Cadillac is in an unenviable position right now. Over the past few years, it developed some excellent driving sedans just in time for the world to demand nothing but crossovers. Now it’s working fast to get more crossovers on the market besides the XT5. Its latest is the 2020 Cadillac XT6 , a large three-row luxury crossover designed to slide under the enormous Escalade and provide less truck-like driving characteristics. And while it has an underwhelming wrapper, it’s actually a refined, capable and spacious luxury crossover.
New for this year, the Cadillac XT6 is a car-based three-row luxury SUV positioned just below the Escalade and above the smaller, five-passenger XT4 and XT5. Its exterior bodywork is directly influenced by the stunning Escala concept, and to our eyes, it’s the best-looking Cadillac SUV in production. It doesn’t suffer from the unfortunate proportions of the XT4 or the dated, blobby look that the XT5 inherited from its predecessor, the SRX. The wide grille and slim LED headlamps make for an aggressive front end, and its boxy, slab-sided profile looks utilitarian and maximizes interior volume.
All models are powered by a 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V-6 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 provided adequate power and sounds excellent under full throttle. At partial throttle it can sound a bit coarse, but the use of a conventional automatic instead of a CVT keeps the revs low and largely mitigates the issue. There’s a lot of travel in the gas and brake pedals, which makes it easy for drivers to meter their inputs for smooth driving. Steering is noticeably quicker in the XT6 Sport, and driving each model back to back revealed the Sport’s slight advantage in ride comfort. Its standard active damping doesn’t make the transformative difference that Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control does, but body motions are a tad more controlled than in the Premium Luxury model.
The XT6 is not available with Cadillac’s excellent Super Cruise hands-free driving tech, but we’re told it will be an option for the 2020 model year. That said, all models come standard with low-speed forward emergency braking, front and rear park assist, and lane keep assist. Cornering headlamps and automatic high-beams are also standard. An available driver assist package adds adaptive cruise control, enhanced emergency braking, and the slightly unnerving automatic seat belt tightening system. I do appreciate Cadillac’s use of driver’s seat vibration for active safety alerts as opposed to the audible alerts in most cars. The system notifies only the driver rather than sending all of your passengers into a state of absolute panic.
An Enhanced Visibility and Technology package is also available; that adds automatic parking assist, a high-def surround-vision camera system, a head-up display, and the rear camera mirror. That last feature offers drivers a conventional rearview mirror that, with the flip of a switch, changes to a mirror-shaped monitor displaying a video feed from a camera just under the XT6’s rear spoiler. It works in that you can see a wider, unobstructed view of the road behind you, but the lighting of the video feed is different than what you see looking forward. Shifting your glance between the road and the monitor takes a split second of optical adjustment; we found it more distracting than useful.
The XT6 isn’t a great value on paper. It has a relatively high base price of $53,690 despite feature content roughly on par with cheaper competitors like the Infiniti QX60($45,345 base price), the Acura MDX($45,395) and Volvo XC90 ($49,340). Fuel economy is also unimpressive, at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway for the front-wheel-drive model, but at least the Cadillac bests their performance, with the Infiniti boasting only 295 horsepower, the Acura 290, and Volvo just 250 from its base engine. And while the Cadillac’s interior could be nicer, it is a fair sight more impressive and usable than the Acura and Infiniti interiors. However, the same could not be said in reference to the Volvo’s gorgeous cabin, and based on what we saw at the L.A. Auto Show, the upcoming Lincoln Aviator’s cabin should put on a much fancier show than its American competitor manages. The Lincoln’s base price is actually closest to the XT6 at $52,195, but as we mentioned earlier, it pumps out 400 turbocharged ponies.