CARS.COM — The SUV market remains strong in this era of cheap gasoline, and this is true for luxury SUVs as well. For years Cadillac has soldiered on with the midsize SRX, but it’s being replaced by the 2017 XT5.
I drove the top two trim levels — Premium Luxury and Platinum — in a mix of canyon roads and highways across hilly Southern California. It’s a noticeable step up over the model it replaces, both in terms of interior improvements and the driving experience.
How it Drives
The old SRX was a comfortable SUV that I’d have no issue taking on a long drive along highways, but I wouldn’t want to take anywhere with twisty roads. The SRX felt a bit too heavy and ponderous for that sort of thing. That’s not so in the XT5.
The XT5 is 292 pounds lighter than the SRX, and it shows in its driving dynamics. The XT5 still is tuned to be a luxury car, but on the tight roads and twists of the driving route it never felt like it was wallowing or plowing. That it was able to provide stable handling along with a comfortable ride over bumps was impressive.
The steering was well balanced and offered a decent feel of the road. It’s light enough to maneuver around a parking lot, but it still is OK on twisty stuff. Competitors such as the BMW X5 offer more road feel, but also require more effort on the part of the driver. I think for the luxury market, though, Cadillac may have found the sweet spot between being too light or too heavy.
There’s also a Sport drive mode that alters the steering to offer a quicker response (as well as changing the shifting of the transmission for more aggressive driving), but I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference during my brief test of it.
All XT5 models are powered by a 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and can be had with or without all-wheel drive. All the versions I drove had all-wheel drive.
What’s interesting about the XT5’s setup is that it uses a dual-clutch system to swap power front to rear and can send 100 percent of the power to either end of the car. The all-wheel-drive system also can split torque from side-to-side.
What drivers are likely to notice most, though, is that the system will require some input from them. With the XT5 you have to switch from front-wheel (called Touring drive mode) to all-wheel drive. The system won’t do it automatically — as others do. It will sense road conditions and outside temperatures and suggest to drivers that they swap modes.
Staying in front-wheel drive will help with mileage, but I’m not sure asking the driver to swap modes to engage all-wheel drive is the best solution.
If you select all-wheel drive, the XT5 will remain in it until you change modes. So if you pull off the road to fill up with gas, the XT5 won’t default to front-wheel drive when you restart the car and drive away.
From the outside, the first thing that stands out about the XT5 is how fresh it looks compared to the SRX. It’s not that the SRX is an ugly car, but to my eye, it’s been around so long that it kind of blends in. Not so with the XT5: It has a pronounced grille and manages to look more aggressive.
It’s roughly the same size as the outgoing model. The XT5 sits on a slightly wider track and is a few inches longer than the model it replaces. What’s significant is the increased length goes right where it’s needed: into more legroom for backseat passengers.
But those backseat passengers had better be either short or willing to recline the seat. There’s just not a lot of headroom in the backseat. Granted, I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall and I carry a lot of my height in my torso, but others who aren’t as tall as I am also noticed the XT5’s tight rear headroom. Cadillac says that reclining the seat solves the problem by effectively giving you more room – and it does – but I’m just not sold. The fact is, if you’re a taller sort who likes to sit upright, the XT5’s backseat likely is going to be a problem.
My drive was in cars that had preproduction interiors, so I won’t speak to fit-and-finish, but the choices of the materials and the overall design are good. There are five interior and trim choices, and the trim options include carbon fiber, two types of aluminum and three types of real wood.
They vary by trim level, so I only got to sample one of the aluminum and one of the wood interiors and I was impressed. The wood managed to look like real wood – something that isn’t always the case. The same goes for the aluminum; it had the right sheen and, were I opting for the XT5, it’d be the choice I’d go for. It seemed best to fit a modern car.
Finally, visibility is improved. Cadillac moved the side mirrors from the windshield pillar to the door, and fitted glass where the mirror was to open up the cabin. This has a big effect on making forward visibility better, though the pillars sweep back in such a way that the visibility still is somewhat obstructed.
Cadillac retains its Cadillac User Experience system to handle the multimedia and navigation control. I didn’t play too much with the CUE system, but the little bit that I did showed that while it might not be the most intuitive right off the bat, I could pick it up pretty quickly. However, it doesn’t have a volume knob, so I found myself using the steering-wheel controls for that function.
I extensively tested Cadillac’s Rear Camera Monitor and liked what I saw. It offers such a wide, distortion-free view to the rear that on the highway I almost felt like I didn’t need side mirrors. And if I had the rear seats full, I’d find it handy to be able to see behind me, not just see my passengers’ smiling faces. I, like other Cars.com reviewers, want to test the Rear Camera Monitor at night to see how well it works, but during the day, it’s a treat. Things that appear in the rearview are a bit closer than they appear, but not so much that I’d say it’s a flaw. It’s just something to get used to.
For those who live in areas where a lot of road salt is used, the system’s camera has a washing system to keep the rear lenses clear. That’s a nice touch.
Sometimes, when cars are redesigned, it can be hard to see why it was done. The 2017 Cadillac XT5, however, takes a comfortable, aging car design and brings it up toward the top of the class. Further time and consideration with the competitors is warranted, but the early results are encouraging.