2019 Cadillac XT4 first drive review: Late to the party, but worth your attention

When much of the automotive industry raced to bring more and more crossovers to market, Cadillac instead focused on sedans. That... hasn't exactly worked, leaving the XT5 to fend as Cadillac's only utility vehicle offering, save the large-and-in-charge Escalade SUV.

Enter the 2019 XT4, a compact luxury Cadillac crossover that can't arrive soon enough.

It's a handsome thing, this XT4, wearing a design that seems more youthful, modern and athletic than other Cadillac models. I love the LED light signatures, with distinctive daytime running lights up front, and the clear taillamp lenses of this test car, so you can see all the inner light clusters.

The XT4 rides on its very own, brand-new platform, and gets its power from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission -- a powertrain that, as a whole, feels cohesive. The engine makes 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which arrives as early as 1,500 rpm and stays strong up to about 4,000 rpm. That means the XT4 is pretty quick off the line, but with enough power for quick punches of acceleration. The transmission behaves nicely, with imperceptible shifts, and always seems to be in the correct gear.

With its modest power and transmission that's geared for efficiency, Cadillac estimates the 2019 XT4 will return about 26 miles per gallon combined with front-wheel drive, or 24 mpg with all-wheel drive.

With those distinct running lights, you won't mistake the XT4 for anything else on the road.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Cadillac introduces a new, Y-structured model breakdown with the XT4. What that means is, the $35,790 Luxury trim serves as the base model (including $995 for destination), and from there you either move up to Sport or Premium Luxury, both of which cost $39,295.

For this first drive, I'm in the Sport, which brings with it a couple of driving modes that affect the optional all-wheel drive system, as well as a continuous damping system that can adjust spring rates up to 500 times per second. The Touring mode decouples the rear axle from the drivetrain, meaning the XT4 cruises with front-wheel drive for improved efficiency. An AWD mode will engage the rear axle as needed if slip is detected, and if you turn the car off while in this mode, it'll remember your setting when you turn the car back on. Finally, Sport mode improves steering and transmission response, and can activate all-wheel drive power based on driving demand, not just slip.

Overall, the XT4 is perfectly pleasant to drive. On the winding, forest roads outside Seattle, I'd like a little more weight to the steering in its default setting, but Sport mode adds appreciated heft. The XT4 is also the first Cadillac to get a new electro-hydraulically controlled braking system, where an electric motor supplies braking power when needed, resulting in a firm, confidence-inspiring pedal feel.

Without the ability to really push the XT4 through corners, it's tough to say if it can usurp other compact luxury crossovers from a dynamic standpoint. But from this early test, I'd say the Cadillac falls roughly midpack here.

In fact, the XT4 has a larger swath of crossovers with which to compete. It's sort of a tweener in size -- smaller than a Mercedes-Benz GLC, for example, but larger than the subcompact GLA. It's the same story with the BMW X1/X3 and Volvo XC40/XC60.

That said, the Cadillac has plenty of room inside, with 39.5 inches of rear seat legroom that handily bests any of its slightly smaller rivals. The XT4's 48.9 cubic feet of cargo space bests the Volvo XC40 and Mercedes GLA, but falls short of both the BMW X1 and X2, as well as the Audi Q3.

Otherwise, the XT4 has a quiet, comfortable cabin, though the engine's buzzy, whiny noise finds its way inside at higher revs. There's tons of tech onboard, too, with Cadillac's latest Cue infotainment system, housed in a high-definition, 8-inch touchscreen. The screen is very responsive with lots of shortcut buttons, and it can be controlled by a rotary dial in the center console. In fact, I like using the dial better, as it feels less distracting while driving.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is near-field communication (NFC) pairing for Android devices. Simply place your phone on the designated spot on the dash and it'll connect via Bluetooth automatically. NFC isn't yet compatible with Apple devices, though that's no fault of Cadillac. The XT4 even gets Amazon Key integration, meaning your must-have online purchases can be delivered right to your car.

A Wi-Fi hotspot can support up to seven devices and there are four USB ports and three 12-volt outlets scattered throughout the cabin. Wireless charging is also available.

An available panoramic sunroof makes for an open and airy cabin.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The XT4 also gets Cadillac's digital rear-view mirror, which projects an image onto the mirror for a wider, clearer view of what's out back. It takes a while to train your eyes to refocus, but I like the extra sight lines this camera affords. If you have a cargo bay full of big items, your backward view is not obstructed.

As for other driver aids, you'll need to spring for either the Premium Luxury or Sport trims. Blind-spot monitoring is standard on every XT4, but lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning and full-speed cruise control are part of separate packages.

And therein lies the XT4's biggest wrinkle: These optional extras can add up quick. Once I've added $2,500 for all-wheel drive, $1,225 for a fancy paint job, over $8,000 in packages and $4,000 in other options, the Sport tester you see here comes out to $56,235 -- a big step above its original $39,295 asking price, to say nothing of the cheaper $35,790 base model.

Still, that puts the XT4 right between subcompact and compact crossovers from a wide array of luxury automakers. And with its excellent powertrain and good looks, the XT4 is a solid contender in this increasingly crowded segment when it hits dealerships this fall.


Editors' note: Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists.

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