Well-rounded, but comes with caveats
THE GOOD
  • Nice exterior styling
  • Easy-to-use tech
  • Serenely quiet cabin (unless you mash the gas)
THE BAD
  • Loud V6 engine
  • Unrefined transmission
  • Needlessly stiff ride

Once upon a time, a typical crossover review would probably open up with tired old adages about it being a vehicle for “soccer moms,” and how it’s great for doing the daily school runs.

These days, though, it’s not just moms – and dads – who want crossovers, and the industry has responded with an onslaught of options. That also means they have to be more than just safe, practical, and spacious in order to stand out. To be competitive in today’s overly saturated market, a crossover also has to be stylish and come packed with the latest technology.

Cadillac is well aware that today’s crossovers have to be great all-rounders. The brand’s middle-of-the-pack offering is clearly trying its best to be a jack-of-all-trades, melding svelte exterior styling with two relatively powerful engine options, available sport-tuned suspension, and a luxe interior complete with high-end trim options and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 2021 Cadillac XT5 seems to have all the bases covered, but there’s more to this crossover than meets the eye.

Styling: 7/10

The Cadillac XT5 is available in three trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, and the range-topping Sport. Our tester is a Sport model, which trades the chrome exterior trim of the other two versions for gloss black and features a black mesh grille rather than a chrome one. Opting for the Sport trim also trades the standard 18-inch wheels for a set of dark-coloured 20-inch multi-spokes, which further lend to the crossover’s performance-inspired appearance.

Like most new Cadillacs, the exterior appearance of the XT5 is rather safe and inoffensive. With the Wilder Metallic paint on this tester, it’s fair to take it a step further and describe the XT5’s styling as a bit forgettable, though that’s not to say it’s ugly. This is a handsome if conservatively styled crossover that knows what the crowd it’s courting wants and delivers.

Safety: 7/10

The 2021 Cadillac XT5 received an overall safety evaluation of “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is the highest rating the safety watchdog gives out. It missed out on the IIHS’s coveted Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards, though, which are given to the safest vehicles in their respective segments. This was likely due to the headlight rating, which was only “Marginal” due to inadequate low-beam coverage in curves and poor overall high-beam performance.

This tester came equipped with plenty of advanced safety features, including forward collision alert, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, and rear park assist, among much more. Some other active safety features are locked away behind the pricey $2,300 Driver Assist package, however, including adaptive cruise control and reverse automatic braking. Considering this unit is priced at nearly $60,000, both features should be standard equipment here. Cadillac’s so-called Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system is also absent across all trim levels, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Features: 9/10

The XT5 comes with plenty of gadgets to fiddle with, including standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a great-sounding eight-speaker audio system, and standard subscription-based 4G LTE Wi-Fi. There’s even more tech to get excited about on the options list, including a very handy wireless charging pad and a 14-speaker stereo. An easy-to-access drive mode selector also allows the user to quickly flip between touring, sport, off-road, and dedicated all-wheel-drive modes.

User Friendliness: 9/10

The Cadillac XT5 comes standard with a simple and straightforward infotainment system that’s easy to navigate and features colourful menus with clearly laid out information. Once upon a time, this system was controlled with touch-based buttons with haptic feedback, but the brand has thankfully traded that setup for physical buttons. A BMW-style rotary dial and buttons on the centre console also make it easier to use the system from the driver’s seat. The heating and air conditioning can be controlled via the touchscreen, or using a separate switch panel mounted just below the infotainment display.

Practicality: 7/10

The Cadillac XT5 feels spacious inside, with very good front- and second-row headroom, ample cabin width, and plenty of legroom. This may not be a full-size SUV like the Cadillac Escalade, but the XT5’s cabin is far from cramped.

It’s a similar story with regard to cargo space. The luxury crossover offers 849 L of room behind the second row and 1,783 L with the rear seats folded flat, which is a bit less than some rivals but still above average. The Lincoln Nautilus, for example, has 1,052 L of space behind the second row and 1,948 L with the seats folded flat. The XT5 still offers plenty of cargo space for most shoppers in the segment, however, and its utility is made better by the perfectly flat load floor.

Comfort: 6/10

As a Sport trim, this tester came fitted with sport-tuned suspension and larger 20-inch wheels. The XT5 isn’t the best jumping off point for a sporty crossover, though, and anyone genuinely looking for a sporty crossover should probably steer clear. The sport-tuned suspension is too stiff and is only made worse by the large 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires.

Thankfully, the quiet cabin and supportive seats ensure the XT5 is still a great vehicle for cruising. On smooth roads or the highway, the XT5 is a serene place to sit thanks to its well-designed seats and studio-quality sound-deadening.

Power: 7/10

This tester came with the optional 3.6L V6 engine, which produces a healthy 310 hp and 276 lb-ft of torque. It provides more than enough power for most commuters, pulling hard from zero to 100 km/h and offering decent highway passing power. It’s also fairly quiet around town, but becomes audaciously loud and harsh-sounding under full throttle. This engine isn’t nearly as refined as some turbocharged offerings available in competing vehicles like the Nautilus, so it definitely leaves room for improvement.

Driving Feel: 5/10

The Cadillac XT5 handles relatively well for a crossover of its size, though it’s unlikely to convince owners to embark on any spirited Sunday morning drives. This crossover is happiest cruising around town or lumbering down the highway, despite what the Sport moniker might have you believe.

The nine-speed automatic transmission is a clear weak point in the XT5 as well. The transmission performs upshifts just fine, but shakes and shudders when downshifting. The XT5 usually does a good job hiding the fact that it shares a platform and powertrain with the Chevrolet Blazer, but that all goes out the window once the rough downshifts rear their ugly head. Couple those with the needlessly loud six-cylinder and it’s hard to ignore the XT5’s relative lack of refinement compared to rivals from Lexus, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The Cadillac XT5 with the 3.6L V6 engine and all-wheel drive has official fuel economy ratings of 12.9 L/100 km city, 9.2 highway, and 11.2 combined. It’s about average for this segment, which isn’t bad for a non-turbo six-cylinder. Those numbers were easy to match or even exceed during a week of testing, too.

Eco-conscious buyers can also opt for the 2.0L turbocharged model, which is rated at 11.2 L/100 km city, 7.7 highway, and 10.2 combined with all-wheel drive. Both call for premium-grade gasoline.

Value: 5/10

Pricing for the Cadillac XT5 starts at $46,798 including destination for the entry-level Luxury trim with front-wheel drive. This is on-par with competing models, however, offerings like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class come standard with all-wheel drive. Adding that extra traction to the base model raises the price to $50,198, undoing some of the Cadillac’s perceived value.

As for this particular tester, it carries a steep $59,298 price tag, as it’s a range-topping Sport trim level with the available V6 engine. The upgraded paint also adds $900 to the base price. The XT5 Sport didn’t feel very sporty anyway, so it’s best to steer clear of this overpriced trim level. Most buyers would be best served opting for the Premium Luxury trim, which adds popular optional extras like blind-spot monitoring, a wireless charging pad, and a sunroof. The Premium Luxury trim is priced from $49,990, though that grows to $51,990 with all-wheel drive.

The Verdict

The 2021 Cadillac XT5 is a decent all-arounder with a quiet ride, easy-to-use technology, and plenty of cargo space, although the Sport trim level disappoints with its stiff suspension and ho-hum performance. The XT5 would be a great budget-minded alternative to other luxury crossovers, but its price point places it square in the crosshairs of superior offerings from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, making it hard to recommend. Unless, of course, your local Cadillac dealer happens to be offering the XT5 with steep incentives or other deals that make it more appealing.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.6L   Model Tested 2021 Cadillac XT5 Sport AWD
Engine Cylinders V6   Base Price $56,198
Peak Horsepower 310 hp @ 6,600 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 271 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm   Destination Fee $2,100
Fuel Economy 12.9 / 9.2 / 11.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $59,298
Cargo Space 849 / 1,783 L seats down  
Optional Equipment
$900 – Wilder Metallic paint, $900