segment is another matter. With so many new or redesigned vehicles, it will take testing on familiar roads before clear winners become apparent.

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