The new 2018 Cadillac XT5 comes to the Middle East with a naturally aspirated V6 trying to fight off a crowded segment full of turbocharged rivals – Motormouth put the Caddy to the test in top-spec Platinum trim. Photos: Malek Fayoumi
Back in the day, Cadillacs were all about humongous girth and ostentatious tailfins. They were also the pinnacle of State-side automotive luxe. Then, decades of bad decisions meant they became the motoring equivalent of a dinosaur – and not the velociraptor mind; think more a dawdling herbivore that could barely handle its own mass. Predictably Cadillac was teetering on the brink of extinction by the 1990s.
In 2005 Cadillac started to think big, by thinking small. Looking at the success stories of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, they decided to enter the fray with a compact premium saloon. Great idea, but the only problem was that they thought they could fob off an ageing Saab 9-3, a company GM owned before the Chinese, with a Cadillac BLS badge on the nose and no one would be any wiser. Bad idea. The BLS failed, miserably.
Then five years ago, Cadillac decided to do things properly and created the ATS. A compact executive saloon built from the ground up to take the fight to the pesky Germans. The result was a lot of PR posturing, Nürburgring lap times and yet the ATS failed to set the market ablaze, as Cadillac would have hoped. It was a good car, though.
The new 2018 Cadillac XT5 has a similar mission statement, albeit in the fast growing premium crossover segment. But there is a problem. All of Cadillac’s rivals from Europe and Asia have had a headstart and beating the likes of the BMW X3, Audi Q5, or even the Lexus RX350, is not going to be a walk in the park.
So, while first impressions are positive and the XT5 is indeed a decent crack at the segment, I have my doubts you’re going to walk away from the said BMW or Audi for this. Let me explain.
Styling-wise, the XT5 does look interesting and has a visual chutzpah that, say, the X3 lacks. I do like the angular design and the edgy touches, but this is no stunner. You can see that there is an obvious effort to make it stand out cosmetically, but I think the Audi Q5 looks better, despite its styled-by-Xerox design language.
Inside, things are steadily improving in Cadillacs, especially if you look at our top-trim Platinum tester. However, some of the plastics still feel like they belong in a Chevrolet and the haptic controls are as unpredictable as ever. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not cheap, but step into a German crossover after the XT5 and the difference is pronounced.
Driving dynamics are a similar story. While the Germans have modern turbocharged engines, the XT5 perseveres with GM’s 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6 making 310 horsepower. It’s nowhere near as refined as its European rivals, however, it outguns the Lexus in terms of performance. Also, I think Cadillac is taking the whole driving engagement thing a touch too seriously. The ride quality isn’t the greatest with noticeable shudders over rough patches of road and the steering is inexplicably heavier than it need be. And yet, there doesn’t seem to be enough of a correlation between ask and give when it comes to a rapid direction change.
However, when it comes to price, the Cadillac XT5 costs about AED15,000 less than the base Q5 at AED169,000, which is way lower on power – this bodes well for the Caddy. That said, switch to the top-spec Platinum version, compared with the more powerful Q5 45 TFSI and things unravel for the XT5. Our tester costs about AED240,000, and the Audi by contrast will set you back AED260,000. And in this spec, there really is no competition between the two. Granted, the XT5 costs about 20 grand less, but you can tell why.
I expect the upcoming XT4 to take the fight to its rivals better than the XT5, as it stands though, the XT5 is a fair offering in its class. This Cadillac crossover is by no means a car that can shake up the establishment, but the effort might start paying off for the Americans.
2018 Cadillac XT5
3.6-litre V6 | eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive | 310 horsepower and 367Nm of torque | AED240,000 (as tested)