I finally did it: I’m a dad. The funny thing is, I’ve always owned dad cars, even before I needed to. Owning anything with less than four doors never made much sense, which is how I ended up with a stable of souped-up grandpa cars from the Sixties and Seventies. Now that I’m a father, the ’74 Oldsmobile sedan I brought my wife and son home from the hospital in seems a bit dated. And that, my friends, is how I found myself on this quest to find the perfect new dad car. The latest contender: the 2018 Cadillac XT5.
The 2018 Cadillac XT5, By the Numbers
- Base Price (Price as Tested): $41,695 ($68,160)
- Powertrain: 3.6-liter V-6, 310 horsepower, 271 pound-feet. torque; eight-speed automatic transmission; all wheel drive
- EPA Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
- 0-60 MPH: 6.6 seconds
- Random dad fact: The XT5 shares the regular wheelbase C1XX platform with the GMC Acadia. The Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave ride on the long wheelbase version of the same platform.
Everyone wants a crossover these days. They’re the practical station wagon Americans are still conditioned to loathe, dressed in a questionable guise of off-road capability. Whatever. I get it. Americans like to feel as if they could be Jeremiah Johnson as they drive between home, supermarket, and office park every day. That’s how we ended up with vehicles like the Cadillac XT5, which grafts Cadillac looks onto a platform sold by the hundreds of thousands in Chevrolet skin.
That Chevy skin, though, may be better suited to the crossover form than Cadillac’s angular dermis. The Cadillac aesthetic—a newer take on the GM luxury brand’s now-classic Art and Science look‚doesn’t necessarily graft well onto the taller crossover shape. It’s kind of like taking a handsome man’s face and stretching it to fit onto a larger skull.
The XT5’s long face aside, the XT5 is beautiful on the inside, with an interior that features all the leather upholstery, wood trim and metal accents luxury customers expect. It also offers a decent amount of cargo space. Built upon the same platform as the Chevrolet Traverse, it has roughly the same interior dimensions—except for cargo space, due to the XT’s shorter wheelbase. (The XT5 has the same 30 cubic feet behind the rear seats as the Traverse’s smaller brother, the Chevy Equinox.) Still, it’s at the high end, cargo space-wise, compared to competitors like the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Porsche Macan, if still lagging behind the more than 33 cubes offered in the Jaguar F-Pace. The cargo hold is long and rectangular in shape, which makes it easy to fit a stroller, a large suitcase and a host of other smaller items simultaneously. Grocery bags are easy to accommodate on the cargo area’s wide, flat floor.
Compared with other luxury crossovers on the market, acceleration from the XT5’s naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 is a little sluggish. That’s thanks in large part to the cylinder deactivation system that’s supposed to save fuel. Maybe it does compared with a car without the system, but the XT5’s EPA average fuel economy rating is on the low end among other vehicles in the segment. On my test drive—which consisted of more highway than city driving—my average fuel economy hovered between 20 and 21 miles per gallon. Unlike most of its turbocharged competitors, however, the XT5 will run on regular gasoline, so it actually costs less to operate, according to the EPA. Hooray for junior’s college fund.
The transmission shifts well—but the shifter itself is terrible. Perhaps there’s a learning curve that takes longer to ascend than the week I spent with the XT5, but I never came to terms with the funny little nub sticking out of the center console. Half the times I tried to shift from reverse to drive or vice versa, I ended up putting the transmission in neutral—not a great move when the back end of the car is hanging out in a lane of active traffic you’ve just backed into. Children, you’ll remember, ride closer to the rear of the vehicle, so they’re the ones most at risk from the delay.
If that’s got you thinking about crashes, you’ll be interested to know the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded top ratings to the XT5 in all categories but headlights and child safety seat LATCH anchors. The LED projector lights available only in top-of-the-line models received a “marginal” rating from IIHS, while the halogen projectors included on lower trim levels received a “poor” rating. The organization found low-beam lighting to be inadequate in corners. IIHS dinged the XT5 for LATCH anchor ease-of-use, but I didn’t find them to be all that challenging. The all wheel-drive version of the XT5 received a five-star crash safety rating from the federal government, but the front wheel-drive version garnered only four stars.
For a mid-sized crossover in this price range, the XT5’s mediocrity is disconcerting. According to IIHS, the X3 and the Q5 are safer. EPA numbers tell a story of an engine that could be more fuel efficient. The Audi and the BMW—as well as the F-Pace and the Macan—are certainly faster than the XT5. And those quantifiable measurements aside, the XT5’s competitors are just plain nicer. Add to that the fact that their foreign (mostly German) pedigrees carry more prestige among people who care about such things, and it becomes clear that Cadillac’s case for the XT5 is a tough one indeed. It’s an improvement over the SRX it replaced in 2017, but that likely won’t be enough in a competitive, ever-growing segment. The XT5 is a fine crossover for someone with kids—but if you want to show your kids how to pick a winner, this probably ain’t it.