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2019 Cadillac XT4 review: Style, but not enough substance

Cadillac's smallest crossover provides few compelling reasons to pick it over the competition.

Jake Holmes Reviews Editor
While studying traditional news journalism in college, Jake realized he was smitten by all things automotive and wound up with an internship at Car and Driver. That led to a career writing news, review and feature stories about all things automotive at Automobile Magazine, most recently at Motor1. When he's not driving, fixing or talking about cars, he's most often found on a bicycle.
Jake Holmes
6 min read

There's no denying the business case for automakers selling as many sizes and types of crossovers as possible. With so many crossovers on sale today, new entrants need to do something special to make a splash and to earn our recommendation. The 2019 Cadillac XT4, the brand's smallest and most affordable crossover, is likable in many ways but not head-and-shoulders above what the competition sells. Though it's stylish and filled with great features, the XT4 leaves me feeling a bit underwhelmed.

2019 Cadillac XT4

2019 Cadillac XT4

The Good

Bold design inside and out, with lots of useful and simple in-car tech.

The Bad

A coarse engine, lazy transmission and disappointing fuel economy.

The Bottom Line

Handsome and well-equipped, the XT4 nonetheless fails to grab our attention.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 is a handsome luxury crossover

See all photos

Strong first impressions

At least it's not meh to look at. The XT4, which is about 8 inches shorter in length than the , packs far more curb appeal than its big brother. Enormous vertical running lights at either side of the big mesh grille define the nose, while an angled rear window with a relatively large spoiler injects a dose of sportiness. My tester's 20-inch wheels added extra pop, and while clear taillights are an unconventional choice, they somehow work quite tidily on the XT4. As on all modern Cadillac design, straight lines and tight creases make for a very modern look all round.

Move inside and things are still stylish, albeit with some dull plastics that feel more Chevrolet than Cadillac. But carbon-fiber trim, nice leathers and some chrome garnishes dress up the cabin. The center stack is button-intensive, although it's nice to have quick shortcuts to things like the safety systems and heated/cooled seats without digging through the touchscreen menus.

Passenger space is ample front and rear, with the back seat offering plenty of leg- and headroom, enough that I could sit comfortably in the back even with the driver's seat adjusted for a large driver. A tall driving position and generously sized windows make for decent visibility in all directions.

2019 Cadillac XT4

Carbon fiber and light-colored leather dress up the cabin.

Jake Holmes/Roadshow

Cargo space is relatively tight for the class. Part of the issue is that the XT4 is sort of a class in-betweener: It's smaller than a BMW X3 but larger than a , for instance, or midway between Audi's Q3 and Q5. Cargo room behind the second row of seats measures 22.5 cubic feet, and vertical space is somewhat limited by the slanted window. Lower the seats to open up 49.8 cubic feet of room. While most buyers will probably find cargo space sufficient, those figures make it roomier than a but less capacious than a BMW X1, for reference.

On the road

The Cadillac XT4 offers just one powertrain choice: a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Rated for a competitive 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the engine delivers midpack acceleration. But it's louder and coarser than we expect from a luxury crossover. Moreover, the transmission's laggardly responses significantly dull performance.

On the other hand, the automatic is impressively smooth in normal urban driving. The standard stop-start system restarts the engine with very little fuss, which is a positive, and the feature can also be disabled if you like -- which is not the case in most General Motors cars with this tech.

2019 Cadillac XT4

The turbo engine has competitive output ratings but can sound coarse.

Jake Holmes/Roadshow

Fuel economy with all-wheel drive is rated at 22 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Those are class-competitive numbers but I struggled to come close to those figures in real-world driving, with even laid-back highway cruises falling short of the EPA numbers. The XT4 is not the segment's fuel-efficiency champ.

My tester was optioned with a $1,200 Active Sport Suspension option, which uses continuously adjustable dampers to optimize ride and handling. In reality, though, the car's handling is not particularly energetic and its ride quality not all that plush. The XT4 drives without much enthusiasm for cornering, yet still exhibits a lot of impact harshness on rough roads (some blame likely goes to the 20-inch wheels).

Cadillac offers XT4 drivers three modes for the crossover's all-wheel-drive system. In Tour mode the system disengages the rear axle to help save fuel, as is common on a lot of all-wheel-drive vehicles. But you must reselect the AWD or Sport drive modes when you want all-wheel traction -- a cumbersome step that seems to negate the "automatic" aspect of most AWD systems. The electric power steering is uncomfortably light in the Tour drive mode, while in the other two modes it is notably heavier but no less disconnected-feeling.

2019 Cadillac XT4

These 20-inch wheels, which cost $1,100, don't do much to help ride quality.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

All told, of course, the Cadillac XT4 goes, steers and stops just fine. But for a luxury vehicle, and especially from a brand that has in the past decade shown it can build great-driving cars, the XT4's manners are underwhelming. It lacks the verve of rivals and does not even offer a pillow-soft ride, so it's tough to come up with many plaudits from the driver's seat.

Accessible technology

One of the XT4's virtues is its in-car technology, which is both plentiful and highly functional. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, running the brand's latest Cadillac User Experience (CUE) software, is powerful and simple to operate. A clear menu structure with big icons facilitates easy navigation between functions. There's also a secondary rotary control knob on the center console -- though frankly it's not all that useful as it only scrolls and does not jog left-right/up-down like rival systems.

Still, CUE has snappy responses and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Wi-Fi hotspot comes with three months with 3GB of data for free. You can download additional apps, like Spotify Internet radio and, for some reason, a New York Times app. Amazon Key functionality is included, so you can have packages delivered directly to your Cadillac. And cloud-based profiles allow you to use the same radio presets, navigation routes or other options between multiple vehicles. To keep devices electrified, you'll find USB ports of both Type A and Type C varieties, as well as a wireless phone charging pad in the center console.

Watch this: Checking the tech in the 2019 Cadillac XT4

An optional 8-inch color trip computer provides big amounts of information ahead of the driver. It's especially to nice to have the digital speedometer because the analog one, for some reason, reads to 160 miles per hour and crams the useful speed range (0-70 mph) into a tiny portion of the dial. The color display can, as is common with rivals, show all manner of trip and fuel economy data, vehicle status, navigation, phone and music information. A color head-up display also shows important information, like speed, engine revs and navigation, at a glance.

Other luxury tech on my tester included remote start, a large panoramic sunroof, massaging front seats and a power liftgate.

Lots of safety equipment

Although much of it is bundled into paid option packages, my XT4 featured all the active-safety tech we've come to expect from modern luxury cars : precollision warning and braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist and automatic high beams. A 360-degree camera with a dozen different vantage points helps avoid obstacles or curbs in low-speed maneuvers.

2019 Cadillac XT4

Cargo space will likely be adequate for most buyers, though the XT4 is not the most spacious in its class.

Jake Holmes/Roadshow

Cadillac's driver aids use the company's Safety Alert Seat warning functionality. Rather than playing strident chimes, the warning systems vibrate the driver's seat to alert about hazards. And speaking of seat warnings, like most General Motors cars, the XT4 will chime to warn you when you exit the vehicle if you may have left an item or child in the back seat.

Also included is a camera-based rearview mirror. By default it simply reflects, but flip it down and the mirror instead shows a wide-angle view from a rear-mounted camera. It reduces blind spots, especially if there are tall passengers or cargo blocking your view aftward. But it takes my eyes a split second to refocus on the screen when glancing up at the mirror so I tend not to use it all the time; you may acclimate after more time behind the wheel.

Good in a class of greats

Pricing for the 2019 Cadillac XT4 starts at $35,790 with destination, a reasonable sum for a vehicle of its ilk. My car's $57,735 as-tested price registered some surprise among Roadshow staff, though: it feels like a lot of money for a crossover that's neither especially large nor especially beloved. The Cadillac's many option packages are pricey and sticker prices tend to escalate quickly.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 is a really pleasant car in which to spend a week; from suburban driving to highway cruising and everything in between, it served me well. Yet it's tough to think of any ways in which the Cadillac outdoes its rivals. Other luxury crossovers have nicer interiors, better ride quality and sportier handling. While the XT4 is good, you'd be remiss if you didn't test-drive some of its competition before plunking down your hard-earned money.

Jake's Comparable Picks

2019 Cadillac XT4

2019 Cadillac XT4

Score Breakdown

Performance 6.5Features 8.5Design 9Media 7.7