Cadillac's handsome new luxury seven-seater expands and improves on the smaller XT5's formula, but now faces even stronger competition.
The XT6 is a new model for Cadillac and its first three-row unibody SUV in over a decade, but it isn't quite "all-new." Beneath the new design are familiar bones: a platform and powertrain shared with other GM SUVs, from the Buick Enclave to the Chevrolet Blazer to Cadillac's own XT5.
When you get down to it, the XT6 is basically a slightly larger version of the Cadillac XT5. The XT6 is longer (198.8 inches versus 189.6) but with a wheelbase that, at 112.7 inches, is only 0.2-inch longer than the smaller model. The extra length frees up space for the aforementioned third row, bumping capacity up to seven passengers -- or six with the optional second-row captains chairs. The way-back is also fairly spacious, claiming a generous 37.2 inches of headroom and 29.5 inches of legroom for third-row passengers. The spaciousness extends to the cargo area where the XT6 boasts 12.6 cubic feet behind the motorized third-row bench and up to 78.7 cubes with both rows tucked away -- about 16 cubic feet more than its smaller XT5 sibling.
The larger XT6 wears Cadillac's current design language well and I like its sharp styling, which is capped off by even sharper vertical LED taillamps and daytime running lights up front. The Sport Platinum model you see here also featured gloss black trim, which helps the jewel-like LED headlamps pop, as well as a dark-mesh grille. Meanwhile, the flanks are filled by 20-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the XT6 Sport Platinum is pretty darn luxurious, with nice leather seats for all three rows, leather trim and woven carbon-copper accents. Some might call this look dated -- and I see where they're coming from -- but I kinda dig it. At the very least, it's a lot better put together than some of Cadillac's other recent products.
Going with the Platinum trim level also rolls in almost every tech bell and whistle in Caddy's arsenal, from a Bose performance audio system -- which lives at the high end of "sounds pretty good" but not quite "audiophile" -- to a full suite of driver-assistance and safety tech.
This examples comes with adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic and full-speed automatic emergency braking that also works when reversing, which is a great safety net when backing out of a parking space. For getting into spaces, the XT6 can take advantage of automatic parking assist that can both parallel and reverse-perpendicular park, and surround vision cameras that aid when doing it yourself. The cameras pull double-duty when you're away from the SUV, operating as digital video recorders that can capture proof of door dings and fender benders. This feed is sent to an SD card in the glove compartment.
Of the myriad options available on this Sport Platinum model, the one I'd skip is the $2,000 night vision upgrade. Between the excellent LED headlamps and the automatic high-beam assist, I think infrared night vision of very limited utility is kind of unnecessary, and would rather keep my eyes focused through the windshield rather than constantly glancing at the instrument cluster display.
One of the biggest improvements the XT6 ushers in is the new generation of Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment. The new standard system is essentially a re-skin of the excellent GM Infotainment 3 system that you'll find in the new Chevrolet Blazer and the recently reviewed Buick Enclave.
The new 8-inch touchscreen interface is very phone-esque with an icon-based home display and a bar for shortcuts along the lower edge, which makes hopping between the different functions quick and easy. The whole setup should be intuitive to anyone who's used a modern smartphone and is easily customizable by holding and dragging icons around the home screen.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard for those who'd rather bring their own apps and maps, but the OEM software includes a plethora of popular 4G LTE-connected apps of its own, from Spotify to Glympse to iHeartRadio and more. Even the onboard navigation is improved with features like predictive route suggestions and connected destination search.
Factor in the subscription-based OnStar 4G LTE connectivity that powers cloud-based user profile syncing, remote vehicle monitoring and onboard Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices -- a few months of free service are included to get you started -- and Cadillac's dashboard is a revolution over the old CUE tech, which was pretty terrible.
Like the other versions of Infotainment 3, the new CUE is a touchscreen system, but differs from the rest with the addition of a physical control wheel on the center console. This allows the interface to be navigated with a twist or tap, and features hardware shortcuts for volume, skip, map, phone and audio source. The controller doesn't work great with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay and isn't as intuitive as just touching the screen, but it's nice that the option is there for those who prefer physical controls.
Like its sibling and platform-mates, the 2020 XT6 is powered by GM's LGX 3.6-liter V6 engine coupled with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Output is rated at 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. (Convert the torque figure to Newton-meters and you get 367 which, liberally rounded up, is how you explain that stupid "400" badge on the tailgate.)
The XT6's V6 is smooth at the low- to midrange, if a bit wheezy at the top end. This feels like a comfortable workhorse of an engine for more relaxed family-hauling, grocery-getting driving styles -- which is in line with my observations with the nearly identical powertrain in the Enclave.
Front-wheel drive is standard with optional all-wheel drive, but which AWD system you get depends on the trim level chosen. Premium Luxury XT6 AWD models feature torque on-demand to the rear axle with an open rear differential. Sport models upgrade to a dual-clutch rear diff that allows the SUV to perform rear-axle torque vectoring (which works alongside front axle brake-torque vectoring) for better power delivery and stability while aggressively cornering.
Sport models also feature standard electronically adjustable active dampers, more aggressive throttle and shift programming, a quicker steering ratio and heavy-duty cooling components. Even with the Sport upgrades, the XT6 is a very comfort-oriented SUV. Like the larger Enclave, the XT6 rides smoothly and quietly over uneven pavement and boasts good balance and control around bends at reasonable speeds. The Cadillac has a little more wiggle room for more aggressive throttle when exiting corners, but it's nowhere near as sporty or powerful as the Lincoln Aviator.
Fuel economy is pretty good thanks to technologies like stop-start (which you can disable if you want) and variable displacement cylinder deactivation under light load. The EPA reckons 20 miles per gallon combined for front-wheel-drive models, breaking out to 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Optioning all-wheel drive knocks the city and highway estimates down by one, but curiously doesn't affect the 20-mpg combined estimate. I ended my week -- which included some fuel-hungry video production and aggressive driving -- at 15.2 mpg, but you'll probably do better.
The 2020 Cadillac XT6 starts at $52,695 for the Premium Luxury trim with its more comfortable steering and suspension setup, or $57,095 for the Sport model with its performance upgrades. Going with the Sport sharpens the look and performance, but don't expect too much of a difference in athleticism for the money.
My example is also equipped with the Platinum package. This is technically a $3,700 option, but has so many package prerequisites -- Visibility and Tech Package, Driver Assist Package, Comfort and Air Quality Package -- that it basically adds $10,000 to the bottom line. All in, this example rolls out with a $71,190 sticker price including $995 for destination charges and a few additional options.
I really enjoy the 2020 Cadillac XT6. I dig the sharp style, the comfortable ride and most of the bells and whistles. In a vacuum, I'd have no problem recommending it. However, this SUV exists alongside some stiff competition. At the lower trim levels, the XT6's reasonable price (and generous incentives) help, but as the options pile on, the Cadillac becomes less of a value proposition and more of a tough sell over the European competition -- BMW X7, Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, Volvo XC90 -- and, most notably, the new Lincoln Aviator, which is just a much better SUV, whether you're talking power, features or tech.
Unless you really love the look -- perhaps the sole advantage I give the XT6 over the Aviator -- I'd wait to see if a midcycle update brings Super Cruise, a killer technology that could even the playing field a lot.