Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s XT5 crossover signals some big changes ahead |

Mountain Wheels: Cadillac’s XT5 crossover signals some big changes ahead

The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5 is a comprehensively upgraded luxury crossover and the cornerstone of a new series of crossovers in the brand’s ongoing expansion. The XT5 further builds on Cadillac’s trademark attributes of distinctive, sophisticated and agile vehicles.
Jim Fets / special to the Daily |

2016 Cadillac XT5

MSRP: $38,995-$62,500

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

EPA figures: 22 combined (19 city, 27 highway)

If you caught the new Cadillac ads during the Super Bowl, you may have been struck by the spots’ stars — young, up-and-coming hipster kids in New York who don’t look like they’ve got (or ever want) driver’s licenses — and, in one case, no actual car to be seen anywhere.

This is, apparently, the new face of a globalized and somewhat emancipated Cadillac (the division’s head office has been relocated to Midtown Manhattan, not Detroit) which aims not only to revolutionize its product line but also draw in a new crop of future customers, ones who do not necessarily wear golf pants, unless they do so ironically, and aspire to very fancy automobiles.

The first large-audience offering from this all-new 113-year-old luxury brand is the 2016 XT5, an updated and almost completely reinvented version of the SRX crossover. Company president Johan de Nysschen unveiled the car at last fall’s L.A. auto show; we got a chance to actually drive the new Crossover Touring Five in Southern California last week, with de Nysschen appearing personally to talk up the vehicle and the company’s ambitious strategy.

And considering that the most recent version of the SRX, a little past its prime, was still the company’s top seller, de Nysschen says XT5 is expected to be a huge part of an overall growth spurt that is scheduled to see 11 new products from model year 2018 and forward.

XT5 is, happily, a much more competent, comfortable and well-appointed vehicle than its predecessor, parked on an all-new platform that will underpin a variety of Cadillac and other GM-family vehicles in the near future.

In fact, while the SRX always seemed a little too upright and narrow and just a bit cramped on the inside as a result, the new XT5 has a broad look and feel that makes it seem a little more like an upscale version of the newer Ford Explorer, especially on the inside. The cabin feels much wider, the dash angles are smooth and expansive and in the back, the crossover now sports 63 cubic feet of cargo room and even a reclining 40/20/40 split rear seat, ideal for loading a ski bag or two between your passengers.

Design takes the SRX’s basic outline and imparts a much beefier, sculpted look, with the lighting bolt-styled shards of vertical head and taillights tying the XT5 to Cadillac’s other new models; rear door entrances have also been flattened for easier access, and a stretch job means three extra inches of rear legroom.

That’s important as the XT5 is positioned to sell plenty of units in China, where backseat passengers are the critical customers; I spent nearly half of a day-long drive in the rear seat and appreciated all that room, plus good views and impressively comfortable leather surfaces all around.

In North America, the driver’s still the main focus so a new 3.6-liter V-6 with demand-based cylinder deactivation is set up to provide both 27 mpg on the highway and a more-than-adequate 310 horsepower, up a couple of ticks from the old model.

Admittedly, it’s not the 640-horsepower kick in the pants you can now experience in a family member like the CTS-V, but for the XT5 it’s going to provide enough passing and cruising power for most drivers — and good for running up our passes, I can imagine. A mixture of new steel components has also helped the vehicle shed 278 pounds from the outgoing SRX. The competing Mercedes GLE, by comparison, is some 650 pounds heavier.

Pushing all four of the XT5’s wheels further to the corners has also helped stabilize and smooth out what you may remember as the SRX’s occasionally giddy ride, producing a not-tiny crossover that handles quite pleasantly. We drove up the busy but exceptionally twisty Ortega Highway in Orange County and were able to carve into corners quite enthusiastically, the overall stability boosted by active, electronic damping control.

Interior details are, as expected, very classy, with the usual loads of hand-cut and sewn leather, and the entire package of newest-generation GM technology aboard. Particularly cool (or scary, depending on your opinion) is a new all-digital rear view mirror that displays a widescreen live video shot from the tail camera, an effect that takes a little getting used to.

You’ll also find a moderately updated version of the CUE information and entertainment system; on the higher models, the instrument panel also has a Corvette’s worth of adaptable, all-electronic information, gauges and customizable readouts. The dash layout is also much improved, with an optional suede treatment that nicely wraps around the navigation screen.

High Country drivers will also appreciate a new, lightweight all-wheel-drive system that can shift power fore and aft and also from side to side when needed; the entire system also has a driver-controlled disconnect to keep you in fuel-saving 2WD during the summer months.

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