Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s smaller SUV grows up with new makeover | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s smaller SUV grows up with new makeover

I've had two chances to spend time with Cadillac's much-anticipated remake and replacement of its popular SRX crossover, the 2017 XT5. A few new revelations come out after a longer experience with this very accomplished alternative to the gargantuan Escalade, during drives a few weeks back.

Firstly, while I recently opined in another publication I write for that XT5 was indeed part of a wave of absolutely affordable ways of getting premium brand luxury at expensive Hyundai prices — last week's $40,000 Santa Fe Sport, for instance — that may not be entirely true, when you go whole hog on the higher-end Caddy offerings.

Sure, a basic and still beautiful XT5, complete with the same upgrades and 310-HP 3.6-liter V-6 and the car's standard roster of features, could conceivably be purchased for as little as $38,995, making it technically cheaper than a Hyundai.

But when the bells and whistles, of which there are many, are added into the equation, you'll experience something more like the $63,845 Platinum edition, whose only non-standard options were a compact spare tire and a cargo net. And given that Escalade now starts at $73,000-plus, maybe that's still a bargain.

Secondly, I've found that the XT5 — a very accomplished machine, overall, with features just as striking as its bigger brother — straddles the precarious ground between being just right for sophisticated crossover buyers and just a little on the light side in a few aspects, including power for mountain drivers. My suspicion is that one of the dozen or so new Cadillac products promised, starting next year, will produce a new vehicle situated between XT5 and Escalade.

In the meantime, XT5 is certainly pleasant and full of those remarkably chiseled features that define the modern Cadillac design vocabulary. There's a glowing nighttime light show up front with slashes of headlamp and LED lights that's like something out of a Japanese Halloween robot show; in daylight, the tall wall of chrome on the hood adds much presence to a large but not outlandishly scaled vehicle.

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You'll also enjoy the tightness of the driving character, with a suspension that's rigid (but not as bone-crunching as the too-sporty Jaguar F-Pace) but exhibits less bounce and laziness as other competitors.

From the oddly new-school Cadillac seats (no longer do you feel like you're sitting on an upholstered stack of newspapers, but instead a sporty and well-proportioned throne — they'll also buzz to warn you if you're backing in too close to another vehicle) to the broader and simpler cabin layout, it's also a portrait of simplicity.

Sit inside, without the ignition running, and there are only three live buttons and a push starter to be seen anywhere on the blacked-out console; close the leathery cupholder topper and all you really have is the CUE touchscreen, a few silver AC controls and that odd felt-like cubby hole in the mid-dash area. A bit of wood trim inside the wheel and as door and dash inserts are the XT5's few spots of interior flash.

Moreover, in the Platinum edition, you get an all-digital instrument screen adapted from Corvette, making you wish very much, at times, that the XT5 had been fitted with a 3.6-liter pushing 335 HP like the CTS sedan or one of the even-higher-output models available on the V-Series editions — but that is not quite the case.

That makes for XT5's only performance anxiety. The 310 HP is more than sufficient for regular use and can even be coaxed into offering a little more malice with the difficult-to-access performance driving mode, but it's not quite a thunderous affair — and the AWD driving mode set by the same sequence presumably locks the twin-clutch system into full-time use, rather than the on-demand mode you'll find during most outings.

The eight-speed automatic also seems a little slow to react if you're going for a sporty drive, and the actual shift mechanism is a non-intuitive disaster. You need to grip a button and press the entire handle up and to the left to get the car into reverse, and missing any parts of that sequence will result in frustrating failure warnings.

On the whole, a clean and contemporary project with some nice, suede-covered interior surfaces and very spacious rear seating; a mix of driving got me about 24 MPG, two off of the car's listed highway figure.

2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD

MSRP: $62,500; as tested, $63,845

Powertrain: 310-HP 3.6-liter V6; eight-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures (combined/city/highway): 21/18/26