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FIRST DRIVE: New 2020 Cadillac XT6 is stylish, sophisticated

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport is powered by a 310-horsepower, 3.6-litre, V-6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. - GM
The 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport is powered by a 310-horsepower, 3.6-litre, V-6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. - GM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the wall of a suite in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the tony neighbourhood of Georgetown, Washington, D.C., hangs a large photograph of one of the most famous Cadillac vehicles in the world, known as The Beast.

The black behemoth is the state vehicle of the President of the United States.

Although most information about the vehicle is classified, rumours say its armoured plating is 20 centimetres thick, the windows are made of 13-cm thick bulletproof glass and the interior is sealed to ward off harm from chemical attack. It’s also believed to weigh 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg). It’s not winning any speed races.

Apparently it has a tear-gas cannon hidden under the rear end and, stashed somewhere in the interior, is a stock of blood compatible with that of the President. The Beast is undeniably bad-ass.

At the moment, though, I’m feeling more awe-struck about the monuments of Washington, D.C., I saw during an all-too-brief night-time tour, hosted by Cadillac.

The sudden torrential rain turned the planned walking excursion into a drive. The whirlwind tour gave me just enough of a taste to want to return with more time and explore the major icons of America’s capital city, like the venerated Lincoln Memorial, the imposing Washington Monument, the world’s tallest stone structure and obelisk, and the beautifully carved Stone of Hope Memorial dedicated to Civil Rights Movement leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

Cadillac did not invite us to Washington, D.C., simply to look at monuments however.

The storied marque, long-admired as the pinnacle of American luxury and a symbol of having arrived at a certain status in life, chose the city to launch their all-new 2020 Cadillac XT6.

The first-ever XT6, a three-row crossover, will appeal to active parents with older children and hectic schedules packed with organized activities.

For these families, the XT6 will provide a calming, spacious oasis in the non-stop bustle of everyday life, an interior with luxurious leather and exotic wood touches in the Premium Luxury trim and carbon fibre trim in the Sport model and simple, elegant interfaces throughout.

The second-row seats slide, not only making the cabin adaptable, but enabling passengers to load into the third row without having to move an installed child’s car seat. Versatility is enhanced by a standard power-folding third-row seat and remote fold-down feature for the second-row seat.

The hands-free liftgate at the rear of the vehicle opens onto generous cargo space.

Besides recharging its human cargo with a well-appointed in-vehicle experience, including a heated steering wheel, air ionizer, automatic heated/ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats, the XT6 recharges smartphones and other social devices with six USB ports sprinkled through all three rows.

The XT6 comes with the latest Cadillac user experience, with intuitive controls including a rotary controller with new jog functionality, a first for Cadillac, adding a third way, besides hard buttons and steering wheel controls, of selecting options on and navigating the HD eight-inch touchscreen.

The XT6 offers Cadillac’s first Bose Performance Series sound system. Those 14 custom-tuned stainless-steel speakers sure delivered the sound while plying the turns and twists of blacktop in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. They look pretty too, with their uniquely branded Cadillac-Bose pattern.

According to Cadillac president, Steve Carlisle, “Every seat in the XT6 is the best seat in the house.”

I tried every seat and he’s right.

Although not equipped with a tear-gas cannon to ward off road-rage attacks, passengers and drivers of the XT6 will feel safe with an impressive amount of standard features like forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, rear cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning and a safety alert seat.

Cadillac also offers a whole slew of available safety technologies on the XT6 like adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist with braking, rear pedestrian alert, surround vision recorder, head-up display and hitch guidance with hitch view.

Two features I especially like are Cadillac’s rear camera mirror, available on the XT6 with remote wash, and night vision, a thermal and infrared imaging system that is able to detect human or animal presence on the roadway ahead. Cadillac was the first auto manufacturer to introduce the technology (in 2000 on the Deville) and, although it’s a feature that may be on the wane in some manufacturers’ products, it’s obviously an indispensable safety feature on country highways and byways, especially up here in moose and deer country.

It’s a handsome vehicle with both models featuring advanced lighting technology and each model sporting specific design cues and features.

The Premium Luxury model offers bright Galvano finish on the grille, side windows and roof rails, unique front and rear fascias with red taillight lenses and 20-inch wheels. The XT6 Sport wears a black grille with a specific, V-Series-inspired pattern, black window moldings and roof rails, unique front and rear fascias with tinted clear taillight lenses, standard 20-inch wheels and available 21-inch wheels.

It was surprisingly nimble and responsive for its size. All models are powered by a 3.6-litre V-6 310-horsepower engine and nine-speed automatic transmission with Cadillac’s electronic precision shift and the ability to choose among four driving modes. The engine features direct injection, active fuel management, reducing the use of the six cylinders to four, and stop/start technology.

All-wheel drive is standard on Premium Luxury and a performance-oriented dual-clutch AWD system is standard on XT6 Sport. I did not have the opportunity to drive the Sport version so I’m looking forward to experiencing its continuous damping control active handling and performance-inspired responsiveness at some point in the future.

The XT6 will fit neatly in size, content, capability and pricing between Cadillac’s global best-seller, the XT5, with the 2020 version offering more standard content and a new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine option, and the full-size Escalade.

If Cadillac’s segment-leading XT4 can be called an Escalade puppy, the first-ever XT6 could be the Escalade’s well-adjusted high-performing teenager.

With the stylish and sophisticated three-row XT6 firmly ensconced in the luxury brand’s SUV lineup, Cadillac must be thinking: “Our family is now complete.”

MSRP for XT6 Premium Luxury AWD XT6: $60,995

MSRP for XT6 Sport AWD: $63,795

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