American giant, Cadillac, is back in the driving seat of the luxury crossover market with its all-new XT5, says Y’s motoring expert Alvin Thomas.
When people are asked about the USA in the 1960s, they usually focus on the Cuban missile crisis, the assassinations of John F Kennedy, his brother Bobby and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, and putting a man on the moon (allegedly).
But, for us car enthusiasts, the 60s seem to typify better times; when colourful hot rods and sleepers – mostly Fords and Cadillacs (or “Caddies” as they were called by aficionados) – ruled the freeways with The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas or Jefferson Airplane blaring out through their tinny radios.
It was a blissful time, by all accounts.
However, as time flew by, the mindset of the average American began to drift, and so did those of American car manufacturers. Thus, began the inception of the crossover – a cross between a sedan and an SUV – the ideal vehicle for an “adventurous” nuclear family.
Needless to say, everyone wanted one, and today, crossovers are not only popular in the US, but all over the world.
But, the then leading light of the automobile industry, Cadillac, could never quite grasp the concept of a crossover SUV, and thereby lost out (quite drastically) on sales, worldwide.
Still, 13 years into the sale of their first crossover – the Cadillac SRX – the brand has taken another shot at the segment. And you know what? This time around the “Muricans seem to have got things right”.
For starters, it’s not called the ‘SRX’ anymore; it’s the XT5. And unlike its MPV-like predecessor from 2004, the XT5 now embodies a more conspicuous crossover body that many of us would actually desire.
This then, is the return of the Caddy.
Rebranding and redesign has done wonders for the brand: the XT5 now comes with headlights from the ATS and the CTS sedans; only this time the LED light blades are attached to the headlamps as you would find in the brand’s stylish CT6 limo.
These lights, furthermore, extend all the way to reveal another set of LED fog lamps. The fascia of the car is flanked by a large chrome heptagonal grille and large air intakes. Meanwhile, the hood has strong, bold lines, which add to the muscular character of the SUV.
The underside of my test-car consisted of black plastics, which broke the monotony of the white paint it was finished in. The sides of the XT5 remain bare, but clean, with only a chrome strip and window linings. On the plus side, the windows are large and allow great visibility when driving.
The posterior of the XT5 remain true to the futuristic Evoq “concept” car that was revealed back in 1999; but it works.
The rear looks unlike that of any crossover you can currently buy. The long, wedge-shaped tail lights contribute to the character of the SUV, while the moustache-like satin-finish metallic strip on the tail gate; the bumper-infused dual-exhausts; and the mid-mounted reverse light give the XT5 its snazzy guise.
Oh, and before I forget, my tester XT5 came fitted with mammoth multi-spoke 51cm smoked rims, which rounds off the car’s seemingly aggressive form-factor.
After spending a day with the XT5, I grew to admire the new cabin layout. Granted, at first I was a tad circumspect about it, but over time it grew on me.
In short, the interior is elegant and sophisticated: there are no physical buttons on the dashboard; instead, you’re greeted with numerous light-sensitive buttons that come to life when you start the car. It will take the average user some time to adjust to, but it’s easy to play around with even while driving. In contrast, the chic four-spoke steering wheel packs in 18 physical buttons (!)
But, it must be noted that the hazard button – which is also light-sensitive – is placed far from the reach of the driver.
The boffins have also chucked in beautifully stretched and sewn black leather surfaces on the dashboard and side panels. The seats are covered in leatherette, but it’s soft and smooth. I hear that customers can opt for a shimmering alcantara-finish dashboard for a few extra bucks, too.
In the middle of the dashboard lies a responsive and easy-to-use 21cms wide infotainment screen running Cadillac’s CUE system. The colours are vibrant, and the processor is quick in organising tasks (eg: setting the navigation system).
Other features that my XT5 was fitted with include Lane Keeping Assist; Rear Cross Traffic Alert; and a 360-degree bird’s eye view camera, which comes to life with the push of a button.
Space within the cabin is in plentiful, and is up, in terms of dimensions, with its competitors from Europe: leg and head room is abundant up front as well as in the rear; and the boot is sizeable, with a useful cargo management system that slides back and forth to reveal more space for your luggage. Sadly, the loading height of the XT5 is high, meaning you have to expend more energy to load heavy goods in the car.
Underneath the hood lies a tried-and-tested 3.6-litre V6, which pumps out 310 horses and 366Nms of torque, which is mated to a potent eight-speed automatic transmission.
Power is put down either through the front wheels, while driving on ‘Normal’ mode, or through all four wheels, while driving in ‘AWD’ or ‘Sport’ modes.
All of this still only resulted in a 0-100kph time of eight seconds, during my summer run. There’s plenty of grunt available from a standstill, but while on the move you may have to slam the throttle past its tipping point to get the gearbox to kick down.
The latter could be because of the engine’s ‘Active Fuel Management’ feature, which cuts out two cylinders to reveal a V4 mode for extra fuel efficiency.
With the use of a twin-clutch design, the AWD system can transfer up to 100 per cent of available torque to either the front or rear axle, and the electronically-controlled rear differential on the rear axle can direct up to 100 per cent of available torque to either wheel laterally (!)
This translates to the XT5’s excellent cornering capabilities. The car grips to the road like a toddler grips onto his or her mother in a crowd. At no point did I feel that the car would step out of its line.
Even understeer is masked well under normal driving conditions. But, it will reveal itself if you flirt with the limits of the grip from the otherwise sticky 235/55 Continental front tyres.
The tyres are also admirable in ironing out road bumps and imperfections. This, coupled with the layered glass and sound-deadening materials, means that the cabin is quiet, while there’s very little road and wind noise penetrating the cabin.
Tie all of this together and the Cadillac XT5 has steadily risen as one of the notable contenders in the luxury-crossover segment, which was previously dictated by the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus RX and the Audi Q5.
It may have taken Cadillac 13 years to get the recipe right. But, looking at the XT5, you really cannot fault the brand for taking all this time. This time around, they’ve given it their all, and everything has all fallen into place.
This is no longer fat boys in low-riders and hogs; this is scientists in white-coats with goggles and test-tubes.