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The XT5 is Cadillac's midsize luxury utility vehicle, a versatile and cushy hauler that competes with rivals like the Lexus RX 350 and Lincoln Nautilus. To keep pace with these foes, and others, the XT5 was mildly enhanced last year, gaining a new turbocharged base engine, some updated tech and mildly tweaked styling, changes that continue forward for 2021. But while the XT5 is pleasant enough to drive and has a neatly trimmed cabin, the whole package feels a bit middle of the road in a segment where excellence is expected.
This Sport-trim model features a fetching five-sided grille outlined in satin chrome and filled in with a black mesh texture. This prominent opening is flanked by LED headlamps, which are standard across the XT5 range. When viewed head-on, this vehicle is elegant, though, regrettably, the rest of its body is less attractive. If the XT5's styling were one of the seven dwarves in Snow White, it'd be Dopey. The proportions seem off, which makes the whole thing look dull. With an oddly elevated hood and body that seems too tall and narrow, this Cadillac is a bit ungainly, reminding me of a smaller vehicle dressed in a fat suit.
But there is good news: None of that awkwardness carries through to the cabin. The XT5's interior is beautifully designed and more comfortable than you might expect. With plenty of soft, semi-aniline leather along with a wrapped-and-stitched instrument panel, microfiber-suede headliner and fetching bronze-hued carbon-fiber trim, it's attractive and upscale. These upgrades are all included in the $3,650 Platinum Package. The front bucket seats are supportive enough to maintain good posture yet they're still supple, so your ass doesn't fall asleep on longer drives. This Caddy's backseat is great as well, with plenty of room for taller adults, plus the lower cushion is a good height above the floor and nicely angled for a natural seating position.
Mounted up high where it's easy to see and reach is the 8-inch multimedia screen. Not only does it look small on that big ol' dashboard, it feels a bit cramped, too. You can practically get television-sized displays in some vehicles these days -- including Cadillac's own Escalade -- which makes this screen seem all the more inadequate. Despite that size deficiency, the XT5's infotainment system is a dream, being both intuitive and highly responsive. Embedded navigation is available for an extra cost, though Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported on even the most basic model. Both of these smartphone-mirroring technologies can connect wirelessly for greater convenience, which is especially nice if you're running a bunch of errands, getting into and out of the vehicle frequently.
Aside from the screen itself, there's a rotary dial on the center console right next to the volume knob. You can use this to cycle through the infotainment system's menus if you want, though I never really do. For me, it's easier to just use the touchscreen. Next to that control is the XT5's silly electronic shifter, which can be fiddly and reminds me of an ancient Nokia cell phone. Pushbuttons or a rotary control would be preferable and likely free up more storage space on the console.
One annoying aspect of this vehicle's interior is the physical climate controls. The system is super slow to respond when adjusting the temperature. You can rapidly click the buttons or even hold them down, but the numbers still change at an agonizingly slow pace, 72… 73… 74… Luckily, there's a redundant set of climate controls in the infotainment system, and these respond immediately.
When it comes to tech, this Cadillac has plenty of standard kit. Front and rear parking sensors, remote start and an ineffective lane-keeping system are a few of the items included free of charge. You also get heated front seats for no extra outlay, ditto for a high-definition backup camera. Along with a color head-up display, automatic parking assist and a handy rear-camera mirror, which provides a much broader field of view behind the vehicle, the $2,275 Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package includes an HD surround-vision camera system, which gives you a 360-degree view of the XT5, something that's super helpful when squeezing into narrow parking spaces. Disappointingly, adaptive cruise control, a feature that's standard on many much-more-affordable vehicles these days also costs extra, bundled with the $1,300 Driver Assist Package.
Speaking of driving, two engines are offered in the 2021 XT5. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is standard on Luxury and Premium Luxury trims, but Sport models come exclusively with a 3.6-liter V6 that's rated at 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of twist. Smooth and unexpectedly snarly, this powerplant has no trouble motivating the XT5. A responsive and refined nine-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, routing torque to either the front tires or all four if you opt for the available all-wheel-drive system, which is standard on Sport models. As for efficiency, I averaged around 20 miles per gallon in testing, a somewhat disappointing figure. It seems this Cadillac should do better since it's not that big or heavy, plus it's fitted with standard engine stop-start and the V6 has cylinder deactivation (fortunately, both technologies are pretty much seamless). But hey, at least that real-world fuel-economy figure is close to the XT5's combined rating of 21 mpg. Around town, expect 18 mpg, on the highway it should return 26 mpg.
Separating Sport models from lesser XT5s, they come with an adaptive suspension with continuous damping control, a quicker steering ratio and 20-inch wheels. Despite those generously sized rollers, this Cadillac's ride is firm and well controlled, but never harsh. The steering ratio is also reasonably quick, which makes the XT5 feel nimbler than you might expect, though as per usual, more road feel through the wheel would be appreciated.
Eschew all options and you can drive home in a 2021 Cadillac XT5 for just about $45,000, including $995 in delivery fees. That makes it a couple grand richer than an entry-level Lincoln Nautilus, or around $1,000 less than a base Lexus RX 350. Of course, the nicely optioned Sport model seen here is a good bit pricier than 45 grand, but its window sticker isn't that crazy. Including the Platinum Package, night vision, optional 12-spoke wheels and a few other goodies it checks out for $68,765.
The XT5 Sport is refined and comfortable, pleasant to drive and versatile. Indeed, there's a lot to like about this vehicle, even if some things about it are a bit annoying and the exterior styling is too frumpy. Hopefully Cadillac tries just a little harder when it redesigns this luxury utility vehicle in the future, so it can live up to its full potential.