FOL­LOW THE LEADER

CADIL­LAC PLAYS CATCH-UP WITH A NEW SMALL CROSS­OVER

Motor Trend - - Contents - Kelly Pleskot

2019 Cadil­lac XT4 2.0T AWD Sport Cadil­lac plays catch-up with a new small cross­over.

Once the king of sedans, Cadil­lac is a bit late to the party in launch­ing a sec­ond cross­over to com­ple­ment the XT5, its best-sell­ing prod­uct in the U.S. and world­wide last year. En­ter the XT4, which fills the gap and has some­thing else Cadil­lac can use—a touch of youth.

Brand reps boast that a team of young de­sign­ers cre­ated this com­pact cross­over, which looks con­ven­tional from the side but stands out at other an­gles with its sharply ver­ti­cal head­lights and tail­lights. It es­chews Cadil­lac’s usual thick, shiny grille for a ti­dier front face. Its short over­hangs give it an up­right ap­pear­ance. In some ways, the youth­ful look fits a bi­modal cus­tomer base: Cadil­lac is tar­get­ing both first-time pre­mium buy­ers with prices as low as $35,790 and “down­siz­ers” who want lux­ury-packed ver­sions. With this ap­proach, the XT4 needs to be a well-rounded per­former.

The level of new tech­nol­ogy in the XT4 speaks to the ve­hi­cle’s im­por­tance in Cadil­lac’s lineup. Sit­ting on a new ar­chi­tec­ture for com­pact SUVS, the XT4 re­ceives a 2.0-liter four-cylin­der that is said to share very lit­tle with the out­go­ing unit of­fered on other mod­els. It’s 15 pounds lighter and fea­tures three op­er­at­ing modes: high valve lift for more power, low valve lift for im­proved ef­fi­ciency, and cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion that turns off two cylin­ders when they’re not needed. This coarse, grainy pow­er­plant makes 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and for­tu­nately, peak torque is avail­able at just 1,500 rpm.

Dur­ing test­ing, our staff took note of the XT4’S eager but slightly lack­ing pow­er­plant. “This en­gine makes the XT4 feel like it’s quicker than it re­ally is,” se­nior pro­duc­tion ed­i­tor Zach Gale said.

How­ever, when we tested the XT4, it reached 60 mph in 7.5 sec­onds, mak­ing it slower than a com­pa­ra­ble Volvo XC40 (6.7 sec­onds), Mercedes-benz GLA (6.9 sec­onds), In­finiti QX50 (6.4 sec­onds), and even the next-size-up BMW X3 xdrive30i (6.3 sec­onds). So why the slow­ness against sim­i­lar 2.0-liter turbo SUVS?

Our Caddy tester had op­tional 20-inch wheels in­stead of the stan­dard 18-inch­ers. It’s also heav­ier as tested than the Volvo and Mercedes (but lighter than the In­finiti and BMW). Per­haps, as as­so­ciate on­line ed­i­tor Ste­fan Og­bac said, “the en­gine is punchy, but there’s a bit of lag be­fore you get boost.”

The XT4 brakes con­fi­dently in typ­i­cal driv­ing or when com­ing to an abrupt stop. It also goes up steep hills com­fort­ably, makes quick three-point turns, and swiftly restarts the en­gine af­ter a red light. But in other ar­eas, the XT4 proved less adept.

“It seemed to steer, brake, ac­cel­er­ate, and cor­ner in a fairly av­er­age man­ner,” tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Frank Markus said. “Noth­ing stood out as ex­cep­tional. That might be my prob­lem with the en­tire car.”

Oc­cu­pants will ex­pe­ri­ence no­tice­able amounts of body roll while wind­ing through twisty roads on op­tional 20-inch wheels. We found this is­sue on mod­els with and with­out the Ac­tive Sport Sus­pen­sion, an avail­able fea­ture that

ad­justs damp­ing 500 times per sec­ond. The XT4 dis­played more sta­bil­ity at higher speeds on the free­way, we noted.

We also lamented the cross­over’s tire noise, though it’s not enough to dis­turb a con­ver­sa­tion in­side the ve­hi­cle. A tester we drove with the smaller, stan­dard 18-inch wheels felt slightly more re­fined in terms of noise abate­ment. De­spite some road noise, Cadil­lac has suc­cess­fully pre­vented too much wind noise from en­ter­ing the cabin, save from the blunt­ing of the A-pil­lar.

Many com­pli­ments we give the XT4 war­rant a qual­i­fi­ca­tion. “The XT4 rides well, but it’s some­what stiff,” Og­bac said of the tester with the Ac­tive Sport Sus­pen­sion. “Han­dling is OK but noth­ing stel­lar.” Al­though the car’s steer­ing is ac­cu­rate enough to take on windy roads, it feels slightly de­tached.

Added fea­tures ed­i­tor Chris­tian Se­abaugh: “The steer­ing lacks that del­i­cacy that Cadil­lacs had for a brief time.”

In our fig­ure-eight test, the XT4 man­aged 27.6 sec­onds at 0.61 g. Com­pare that with the XC40 that zipped round the bends in 27 sec­onds flat at 0.65 g, the GLA (26.6 sec­onds at 0.67 g), and QX50 (26.4 sec­onds at 0.69 g).

“It has very short gears,” test­ing di­rec­tor Kim Reynolds noted of the toobusy nine-speed trans­mis­sion dur­ing the test. “Sec­ond gear is way too low, and even shift­ing third to fourth found me mo­men­tar­ily touch­ing the rev lim­iter.”

Ac­cord­ing to the EPA, the XT4 re­turns 24/30 mpg city/high­way with fron­twheel drive, lower than rat­ings for the QX50, XC40, or GLA but com­pa­ra­ble with the front-drive X3, which tops out at 23/30. With all-wheel drive, the XT4’S num­bers drop to 22/29 mpg. Th­ese lat­ter mod­els fea­ture a twin-clutch sys­tem that can com­pletely de­cou­ple from the rear wheels when the driver se­lects a par­tic­u­lar mode, aid­ing fuel econ­omy. Elec­tro­hy­draulic brak­ing re­places the tra­di­tional vac­uum-as­sisted setup, also en­hanc­ing ef­fi­ciency.

Sel­dom have we stepped out of a Cadil­lac want­ing more qual­ity time with the CUE in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem—un­til now. The new screen re­sponds quickly to touch and stands by it­self above two clean rows of but­tons. Now, users also get a sec­ond op­tion for con­trol­ling the sys­tem: a ro­tary con­troller on the lower cen­ter con­sole next to the gear shifter. Plus, there are phys­i­cal but­tons for the cli­mate con­trol and a vol­ume knob (un­for­tu­nately lo­cated di­rectly be­hind the gear shifter). But those dreaded ca­pac­i­tive slid­ers have been ban­ished to the bad-ideas bin.

“The new CUE feels like a solid im­prove­ment,” fea­tures ed­i­tor Scott Evans said. “The touch panel was al­ways the big is­sue, and the knobs and hard but­tons solve that.”

Cadil­lac is of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent XT4 fla­vors. The base Lux­ury model has the afore­men­tioned $35,790 base price and comes stan­dard with CUE, LED head­lamps and tail­lamps, and leatherette seats. We only tested the top two trims— Sport and Pre­mium Lux­ury—both priced from $40,290. Sport mod­els come with unique gloss black ac­cents, and Pre­mium Lux­ury mod­els don metal­lic ac­cents.

Of course, prices climb quickly with op­tions. And they did on our testers, which ranged from $52,285 to $56,835. That’s a lot for a com­pact cross­over. Cold weather pack­ages, sun­roofs, nav­i­ga­tion, tech pack­ages, and driver-as­sist good­ies add con­sid­er­able coin.

Even on our loaded testers, some ma­te­ri­als feel more Buick than Cadil­lac. Hard plas­tics abound on the dash­board and doors, and the head­liner looks and feels less than Ger­manic. And al­though Sport and Pre­mium Lux­ury mod­els both up­grade to leather seat­ing surfaces, Evans pointed out the grain and sheen of the ma­te­rial “makes it look syn­thetic.” Which prompts the philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion: Which is worse, real leather that looks fake, or fake leather that looks real?

Rather than giv­ing the in­te­rior of its en­try-level cross­over its own iden­tity—much like Volvo did with the

The level of new tech­nol­ogy in the XT4 speaks to the ve­hi­cle’s im­por­tance in Cadil­lac’s lineup.

Xc40—cadil­lac dis­ap­point­ingly gave the XT4 a cabin that looks like a scaled-down ver­sion of what you’d ex­pect from the brand, save for the in­fo­tain­ment screen.

Al­though on pa­per the Cadil­lac has more rear-seat legroom than both smaller and big­ger com­peti­tors, it doesn’t feel that way. Rear oc­cu­pants will find them­selves wishing Cadil­lac had com­pro­mised some cargo space for some ad­di­tional legroom.

Other prod­ucts in the Cadil­lac line— namely the ATS and Ct6—in­spire thoughts of tak­ing tight cor­ners on moun­tain roads or en­joy­ing the ride from the rear seat in un­mit­i­gated lux­ury. The XT4 doesn’t con­jure up th­ese same feel­ings.

To be sure, no en­try-level cross­over ex­hibits the best ac­cel­er­a­tion, han­dling, and de­sign that its brand has to of­fer. Not even close. But the XT4 lacks in each of th­ese cat­e­gories, fail­ing to of­fer the bal­ance the small lux­ury cross­over seg­ment de­mands. It’s most com­fort­able as a high­way cruiser, which is all some cus­tomers will need. n

TWEENER Rather than stand­ing out, the new Cadil­lac XT4 blends into a crowded seg­ment.

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