Expert Reviews

2020 Cadillac XT6 First Drive Review

The expansion in the three-row luxury CUV/SUV segment marches on, with Cadillac being the latest to join the party with the 2020 XT6. We were dispatched to the US capital – the presidential limo is a Caddy, after all – to put it though its paces.

Ask Cadillac about the XT6’s competition, however, and they’ll tell you that the very appealing starting price of the XT6 ($60,998 before taxes) puts it in line with the likes of the Infiniti QX60 or Acura MDX, rather than Mercedes or BMW.

Packaged with all the essentials

While the segment is quickly growing, Cadillac feels the XT6 is well-equipped for the job thanks to a host of standard safety options (forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure alert with lane-keep assist, front and rear park assist, and seven airbags) as well as AWD; there’s a FWD option stateside, but it’s not making its way up north. What is making its way up north, however, is the standard fitment of ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and air ionizer; all items that come as part of an option package down south.

Also standard across the board is the availability of one engine and one engine only: the same 3.6L V6 shared with the XT5, with which the XT6 shares a platform. Like it does in the XT5, the engine makes 310 hp and 271 lb-ft of torque, fed through either a conventional or dual-clutch nine-speed automatic. The latter comes standard on the Sport model (it commands a $2,797 premium over the base Premium Luxury model, at $63,796 MSRP), and it allows for faster shifts as well as an active yaw control system that can split torque between the rear wheels to help the XT6 track tight and true through turns.

Distinguished by the details

Styling-wise, the two available trims are distinguished not by overt colour changes or crazy badging, but more subtle details: The chrome strip around the side windows on the Premium Luxury mode, for example, gets switched to gloss black on the Sport; that trim matches the gloss black grille on the Sport, which also gets unique wheel choices (standard 20-inch, 21-inch optional), as well as smoked taillamps with some clear elements – the Luxury Sport models get all red taillight lenses and 20-inch wheels only.

Overall, you can tell the XT6 shares some of its genetics with the XT5, but it is the more lithe-looking vehicle thanks to the longer wheelbase and overall length. It’s less awkward than the QX60 and less bulbous than the MDX, that’s for sure. I’m especially a fan of the ultra-low-profile headlamps, which come with halogen bulbs as standard but can be upgraded to an LED set-up. The daytime running lights, meanwhile, are LEDs from base.

A cabin you can actually use

Inside, the dash is dominated by Cadillac’s latest Cadillac User Experience software, dubbed “CUE 3.5”. Instead of just being an all-touch interface, it gets a console-mounted wheel with notched scrolling, so those that don’t want to be reaching (and smudging) their shiny infotainment display won’t have to. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, as does 4G LTE Wi-Fi and wireless charging. There are also six USB ports (including two in the third row), made up of both Type-A and Type-C ports. It’s good they’ve kept at least a couple of Type-A ports around; I recently tested the X7 and it had just one Type-A port to seven that are Type-C, and I’m convinced that enough people still have Type-A cables for there to be more than one of these in three-row crossover.

While the third row isn’t heated, it’s a comfortable place to be with enough head- and legroom to not give the feeling like you’re sat in a pillbox. They also come power-folding as standard. The cargo area, accessible by a foot-activated tailgate as standard, has a nice storage bin beneath the rear floor so you have a little more room when the third row is up.

A second-row bench seat comes as standard, and can be upgraded to captain’s chairs. Those make getting to the third row a little easier (otherwise, the row tilts and slides forward), while the cupholders that normally sit in the second-row armrest get moved to the base of the centre console ahead of you. With the bench seat, all you’ll find there is a large storage bin. Not sure why they couldn’t just leave the cupholders there – that way you don’t lose access if you don’t want the second-row armrest down. Not a deal-breaker, but some food for thought.

Beyond serene on the highway

While we do only get one engine choice no matter which trim, the 3.6L that’s done work in Cadillac products for quite some time now is a good fit for a vehicle like this. If you want to floor it and feel the g forces, well, you can do that – and being naturally aspirated, the get-up-and-go is good and accompanied by a surprisingly vocal engine note.

However, I doubt many XT6 owners will be doing much of that – and the engine is equally good at silently and easily moving along the freeway in a relaxing manner. We had plenty of freeway time in the XT6 during our test, and it’s definitely adept at doing just that. The overall ride is beyond serene, with all manner of noise reduction keeping interior noise to a minimum, and making it easy to carry on a conversation. The wheel arches, shock towers, side windows, dash, and HVAC system have all had extra attention paid to ensure they operate as quietly as possible. This is a seven- (or eight-) passenger Cadillac cruiser, after all, and in needs to be able to cruise. Which it can.

What it can’t do, however, is “Super Cruise”; Cadillac’s pioneering Level Three autonomous tech that we saw on the 2018 CT6 sedan has, unfortunately, not made the transition to the XT6, even though it seemed like it would – like it should – be the next Caddy to get it. Unfortunately, Cadillac says that development of the XT6 started even before SC was implemented in the CT6, and while the tech is ready to go, it wasn’t ready to launch in the XT6. It’s coming, apparently, but you won’t be able to retrofit it to a current XT6. So, we’re left with a more traditional adaptive cruise control system. It works in conjunction with lane-keep assist to at least make you feel like you’re Super Cruising for a time, even going so far as to allow you to creep through slower traffic and letting it do the creeping for you.

But you can kick it up a notch

The Sport model takes a bit of the focus off that kind of tech, instead moving more towards a more engaging drive. It’s not a huge change – no boatload of additional power or anything like that – being more about how the available power is deployed. Gears are held onto longer, the steering ratio has been changed for better responsiveness, and the addition of a dual-clutch auto and split torque distribution between the rear wheels translates to better handling.

Both the Sport and Premium Luxury models get drive modes that adjust parameters like steering and transmission response, but the Premium Luxury model never felt quite as aggressive as the Sport, no matter which driving mode I had it in. I found the biggest difference to be the transmission, which really will let you hang the revs in the Sport more than it does in the Premium Luxury. The Sport also gets continuously adaptive dampers as standard, while they come as part of the Platinum Package on the Premium Luxury trim. As a result, the package costs more if you add it to the Premium Luxury than if you add it to the Sport – $5,635 for Premium Luxury, $4,255 for Sport.

In addition to the suspension tweaks, the package also adds the Driver Assist package (advanced adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic braking, forward automatic braking), premium floor mats, Enhanced Visibility and Technology package (head-up display, surround-view monitor, auto park assist, rear camera mirror, rear pedestrian alert), LED headlights, navigation, and a few other interior niceties. The digital rear camera mirror is a tech that’s quickly growing on me; recently, I was in a vehicle without it that had been loaded to the hilt with camping gear. I thought to myself at the time how great a digital rear-view mirror would be since it makes use of exterior cameras, so my view out back would never be compromised. It takes a little getting used to in terms of perspective, but it’s also easily switched off by flipping the lever normally used for your dimmer system.

Even without the suspension tweaks, however, the XT6 feels nice and taut, never exhibiting body roll that I would classify as “extreme” – in fact, it’s quite the opposite – and it demonstrates what the XT6 is all about. It’s one heck of a comfortable cruiser (with surprising fuel economy; we saw 8 L/100 km on the highway) that comes well-equipped, with enough tech to likely satisfy the whole family. It won’t blow your mind in the dynamic sense, but I’m not sure if a three-rower like this is really supposed to, anyway.

Pricing: 2020 Cadillac XT6

Premium Luxury: $60,998
Sport: $63,798
Premium Luxury w/Platinum Package: $66,633
Sport w/Platinum Package: $68,053