Now that Cadillac's smaller XT4 and XT5 crossovers have settled nicely into the automaker's stable, it's time to expand the lineup with a slightly larger, three-row variant to slot between the XT5 and the big-boy Escalade. Which means it's time for us to hit the road in the 2020 Cadillac XT6.
The XT6 is a little bit longer (9.2 inches more) than its XT5 sibling and a bit taller (about 2 inches) overall. Where the XT5 seats five passengers, the three-row XT6 has room for, well, seven souls between its first-row buckets and second- and third-row benches. (Though, second-row captain's chairs are available as an option, should you want your XT6 to seat six more comfortably.) I wouldn't want to cram an adult in the way-back for a long haul, but there's enough room for a child. When not in use, the motorized, 60/40-split bench folds flat, expanding cargo volume behind the second row to 43.1 cubic feet (about 13 cubes more than the XT5) or 78.7 cubic feet with both rows tucked away.
Like its stablemate, which just got a midcycle update, the XT6 takes safety tech pretty seriously. Cadillac tells me that its Super Cruise hands-off highway cruise control system will be coming to the XT6 sometime in the future, but the technology won't be available at launch.
For now, the SUV at least rolls out with a healthy dose of standard driving aid technologies, including forward precollision alert with low-speed automatic braking, as well as lane-keeping steering assist. It also boasts a standard rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear park distance assist.
Buyers looking for more can select an optional Driver Assist package that adds adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic and full-speed automatic emergency braking with front and rear sensing. There are also Night Vision and Enhanced Visibility & Technology packages. The latter adds the automaker's rear camera mirror and an HD Surround Vision Recorder feature that uses the surround-view cameras to aid in parking, and acts as a sort of 360-degree dashcam to record incidents and impacts on the road to SD card storage. Rounding out the Enhanced package is an Automatic Parking Assist feature that can handle steering and braking while guiding itself into a parking space.
Intellibeam single-projector LED headlamps with automatic high beams are standard, but the XT6 can be upgraded to three-element LED projectors capable of adaptive lighting function, which selectively dims portions of the high beams' light around camera-detected vehicles. This should allow drivers to keep their high beams on without dazzling oncoming cars. However, like a similar technology from Audi, adaptive lighting isn't yet legal in the US, so the feature is temporarily disabled. If and when the law changes, Cadillac will unlock the functionality for so-equipped XT6 owners.
In the cabin, Cadillac's User Experience (CUE) technology also gets an overhaul, with the new, 4G LTE cloud-connected Infotainment 3.5 suite taking residence in the dashboard. The new software is great, with an interface that's much easier to navigate. It can be a bit slow to boot up when you first start the car, but once it gets going, Infotainment 3.5 is snappy and crisply rendered. The XT6 boasts standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone mirroring and is also the first Cadillac model to feature the new Sirius XM with 360L satellite radio, which we've looked at previously.
Drivers interact with the software via a sharp, 8-inch capacitive touchscreen that looks great, with bright graphics even in daylight. Helping to keep fingerprints off of that glossy display is a new jog wheel controller on the center console that can be twisted, nudged and pressed to navigate the interface, meaning I don't have to use the stupid capacitive swipe anymore. The jog wheel looks and functions a heck of a lot like the physical MMI or Comand controllers that Audi and Mercedes-Benz are currently moving away from, right down to the shortcut buttons for major infotainment functions that surround the knob.
Also located in the neighborhood is a physical volume knob on the center console. It's perhaps my favorite addition, having suffered through a generation or two of Cadillac's terrible old capacitive swipe volume bar. Also making life a bit easier are NFC pairing for Android phones -- which allows drivers to quickly Bluetooth pair a phone by momentarily holding it against an icon beneath the display -- and a redesigned center console with cable management and an integrated wireless charging pad.
When choosing an XT6, buyers must first pick between two models. There's the $52,695 Premium Luxury model with its chrome appointment and more comfortable steering and suspension setup. On the other hand, there's the $57,095 Sport model with glossy black trim and an assortment of performance upgrades, which we'll get to shortly. (Both prices exclude destination charges.)
Either way you go, the 2020 XT6 is powered by the automaker's 3.6-liter LGX V6 engine. At 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, this feels like a decent fit for the SUV's chassis and its standard nine-speed automatic transmission. Front wheel-drive is standard with optional all-wheel drive. It might sound a bit wheezy when hammering it, but the XT6 is a quiet cruiser with solid passing power when you need it.
My testing took place behind the wheel of an XT6 Sport model with a firmer tune for its MacPherson front and five-link rear suspension. Sport models also feature more aggressive throttle and shift programming, a quicker steering ratio and heavy-duty cooling components. However, the components that make the biggest performance difference for the Sport trim are the standard electronically adjustable active dampers and the standard Sport all-wheel drive.
You see, the XT6 Sport's all-wheel-drive system comes with a dual-clutch rear differential rather than the open differential that you'll find in Premium Luxury AWD models. That extra bit of kit allows the SUV to perform rear axle torque vectoring (which works alongside front axle brake torque vectoring) for better power delivery and stability when aggressively cornering.
The result is certainly a more dynamic feel than the Premium Luxury model, but I don't know if I'd go as far as calling it "sporty." This is, after all, a nearly 4,700-pound, three-row SUV. That said, turn-in and cornering grip were impressive enough and I enjoyed my brisk drive through the roads of northern Virginia. Personally, I'd rather have the extra dynamic edge than not and preferred the Sport model, but luxury SUV buyers looking for something quiet and comfortable won't be missing out on too much by going with the more relaxed, less expensive trim.
The XT6 compares favorably against the likes of Acura's MDX and the Infiniti QX60, but toughest fight will be against the upcoming (and more powerful) Lincoln Aviator, which also arrives later this year. With the XT6's more attractive exterior design and premium cabin materials, Cadillac may also steal buyers away from the 2020 Lexus RX L -- which also just got a major tech and safety upgrade this year. However, a Lexus buyer's loyalty is as legendary as the brand's reliability, so that'll be a tough pull for the Caddy.
The Cadillac XT6 improves on the successes of its smaller sibling, addressing almost all of the concerns and nitpicks we had about XT5. Previously, we criticized the XT5 for making so many driver aid features optional and for weak-sauce Cadillac CUE infotainment. The XT6 responds with more standard safety features than ever and one of the best infotainment setups in GM's recent history. (Of course, the smaller XT5 is also getting these upgrades for its 2020 model year, so it'll still be a solid choice for drivers who don't need three rows.)
All said, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 is handsomely styled, well-equipped and shaping up to be a solid choice among luxury SUVs. About my only glaring reservation is that it will be better -- perhaps as early as next year -- when Super Cruise joins its feature set. That self-steering highway technology is a game changer for the brand, so it's probably worth waiting just a bit longer before locking in on a new XT6.
Originally published July 9, 6 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:10 p.m.: Corrects standard versus optional second-row seating configuration.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this feature were covered by the manufacturer. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. While Roadshow accepts multiday vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews, all scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms.
The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.