2020 Cadillac XT6

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Updated: May 1, 2020

2020 Cadillac XT6

Three-row crossover SUVs have attracted considerable attention lately. The all-new 2020 Cadillac XT6 gives the brand a challenger in the midsize luxury three-row crossover category.

The XT6 is positioned between the smaller, two-row XT5 and the mighty Escalade – Cadillac’s perennial best-selling SUV. Cadillac faces several notable non-luxury three-row competitors, including the familiar Ford Explorer and the recently-introduced Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride.

The Cadillac XT6 borrows its basic running gear and engine from the similar-size Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave. Not only does the XT6 treat its riders to swaths of soft leather and interior space, it includes active safety technology that others omit.

The sole powertrain is GM’s 3.6-liter V-6, emitting an exquisite-sounding snarl. Whipping up 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, the motor mates with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 can shut down two of its six cylinders to save fuel during highway driving. A stop/start feature can save fuel at stoplights.

Front-wheel drive is standard on the Premium Luxury trim level, with all-wheel drive a $2,000 option. Sport models get standard all-wheel drive – the same twin-clutch system used on the smaller Cadillac XT4. When necessary, the system can split power between the rear wheels, and disconnect the rear axle to boost fuel economy. Engaging the system requires tapping a button.

At least two drive modes may be selected: Touring or Snow/Ice. AWD models add Off-Road and Sport modes. The difference between modes is most noticeable in terms of steering weight. The Sport model gets adaptive dampers and a faster steering ratio, for a more engaging feel.

Gas mileage is nothing to boast about, but strictly average for a three-row SUV. The XT6 is EPA-rated at 18 mpg city, 25 highway, and 20 combined with front-wheel drive, or 17/24/20 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Crash-testing has yielded impressive results. The NHTSA gave the XT6 a five-star overall safety rating, while the IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+.

Standard active safety features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward-collision warnings, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, and front and rear parking sensors. Also included are automatic high-beam headlights, and a rear seat reminder system.

Option groups can add adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic emergency raking, LED headlights with cornering, an automated parking system, a surround-view camera system, and more.

Forward outward vision is decent, but the rear view is partially obscured by thick roof pillars and the rear seatbacks.

Model Lineup

The Cadillac XT6 is available in two trim levels: Premium Luxury and Sport.

The Premium Luxury model costs $53,690 to start. The luxury quotient is felt through heated and 8-way power front seats, a sunroof, leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescope steering column, a heated steering wheel, remote start, wireless charging, six USB ports, an 8-speaker Bose audio system, 20-inch wheels, and LED headlights. A second-row bench, power-folding third-row, and a power tailgate are also standard. The infotainment system includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.

The $58,090 Sport, offered only with all-wheel drive, adds adaptive dampers and performance suspension tuning, as well as a heavy-duty cooling system, black roof rails, and unique 20-inch, 12-spoke wheels,

On either trim, an available Platinum Package adds semi-aniline leather upholstery, a microfiber suede headliner, a leather-wrapped instrument panel, and performance suspension with adaptive dampers.

Exterior

Familiar Cadillac styling cues blanket a conventional crossover body. Vertically-ribbed LED headlights bracket a wide, toothy mesh grille on a nose that immediately registers as Cadillac.

Front-end appearance differs substantially from GM’s other larger crossovers. Sharper angles and a more upright profile distinguish the XT6 from the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Rear ends show greater similarity, apart from the Cadillac’s tall, vertically-oriented taillights.

Measuring 198.5 inches from stem to stern, the XT6 rides on a 112.7-inch wheelbase. Any body color other than silver costs an additional $625 or $1,225.

Interior

Even in the Premium Luxury version of the XT6, the interior is covered in soft leather and real wood. Sport models mix leather with carbon fiber.

Cabin shapes are handsome, though marred a bit by clashing textures. Diagonal striped wood can easily be deemed dazzling, but the Sport model’s woven texture looks less luxurious. Lower door panels are clad in hard plastic, but smooth leather adorns the door caps.

Depending on second-row configuration, either six or seven occupants can fit into an XT6. Excellent front seats with 8-way power adjustment are supportive, with supple, pocket-like cushions that are sufficiently wide for larger riders.

Drivers of any size should be able to find a satisfying driving position. The center console and sunroof allow ample clearance for knees and heads, respectively.

Second-row riders can enjoy nearly 40 inches of leg room, which is on par with rivals. Captain’s chairs in six-passenger models are as pleasantly and deeply pocketed as those up front, for long-trek comfort. They slide forward for row-three access.

Third-row passengers get a scant 29.5 inches of leg clearance, demanding a knees-up position on the low seat cushion, made worse by hard plastic armrests. Head room is fine, but the third row is really only suitable for small passengers.

Digital displays convey a high-tech tone, but the V-shaped dashboard limits touchscreen size to 8.0 inches. Rivals have been turning to wider screens. Though its touchscreen works well, the infotainment system’s rotary knob controller is finicky and distracting.

Cargo volume totals only 12.6 cubic feet behind the third-row seat, but folding it down boosts space to 43.1 cubic feet. With both back rows out of the picture, cargo space grows to 78.7 cubic feet. In-cabin storage is ample for front passengers, including an under-console bin.

Driving Impressions

Cadillac has put one of GM’s most refined powertrains to work in the XT6. Joined by high-tech suspension components, performance is largely invisible. While not exactly stimulating, XT6 behavior certainly isn’t annoying, either.

Acceleration is swift, but less than stirring. The XT6’s buttery-smooth power deserves acclaim, taking off smartly from a stop and running seamlessly through the 9-speed automatic’s gears. Unlike some transmissions, Cadillac’s version doesn’t flutter or hesitate.

Premium Luxury models strive to combine a supple ride with smart steering responses. Instead, a touch of disconnect from the road can occur, along with a slight tendency to wander. Traversing low bumps, the base XT6 can feel stiffer than expected. Bigger bumps cause the suspension to feel softer than it should.

Sport models, benefiting from adaptive dampers and an available part-time AWD system provide a better blend of ride and handling. Steering is quicker and higher-weighted, coupled with a firmer ride and improved responses. Vertical ride motions are more tautly controlled.

A properly-equipped XT6 can tow up to 4,000 pounds.

Final Word

While short on value, the three-row 2020 Cadillac XT6 adopts a more family-friendly stance than the colossal Escalade. Equipped with a welcome collection of standard features, the new XT6 is more sensibly sized without sacrificing too much passenger space (except in the third row). The Premium Luxury trim may be the reasonable choice, but the tauter handling qualities of the Sport model make it mighty tempting.

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection