There was a day when a Cadillac HAD to be as big as a cruise ship and loaded down with enough chrome to make a knight on horseback feel inadequate.
No more. Cadillac has decided that affordable luxury with interesting styling is the way to get post-Boomer buyers to park their lattes and espressos in Cadillac cup holders. Witness the new XT4, the smallest Caddy SUV, just a notch below its fairly petit XT5. The XT4 is svelte and sexy with beautifully sculpted front and rear lights and a handsome grille that give it a more distinctive look than many SUVs.
Caddy no longer feels it must drop a V8 under the hood to pump up the power. The XT4 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that pumps out 237 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is mated with a silky 9-speed automatic that easily puts that power to good use to facilitate quick stoplight getaways, and power down highway entry ramps to finagle your way seamlessly between giant semis.
That smaller engine also helps keep the XT4 light, weighing in at just below 4,000 lbs.
That surely contributes to the Caddy’s light and easy steering which snugs up when the Sport mode is engaged to give the SUV full-time AWD. Shifts become more aggressive then too. A Touring setting keeps the Cadillac in front-drive mode and dials the steering effort back to mild. It’s also possible to independently switch the SUV to AWD mode, if weather dictates and the driver doesn’t want the sportier handling, say in snow.
Being a smaller SUV I was prepared for a fairly stiff ride, but Caddy surprises with a beautifully tuned suspension that cushions passengers against the sometimes brutal southeast Wisconsin frost heaves and potholes. You’ll feel the craters, but there’s a cushioned ride that never allows them to become much of a bother.
Inside the tested Red Horizon ($1,225 extra for this medium metallic red) test SUV was a sporty and luxurious interior, but not one that was overdone. The dash and doors were trimmed in black leather with red stitching while the leather seats were white with black inserts on the seat’s shoulder where a seatbelt might lay.
There was chrome trim on the air vents, by the center-mounted screen and buttons, with a carbon fiber-look trim in the door panels and dash’s face. That chrome looks fine, but can create a glare on sunny days.
The Cadillac’s interior is quiet, with little road noise to bother the driver or passengers. And there’s ample space for four adults, although five will fit in a pinch.
Dash layout and function is attractive and easy to maneuver with an 8-inch infotainment screen that’s simple to use. That’s part of the Cadillac User Experience, a $1,500 upcharge that includes navigation with real-time traffic updates, a Bose audio surround sound system with 13 speakers and an auxiliary amp, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Also added was a comfort and convenience package for $2,450. It included leather seats, an 8-way power passenger’s seat, cooled front seats that also include a massage function and a hands free power hatch. The massaging function was fine, but less vigorous than some I’ve tested in pricier luxury models.
An odd feature of the seats was the way they vibrated at the sides of your bottom when the car got close to other vehicles. That makes sense if it appears an accident or fender bender is about to occur, but the driver’s seat vibrated every time I parked the Cadillac between two cars in a parking lot. That’s oversensitive.
But the seats are well-contoured and comfy. Plus an $850 cold weather package adds heated front and outboard rear seats along with a heated steering wheel, well worth the cost for a Wisconsin daily driver.
Plenty of safety devices here too, although some are options that add cost. Standard is lane-change alert with a blind-spot warning system, rear cross traffic alert and an HD rearview camera. The extras come in a $770 package and include automatic high-beam headlights, a following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist and warning, low-speed forward automatic braking, and front pedestrian braking.
Overhead is an SOS system that allows a driver to call for help in an emergency.
Oddly, a few items are not standard, like a sunroof or wireless phone charger. The later would seem a necessity as more vehicles now offer this as standard fare. In the Cadillac’s defense, it does have four USB ports. I also found the dash’s air vents to be a bit small, making it a tad more difficult to get cool as fast as I might want on a sweltering summer day.
The XT4 also will tow up to 3,500 lbs. and delivers excellent gas mileage. I managed 27.2 miles per gallon in about an even mix of city and highway driving. But the turbo is rated up to 29 mpg highway and 22 mpg city by the EPA.
The base Luxury XT4 lists at $35,790 including delivery. That’s a front-drive model, but AWD is available on all trims. In fact, it’s standard on the tested Sport model. A Premium Luxury version lists at $40,290 with FWD and $42,790 with AWD.
The test XT4 Sport lists at $42,790, including delivery, but with all the options, including fancy 20-inch alloy wheels with a diamond cut shape and titan satin finish ($1,100), ended up at $50,685. Somewhere between that entry-level Luxury model and this Sport version loaded with options is the best value.
FAST STATS: 2019 Cadillac XT4 AWD Sport
Misses: No sunroof or wireless phone charger, and smallish dash air vents.
Made in: Kansas City, Kan.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 237 horsepower
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 3,896 lbs.
Length: 181.1 in.
Wheelbase: 109.4 in.
Tow: 3,500 lbs.
MPG: 27.2 (tested)
Base Price: $42,790 (includes delivery)
Comfort and convenience package (leather seats, 8-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, massaging front seats, hands free liftgate), $2,450
Cadillac user experience (navigation, real-time traffic, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bose audio surround sound system w/13 speakers and auxiliary amp), $1,500
Red Horizon paint, $1,225
20-inch alloy wheels, diamond cut/titan satin finish, $1,100
Cold weather package (heated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, heated steering wheel), $850
Driver awareness package (auto. high beam, following distance indicator, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist & warning, low-speed forward auto. braking, front pedestrian braking), $770
Test vehicle: $50,685
Sources: Cadillac, kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage