Cadillac is running hard to keep up with swirling consumer tastes that seem to evolve much faster than any product planner could ever anticipate, especially in the auto biz where new vehicles are mapped out something like five years in advance.
Lest we forget, GM’s luxury division was rescued from the scrap heap that had claimed so many great American luxury brands (Packard, Duesenberg, et al) by the unlikely intervention of a full-size truck, the mighty Escalade, that conquered everywhere from night clubs to country clubs.
Now, while the Escalade trundles on in its magnificence and Cadillac has in the intervening years added a midsize crossover SUV, another piece of the action debuted for 2019, the XT4 compact luxury crossover.
XT4 is totally new in just about every aspect, with its own unique platform and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, thus avoiding the past mistake of dressing up a compact Chevy to masquerade as a Caddy.
No, XT4 is a completely different creature than the similarly sized Equinox (aka GMC Terrain), bringing premium advances in engineering and technology to a new kind of Cadillac. As such, it becomes a formidable alternative to imported luxury compact crossovers from such players as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, even Porsche.
This is a hot segment among the high rollers, and Cadillac is wise to get in on it. The brand’s latest leadership team recently announced a multi-year push to once again remake Cadillac, and with an eye on a changing and more-sustainable future. XT4 can be seen as the first manifestation of that vision with light weight, small size and an engine that is not only smooth and powerful but reasonably fuel efficient.
That new 2.0-liter inline-4 engine, which is shared with just one other Cadillac, the base-model 2019 CT6 midsize sedan, produces 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque that comes on at a low 1,500 rpm. That provides decent acceleration for the nearly 3,900-pound XT4 wagon, while the engine seems remarkably refined for what’s essentially a little turbo 4-banger.
Built into those 2 liters is a terrific array of sophisticated engineering. These include Active Fuel Management with cylinder deactivation so that when cruising along with low power demand, the engine will run unnoticeably on just two cylinders, switching back to four as needed.
The engine has a twin-scroll turbocharger to minimize lag or surge over the range of rpm, while the dual overhead camshafts have multiple lobes that continuously adjust for maximum efficiency and performance, as well as configuring for cylinder deactivation. The exhaust manifold is built directly into the cylinder head, providing faster warmups on cold days and improving turbo functionality, and the water pump is electric-powered instead of belt-driven for less parasitic drag.
City fuel efficiency is boosted by start-stop technology that turns off the engine instead of wastefully idling, such as waiting for the traffic light to change. This has become a fairly common feature in the past few years, but the XT4 does so with an admirable lack of disturbance.
XT4 comes basically in two flavors, Luxury or Sport, in either front- or all-wheel drive. The test crossover was the Sport version that had, among other things, AWD and the Active Sport Suspension option that enhances sure-footed handling and traction.
The Sport model has several drive modes from which to select, and I pretty much kept it in Sport mode, which provides firm and responsive suspension and steering. The interior of the Sport model is more edgy than the plush look of the Luxury XT4. The dashboard is very nice looking, the top of the stitched-leather cover formed into sort of a wave shape, softly rising from right to left.
Cadillac’s signature styling theme is strongly evident on XT4, and it works well in this smaller format. The sharply vertical LED lighting, front and rear, is distinctive and immediately identifies the brand. The optional 20-inch alloy wheels set off the design.
While the test XT4 started at just $41,795, the collection of expensive option packages pushed the bottom line to $57,135, making the crossover an ala carte proposition. The options seem like things that should be included as standard, such as the $2,400 comfort and convenience package that includes such items as leather upholstery and a hands-free tailgate.
Going down the list, the sunroof is $1,500; the Cadillac User Experience of navigation, phone connectivity and computer features (which thankfully now include physical dials and switches), and 13-speaker Bose audio is another 1,500; and the Enhanced Visibility package of such things as parking assist and rear-view camera with HD surround vision, is yet another $1,500.
The Technology Package of wireless charging, Air Ionizer, gauge-color enhancement, power steering column and head-up display is $1,400; the Active Sport Suspension is $1,200; 20-inch alloy wheels with “diamond cut/titan satin finish” are $1,200; and the Driver Assist Package of adaptive cruise control, forward and reserve automatic braking and something called Full-Speed with Stop/Go, is $1,100.
There are a few other options, such as the $850 Cold Weather Package; the Driver Awareness Package that includes forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, intelligent high/low beam, following distance indicator and Lane Keep Assist with departure warning, $770; and a $300 trailer package.
The Twilight Blue Metallic paint job costs an extra $625.
The options came to more than $14,000 and made me wonder what all you get for the base price. Not much, it would appear.
But the XT4 has a lot going for it, and for those shopping in this rarefied realm of luxury crossovers, the total price with all the goodies should not be a deterrent, since that’s about on par with the competition. At least you get to pick and choose the features that you actually want.
2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport
Vehicle type: five-passenger, five-door crossover, all-wheel drive
Base price: $$41,794 Price as tested: $57,135
Engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, 237 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, 258 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 109.4 inches Overall length/width: 181.1 inches / 83.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,896 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 22 city / 29 highway / 24 combined
Assembled in: Kansas City, Kansas