2019 Cadillac XT4 arrives in NY not a moment too soon
You can't have too many crossovers these days, and Cadillac will soon have a new one.
Brian CooleyEditor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
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Cadillac's new baby is exactly that: A compact crossover that slots below the already tidy XT5 and can probably fit in the glovebox of an Escalade. After a 2017 that saw the XT5 outsell all of Cadillac's cars in the U.S. by a 35 percent margin, the XT4 is something of a no-brainer, though the details of any vehicle so important never are.
Here are some first impressions of the XT4 after being among the first to see it in person during a world debut event at Cadillac House, the company's headquarters in Manhattan.
The XT4 is 8 inches shorter than the XT5, but small isn't the first impression you get thanks to a wide, planted look that is helped by the wheels being pushed out toward the corners on a platform developed from parts of Epsilon II (Malibu) and the rear of the XT5. The limited front and rear overhangs that result are part of what keeps keep the XT4 from looking like a starter vehicle, as does its large-but-not-toothy grille and a dramatic new rear taillight design.
Neither of the pre-production cars at the debut had a hood I was allowed to lift, but power will come from a new direct injection 2.0L turbo four doing 237 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque that comes on mostly between 1,400 and 4,000 RPM, so it should feel bigger than it is. A 9-speed automatic converts that power whether you get FWD or the fully decoupling AWD system with rear torque vectoring. EPA fuel economy is expected to be 27mpg average, thanks to cylinder deactivation.
This is clearly a two-row vehicle (Cadillac has a new three-row crossover coming later) but with emphasis on its nearly 40 inches of rear legroom that seemed legit during a quick hop in the back. Up front, the spacious feeling continues with a new dashboard style based on an almost uninterrupted horizontal span, a trick that makes a smaller cabin feel bigger. The main instruments are spare looking, with analog needles for speed and RPM on either side of an LCD information screen. That kind of lean look demands a quality execution lest it just look cheap, which this setup does not.
In the center stack you'll find the much improved new version of the Cadillac User Experience (they don't seem to call it CUE any more) across all trim levels, on an 8-inch touchscreen that I was pleased to see nestled deeply in the dash rather than sticking up like a billboard outside Ebbing. It's easily reached, but if you don't want to touch it you can use Cadillac's first physical control set for a head unit that includes a large multipurpose knob surrounded by home run buttons and a real volume knob, not a capacitive touch strip to be found.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard at all trim levels while built-in navigation is optional across the board.
The new XT4 starts at $35,790 when it hits showrooms in Fall 2018. The two samples I saw had the optional panoramic sunroof installed which is always more dramatic the smaller the car it's installed on; You'll want to check that box. Cadillac trim levels will be handled differently starting with XT4: The base is called Luxury (see how they did that?), with upgrades to Premium Luxury or Sport. Those two are a fork more than a hierarchy.
Beyond itself, the XT4 is important as the cork coming out of a bottle of four more new Cadillac models over the next two years, leaving the company with more crossovers than cars for the first time. If the XT4 can perform as well as the XT5 has in showrooms, it could change the company's business in fairly short order.