Move over Escalade, there’s a new, big Caddy ute in town. This one is based on a car, instead of a truck and, as a result, is much more user friendly. The 2020 Cadillac XT6 is the brand’s new three-row crossover. It slots into the family’s utility vehicle lineup between the XT5 and the giant Escalade.
The XT6 is based on a modern, front-drive, unibody platform. The decades-old rear-drive base beneath the Escalade is shared with the Chevy pickup truck. The XT6 is a front driver. But not in Canada. While our neighbours to the south get the base front-drive version, all XT6s sold in Canada will come with all-wheel drive.
The fact the body is not perched atop a separate frame, like the Escalade, provides a lower centre of gravity, more car-like driving dynamics and more room for third-row occupants.
While the XT6 is smaller than the Escalade, it offers more comfortable third-row seating. Because the larger Caddy is based on a truck platform, it uses a solid rear axle with a giant lump in the middle for the differential. The floor above it has to be high enough to clear that differential. The result of that raised floor is a third-row seat with a bottom pretty close to the floor. The result is an awkward/uncomfortable knees-up sitting position.
The lower independent suspension of the XT6 allows a lower floor above. Not only is the third row seat higher and more comfortable, getting to it is easier. There is ample knee and head room in either the second or third rows for an average adult.
The XT6 cannot compete with the bigger Escalade in terms of overall space. The XT6 is based on the same platform as the XT5. The wheelbase of that platform, has been stretched 14 cm for duty beneath the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, providing more second- and third-row space. But Cadillac chose to go with the shorter version, perhaps to avoid stealing sales from the Escalade.
While it does not have the longer wheelbase and extra legroom in the second and third rows, the XT6 is 24 cm longer overall than the XT5. Most of that extra length appears behind the second row, much of it allotted to the cargo area. As a result, the XT6 has 50 per cent more cargo area behind the second row than the XT5.
The XT6 is powered by a version of GM’s 3.6-litre V6 paired with a nine-speed automatic and the aforementioned all-wheel-drive system. To squeeze more mileage out of every tank, a fuel management system allows the V6 engine to become a V4 under light load conditions. The transition does not happen often in the hilly Maritimes, but when it does, the switch is all but unnoticeable.
The XT6 is offered in Sport and Premium Luxury trims. The tester was the former, which meant it was tuned for the more enthusiastic driver with emphasis on driving dynamics. The Sport gets quicker steering, larger wheels/tires and adaptive shock absorbers. The all-wheel-drive system has a torque vectoring system at the rear. It can send additional power to the outside wheel during cornering to help push the vehicles around the corner. The result is less understeer and a sharper feel at the wheel.
The XT6 has all the amenities expected of a luxury car. The list of standard features is extensive, as is the amount of latest-generation safety technology. The interior of the Sport model features faux carbon fibre trim. Fit and finish are excellent, and the latest version of Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system more user friendly. The 20-cm touchscreen has a console-mounted controller making movement between functions much easier.
Cadillac’s first unibody three-row crossover is a better prospect than the Escalade for those with an occasional need for a third row. It does not have the towing capacity of the truck-based Ute, but does offer more comfort, better fuel economy, a smoother ride, improved handing and a host of modern safety and other features that could be incorporated in a newer architecture.
Model: 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD
Engine: 3.6-litre, V6, 310 horsepower, 271 lb.-ft. of torque
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 13.5 / 9.7
Length: 5,050 mm
Width: 1,964 mm
Wheelbase: 2,863 mm
Weight: 2,106 kg
Price: $63,798 base, $81,328 as tested, including freight
Standard equipment: 4G LTE hotspot, seven-passenger seating, power, ventilated and heated front seats with power lumber support, heated rear seats, sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, 20-cm colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, voice recognition, wireless device charging, eight-speaker Bose audio system, heated steering wheel, power tilt and telescope steering wheel, 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, power liftgate, power folding third row seats
Safety equipment: automatic high beams, front and rear park assist, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist with departure warning, automatic emergency braking, lane change and blind spot alert, front pedestrian braking, HD rear vision camera
Options on test vehicle: Platinum package (leather upgrade, suede headliner, premium floor mats), $4,255; Enhanced Visibility and technology package, (rear camera mirror, rear camera washer,20-cm colour gauge cluster, rear pedestrian alert, automatic park assist, HD surround vision, heads up display), $2,705; night vision, $2,300; driver assist package (adaptive cruise control, enhanced emergency braking, reverse automatic braking, automatic seat belt tightening), $2,275; Cadillac User Experience with navigation connection, $1,250; stellar black paint, $900; premium headlights, $805; smart towing package (trailer hitch receiver and wiring, 170-amp alternator, heavy duty cooling system), $750; cargo shade, $90