Last week, GM Authority traveled to Washington D.C. for a first drive of the all-new 2020 Cadillac XT6. After several briefings on Caddy’s new three-row crossover, we got into an XT6 Sport and drove off toward the gorgeous backroads of Virginia.
All in, we spent about 150 miles with the XT6, both behind the wheel, in the passenger seat, and in the two back rows. On the paved roads, this “midsize-plus” crossover felt very composed, even at high speeds. In fact, we can’t praise this quality enough: the XT6 is easy to drive at any speed, whether navigating traffic-packed city streets or when eating up miles on the interstate.
When getting into higher speeds, the ride is very quiet and peaceful, though that comes somewhat as a double-edged sword: the ride is so serene, that the steering in Cadillac’s newest crossover feels detached. That’s a significant departure from the incredibly-connected feel delivered by the now-discontinued Cadillac ATS and CTS. A little more steering feedback would add a doze of fun to the XT6’s serene yet composed personality. But whether or not a more connected steering feel is something buyers in this category will appreciate is another matter entirely.
At this point, we must once again emphasize just how quiet the new Cadillac XT6 is, and how easy it is to drive quickly. This is something we noted in our remarks about five times during the drive, often finding ourselves glancing at the speedometer and realizing that we were well above the speed limit.
Currently, the only powerplant for the Cadillac XT6 in North America is GM’s newest naturally-aspirated six cylinder, the 3.6L V6 LGX making 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. In China, the XT6 gets the turbo-charged 2.0 I4 LSY as the only engine, but that’s a story for another day. Swapping the cogs is the newest GM 9-speed automatic transmission.
Power from the atmospheric six-banger is plentiful and comes on smoothly. It should suffice for family-carrying duties as well as some spirited driving through the twisties. But from a handling standpoint, don’t expect to get the same feeling as you would from driving an ATS, CTS, or CT6.
Speaking of the twisties, Cadillac told us a few times during the press briefings that the XT6 offers trick cornering capabilities thanks to its twin-clutch AWD system, which is capable of directing most engine power to an outside rear wheel. That would only come in handy when accelerating through a turn, which we tried several times, one of which was at an empty traffic circle.
We couldn’t really tell if some form of mechanical magic was taking place in the chassis, since we were trying to hold on just to remain in the seat. While comfortable on long-distance trips or runs around town, the chairs simply don’t have the upper or lower bolstering necessary to hold the driver and front passenger in place during spirited driving maneuvers, so keep that in mind in case you’re planning on recreating an episode of Gymkhana in your XT6.
Now, the cockpit is based on the XT5. In fact, it’s identical to that of the refreshed 2020 Cadillac XT5, which both share the GM C1 platform. While some will deride this as a negative quality, we don’t think so whatsoever. Taken at face value, the XT5 is Cadillac’s best-selling model by a long shot, so it’s obvious that people like that interior. Hence, it’s safe to assume that most customers in this category will have a similar reaction to the cabin of the XT6.
The materials are all high-quality stuff, with every touch point wrapped in some kind of a soft-touch appliqué. There’s genuine wood or carbon fiber for the large insert spanning the dash as well as the door inserts. The speaker grilles of the Bose Performance Series audio system have a highly-technical look, with graduated gauges – 0.6 mm on the external portions of the grille going to 1 mm on the internal portions. Besides communicating a precision feel, the grilles just look good. The audio system sounds good too, whether playing spoken word radio/podcasts or bumping the latest hip hop jams. We did both.
The AC vent surrounds and door handles are finished in a tasteful chrome, and everything else has a good, solid feeling. The only exception to that are the bottom portions of the doors, which have a hard plastic finish, like on the ATS. A more fitting material for such a premium product is the softer lower door liner like on the CTS and Escalade.
Back to the primary function of the new Cadillac XT6 as a luxurious people hauler: the seating position for the driver and front passenger is low in the vehicle and it took a while to find just the right position. Meanwhile, the passenger seat is comfortable for just sitting, and also for doing some work: during our drive, we had to send off two emails to our GM Authority colleagues from the laptop, and were able to do so in comfort from the passenger seat using the built-in Wi-Fi hotspot running through the
OnStar Cadillac 4G LTE network.
The second row on the new Cadillac XT6 can be ordered as either captain’s chairs seating two passengers or a bench seat for three passengers. All XT6 units we sampled had the captain’s chairs configuration, which get the job done with sufficient legroom and overall comfort.
The third row seats two people and is quite usable. We spent roughly 30 minutes there during rides around town. However, a full-sized adult probably wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time back there. Ingress and egress to the third row can also be troublesome for the older population, particularly those with knee or hip issues, but kids should jump in and out just fine.
Cargo space is palatial with the third row folded. But with the third row upright, it’s greatly reduced. In other words, a family of six would fit inside the new Cadillac XT6 just fine for a ride around town. But if that same same family needs to get to the airport to fly for a week-long vacation to Disney, we’re not sure how where they’d fit their luggage.
This issue isn’t specific to the XT6, and also impacts other models in this segment, including the Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Infiniti QX60 and Lexus RX-L. In fact, the XT6 is less compromised than those models in this regard.
Besides that, we had two other gripes with the seating. First, the XT6 desperately needs tilting headrests; without them, finding a comfy driving or seating position is that much more difficult. In fact, we’re not sure why a luxury crossover that starts in the low $50,000 range, and that will sell most units in the $60,000 range, does not offer tilting headrests in the first and second rows. Second, there needs to be an option for extendable thigh bolsters on the front chairs, especially on Sport models. As it currently stands, the seat cushion is not long enough to deliver ample support on long trips.
Overall, the Cadillac XT6 is a good first effort at a three-row crossover (not counting the first-generation SRX). It is smooth, calm and quiet, while also being filled to the brim with the latest technologies. It’s also pleasing to the eye, as it is a good-looking vehicle. But there is room for improvement, and we hope that these improvements are made throughout the model’s lifecycle.