SEATTLE — In a sense, we came here to see Cadillac’s future. From now through 2020, the luxury brand says it will introduce a new model every six months. First up was the 2019 Cadillac XT4 crossover which goes on sale this fall.
Caddy has spent years introducing top-flight luxury sedans, burnishing its tarnished luxury badge image, improving its quality and sharpening its styling.
The effort has made it the second-most improved brand on the market. The only problem is that as Cadillac has improved so has its competitors, namely the German luxury brands. That’s why as we were told the XT4 is extraordinarily important.
In a phrase, they started with a clean sheet of paper – almost. This luxury crossover carries the design language of Cadillac with a couple of subtle twists. One designer said when they first envisioned the XT4 a baby Escalade came to mind. But I’m not so sure that they want the public to think of their newest crossover as a shrunk down version of their flagship Escalade.
Still, it has the sharp-edged look of a Cadillac without the sharp edges. The grille was a little smaller but you’d need a micrometer to tell by how much. The edges weren’t so edgy and that gave the XT4 a more rounded, refined look. It had a sophisticated swag that they hope will attract a younger yet affluent buyer.
The XT4 still had Cadillacs LED light blades in the front which serve as daytime running lights. But they didn’t extend down through the fascia and there was a light brow over the LED headlamps which all XT4s have no matter the trim line. The rear sported the LED light blades as well but there was also a brow that extended inward to form an inverted L.
The XT4 comes with 18-inch standard wheels but it can be equipped with 20-inch wheels. There was a power bulge in the hood but it wasn’t distracting from the overall look and you really didn’t have to look over it to see the road.
And under that hood was a new 2.0 liter twin scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine that made almost 240 horsepower, or 237 to be exact. It also made a hefty 258 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 4,000 rpm. What’s more, it was mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Translated that torque range meant the 2019 Cadillac XT4 accelerated with authority from just about any speed. And the twin scroll turbocharger meant there was virtually no lag between pedal depression and engine reaction and a nine-speed close ratio automatic transmission meant fuel consumption was pretty good.
Oh, and lest I forget, this four-cylinder engine had cylinder deactivation; it could and did run on two cylinders when driving conditions were appropriate. But we never felt it switch.
The EPA rating was 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel-drive model. Mileage was 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway for the all-wheel-drive model. The XT4’s chief engineer who was riding with us said the AWD version can get the magical 30 mpg most of the time. But because it was not all of the time, implicit in the 29 mpg rating was that they decided not to incur the wrath of the EPA.
Overall, the interior was softer. Gone were the hard edges and angels of recent Cadillacs. I thought it interesting that interior designers avoided the recent trend of floating infotainment screens and embedded the XT4’s screen into the dash and angled it outward, making the screen easy to reach and operate the touch screen. It was also surrounded by soft heavily padded leather.
Cadillac listened to focus groups and gave the XT4 some buttons. One was for audio volume and the other large button was the controller, or rotary mouse. They were on the console which also housed the electronic gear shift which seemed to be a little smaller on the XT4 than it is on the XT5.
There was a beefy steering wheel on the sport model we test drove. It was not as thick on the premium luxury model we also tested but there was still some substance. Both trims had AWD and both sported 20-inch wheels.
There was a slender horizontal line of climate controls under the infotainment screen. Just below that line there were controls for the heated and cooled seats, parking sensors, lane keep and emergency lights. There was an analog speedometer and a matching odometer on either side of the instrument pod. A large black and white TFT screen was between them. Both models also had a heads-up-display.
The XT4 had its own Wi-Fi hot spot and it also had a back seat alert. I thought the high definition rear-camera mirror was innovative. The image was shown on a screen that doubled as a rearview mirror and you could switch between the two in the exact manner that you would change between normal and nighttime on a manual rearview mirror.
There was plenty of head room in the back, even with a panoramic roof. The seats were pretty firm though, almost hard. That’s the sort of thing that can lose a sale in comparison shopping. A colleague also pointed out that the material, read plastic, on the inside of the front doors was pretty hard near the bottom. A thorough shopper will pick that up too.
That was the only quibble I had with XT4 during a day of test driving. There was plenty of hip room. The tunnel is the only thing that would keep three people from seating abreast comfortably in the second row. The 2019 XT4 was really spacious fore and aft.
Our test route was kind of an oblong circle that covered about 180 miles. We got a chance to put the newly developed engine through its paces, check out just how rigid the new chassis was on the twisting two lane roads, see how responsive the electronic steering system was and perhaps most important check out the brakes and the maneuverability of the 2019 Cadillac XT4.
The steering felt a little loose in the normal setting but as soon as we put the drive mode into sport it tightened and the handling sharpened. I was pleased that you could turn off stop start and the all-wheel-drive system could send torque to either of the rear wheels as needed. On dry pavement the system maintained front wheel drive.
Although we spent a lot of time driving through the woods, all of it was on pavement. They use lots aggregate in the pavement here, thus roads were not smooth pieces of concrete or asphalt. They were marked by small rocks or pebbles embedded in the road. Still, the XT4 remained quiet as its tires made contact.
Handling was good and visibility was great. The front seats were really spacious and we had the 6’1” chief engineer in the back seats and he had plenty of head room. This compact crossover was really spacious and airy. It was comfortable too.
These roads were tight, in spots they were hilly, it rained some, there was some fog, and it wasn’t necessarily an easy drive. Yet I never felt tired while driving, riding or getting out of or into the XT4. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that it can tow 3,500 lbs.
Cadillac has five trim lines and the 2019 XT4 sports three of them: luxury, premium luxury and sport. There is a pricing pattern that can get a little confusing, thus, it is accurate to say that prices start at $35,790 which includes that $995 freight charge. The sticker can climb into the mid-$50K range depending on the equipment.
As I looked at the option packages and the stand alone options, it occurred to me that you could really custom build your 2019 XT4. It had six option packages and five stand-alone options. I did not count the premium surround sound system since they don’t charge for. It was interesting to see something listed as an option and next to it was a $ sign and a zero.
Anyway, The AWD system was a $2,500 option and the panoramic sunroof was a $1,500 option. The rear camera mirror was part of the $1,500 enhanced visibility package that also included HD surround vision and automatic parking assist.
The $1,050 comfort package included a hands free power liftgate. The $1,650 technology package included wireless charging as well as the heads up display. The $1,100 driver assist package had adaptive cruise control as well as forward and reverse automatic braking, the $850 cold weather package had heated seats front seats, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel too. The driver awareness package featured front pedestrian braking, a distance indicator for following, forward collision alert and lane keep assist with departure warning and automatic high beams for $770.
The 20-inch alloy wheels were $1,100 option while the Cadillac user experience with navigation could add $1,500. The 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Premium Luxury trim that we drove back from lunch had a sticker of $54,485. The 2019 XT4 Sport that we drove to lunch was priced at $56,835.
This new XT4 has the goods in terms of looks, equipment and a fun to drive experience. What’s more, every 2019 XT4 that Cadillac sells is an improvement since it didn’t have an entry in the compact luxury sport utility segment.
Cadillac’s designers and engineers have done their job; now it is up to the advertising and marketing staffs to get the word to potential buyers. And we won’t have to wait long to gauge their success. The Cadillac 2019 XT4 is being shipped and will go on sale this fall.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com