The new XT5 re­places the SRX, Cadil­lac’s best­selling ve­hi­cle. It also lays the foun­da­tion for a se­ries of new CUVs that the brand is plan­ning to build. It bet­ter be good, says wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Cadil­lac’s new XT5 is bold, roomy, and mus­cu­lar, but is it a good start to the brand’s new CUV out­ing?

Cus­tomers. They can be a fickle lot, hard to gauge and harder to please. No­body knows this bet­ter than Cadil­lac. Be­lea­guered by con­stant com­plaints from its cus­tomers about how its cars have gone down in qual­ity and com­pe­tency over the decades, the Amer­i­can lux­ury mar­que pumped in bil­lions of dol­lars into new plat­forms, new tech and new power trains. The re­sults were sim­ply stag­ger­ing. Start­ing with the bril­liant ATS, fol­lowed by the CTS and their mad­der V vari­ants, Cadil­lacs were back with a bang.

Or so we be­lieved. Just when Cadil­lac thought it had given cus­tomers what they’d al­ways clam­oured for, and that they’d throng show­rooms to buy these new resur­gent mod­els, they go ahead and buy more SRX crossovers. Yes, the same old SRX that we last re­viewed back in 2011 has been the brand’s best­selling ve­hi­cle glob­ally un­til last year and even up to early this year in the Amer­i­can mar­ket. And baf­flingly still, it’s been the only Cadil­lac model to fea­ture in the first 15 best­selling pre­mium ve­hi­cles in that all-im­por­tant mar­ket. While still try­ing to make sense of this trend, Cadil­lac wisely de­cided to cap­i­talise on it and build a suc­ces­sor to the SRX, the all-new XT5.

While promis­ing to pro­vide cus­tomers more space, tech­nol­ogy, lux­ury and ef­fi­ciency than the SRX, the XT5 is also the first in a se­ries of four new crossovers from Cadil­lac. Built on a com­pletely new chas­sis and struc­tural make-up, the XT5 is 126kg lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor, and even lighter than ri­vals like the Audi Q5. While the over­all length, width and height have been re­duced a tad com­pared to the SRX, the wheel­base is 50.8mm longer and the track is 25.4mm wider. These add up to lend the XT5 a bolder vis­ual pres­ence than the SRX, although the over­all styling is slicker and less an­gu­lar.

As with most new Cadil­lacs, the front fas­cia is its most at­trac­tive bit, and is also the big­gest dis­tin­guish­ing fac­tor. There’s no mis­tak­ing the XT5 for any­thing but a Cadil­lac, even from a dis­tance. The pro­file is smoother than be­fore, and with the shorter over­hangs, gives the XT5 a more planted stance. The rear isn’t as strik­ing as the front, but is still unique with those upright LED tail lights.

The cabin also feels de­cid­edly more up­mar­ket than that of the SRX’s with an abun­dance of leather, wood, and brushed metal sur­faces all around. The pre­dom­i­nantly hor­i­zon­tal lay­out, along with the large panoramic sun­roof, add to the over­all sense of roomi­ness. De­spite the re­duc­tion in over­all di­men­sions, the pas­sen­ger cell is more spa­cious than be­fore, with rear pas­sen­gers ben­e­fit­ing from an in­crease of 81mm in legroom.

The dash­board is kept sim­ple with just the bare min­i­mum of but­tons, and the re­main­ing con­trols are ac­cessed via the up­dated Cue in­fo­tain­ment in­ter­face. While the rest of the in­te­rior is mod­ern, the dis­plays, both the cen­tral one and the one in the in­stru­ment clus­ter, stand out as anachro­nisms with their grainy res­o­lu­tion. But for this one quib­ble the XT5’s cabin is a marked im­prove­ment over the SRX’s; it is a com­fort­able place to be in. The ride qual­ity is also good, although not quite up to the lev­els of refinement in an Audi Q5.

Un­der the bon­net is a 3.6-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6, which Cadil­lac says has been com­pletely re­designed but at 310bhp, the power out­put is just two horse­power more than the block with the same dis­place­ment that pow­ered the SRX. How­ever, at 366Nm, there’s a more sub­stan­tial bump up in torque vis-à-vis the pre­vi­ous model’s 353Nm. It’s mated to an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion with an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled shift­ing mech­a­nism. Mov­ing away from a stand­still, the gear­box does a good job tap­ping into the en­gine’s re­serves, but it strug­gles when you call for sud­den ac­cel­er­a­tion from cruis­ing speeds, and re­quires you to kick down a cou­ple of ra­tios. While the en­gine is per­fectly fine for nor­mal driv­ing, it doesn’t seem equipped to han­dle above-av­er­age en­thu­si­asm. This would have been an in­fin­itely bet­ter car, if Cadil­lac had used the twin-tur­bocharged 3.0-litre V6 from the CT6, which is good for 404bhp and a mas­sive 542Nm of torque.

The all-wheel drive sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of send­ing 100 per cent of avail­able twist to ei­ther the front or rear axle, and al­ter­na­tively, uses the elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled rear dif­fer­en­tial to di­rect the torque to ei­ther wheel lat­er­ally. While this could come handy in snowy con­di­tions else­where, the XT5 sim­ply doesn’t have the ground clear­ance for the kind of off-road trips you might take here. But on the road you’ll ben­e­fit from numer­ous tech fea­tures like the Rear Cam­era Mir­ror sys­tem, hands-free oper­a­tion of the lift gate, Lane Keep­ing As­sist, Rear Cross Traf­fic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, adap­tive cruise con­trol and Au­to­matic Park­ing As­sist.

The XT5 is a mas­sive im­prove­ment over the SRX, and it would have been one of the best in the seg­ment if Cadil­lac had dropped a more po­tent power plant into the en­gine bay. Nev­er­the­less, at just over Dh200,000 for the top-spec Pre­mium Lux­ury trim, it’s the most value-for-money of­fer­ing in the seg­ment right now. But it could well turn out that more buy­ers have now started buy­ing ATSs and CTSs. These cus­tomers!

The XT5 is a MAS­SIVE im­prove­ment over the SRX, and at just over Dh200,000 for the TOP-SPEC Pre­mium Lux­ury trim, it’s the most VALUE-FOR-MONEY of­fer­ing in the seg­ment right now

The XT5 has a bolder vis­ual pres­ence than the SRX, with an at­trac­tive front fas­cia, smoother pro­file and a more planted stance

The dash­board is sim­ple, the cabin more up­mar­ket, and the hor­i­zon­tal lay­out and large sun­roof add to the sense of roomi­ness

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