Cadillac XT5 First Impressions

Cadillac is on a roll. Sales are surging — they’ve tripled their numbers in Canada over these last three years.

Meanwhile, conveniently, public demand for crossovers is greater than ever, thanks to cheap oil and a modern consumer whose life crosses over between work and leisure and wants a vehicle which complements that life; one they can easily drive and park in the city, then load up and slide out of town for rural adventures.

Given that demand, expect Cadillac’s sales to increase further with the introduction of the XT5, a nimbler replacement for the outgoing SRX.

Last week, I test drove it in Orange County, California. But until today, Cadillac requested that I not give impressions of how it drives. First, let’s discuss design.

Outside, it boasts a confident earthbound stance.

What the hell does that mean, you’re probably thinking. Fair enough: SUVs are essentially rolling towers; people like being up high. So engineers need to mitigate the natural tippyness that comes of being tall.

Front on, the XT5’s grill visually anchors your impression in a landscape layout, flanked by Cadillac’s signature LED lights, like soccer goalposts. The effect? Width and height give deference to length; it doesn’t look tippy at all. Hence, confidence for any driver suspicious about SUVs.

Lengthwise, there’s a fluidity to the layout, a minute downward slope, further anchoring this rather big vehicle. It’s not an optical trick; the XT5’s wheelbase is noticeably longer than the SRX though the vehicle itself is slightly less lengthy. Greater distance between wheels counteracts the tower effect. It also allows more space for the backseat passengers. Win-win.

Yet they managed to increase the space inside. The XT5’s engineers were thrifty with every cubic centimetre. There’s storage space for that modern cross-driver whose car needs to complement their life. Favourite example: the design of the electronic shift left unused space beneath the centre console, so the engineers exposed and converted that newly opened space beneath for storage, perfect for a purse (or, for the fashion forward, a man purse).

So how does it drive? The steering and cornering are marvelous. Responsive as it needs to be for a jetlagged driver with ADHD negotiating roads as bendy, hilly and surprising as you’d find in a Tuscan borgo. We drove over two hundred miles (that’s over 320 in our dog miles) through the challenging mountain roads around Orange County, California — the very roads its engineers used to test and refine the XT5 during its formative design years. Here, in manual drive, paddling is an easy activity to preserve the brakes and provides a more satisfying drive experience than the default automatic.

Speaking of changing the experience, another great tech detail is the ability to switch from two- to all-wheel drive on the fly. It’s like the road suddenly moves up and contains a vacuum.

Furthermore, cylinder deactivation converts the V6 engine to a V4 on (albeit few) flat surfaces, another noticeable difference in the feel behind the wheel. NB: Suddenly flattening your foot at this point makes the hearty 3.6L engine seem anemic, but the technology does increase fuel efficiency — provided, of course, you don’t flatten your foot here. Luckily it’s an active tech, meaning you passively don’t have to activate it.

The point? Back on the up-and-down-and-all around mountain roads, the engine’s full 310HP and 271 lb-ft of torque are evident and welcome.

Favourite feature: Rearview Camera — a must try. It’s one of those ideas that get you asking, what took so long for someone to invent this? It’s so simple, I’d wager some engineer’s kindergartner suggested it. I wrote it off as a novelty at first and chances are you will too, but the Cadillac rearview camera is utterly transformative. Tap a button and your rearview is replaced by a real-time reality show happening behind your XT5. This feature’s not actually unique to the XT5 and is only available with the Platinum trim but is unique to the Cadillac brand.

In shitty Canadian weather, when you’d want it most, it’d be covered in slush but, then, you can go back to the regular mirror. You just won’t want to; it’s such a pronounced comedown. The second half of our drive was in a lesser trim and a luxury once enjoyed becomes a necessity. When we suddenly had a regular mirror again, the feeling was like when you suddenly have to pay for wi-fi or lose your premium flier status in January.




This is a test