Cadillac was synonymous with American luxury. For many, mention Cadillac and images of land yachts with tail fins and bright pastel colours come to mind. An icon of post-war Americana and the epitome of Western opulence and excess. It was to America what Mercedes-Benz was to Germany and what Rolls-Royce was to Britain. 

However, over the years the Big Caddy lost its way. European and newfound Asian rivals have caught up, and in some cases leapfrogged them. In recent years though, Cadillac have found their groove back. They’ve invested heavily in their impressive sedan lineup. I remember driving an ATS-V a couple years back and was surprised by how great its chassis was. I’d go as far as to as it was as good if not better than the equivalent BMW M3.

However, while Cadillac was fine tuning their sedans, the market shifted towards SUVs. Cadillac took its time to react, relying on the old-fashioned and extremely big Escalade to carry all the load-lugging duties. But if Cadillac wanted to take on imported and domestic rivals it needed to bump up its SUV and crossover game. Enter the XT6. 

On a recent trip to California I wanted to see where modern American cars are at these days. Cadillac very kindly let me test their new XT6 Premium Luxury during my 10-day trip in California and it turned out to be a perfect companion for exploring Los Angeles and Monterey area. 

The Range

At this point I should mention the XT6 isn’t available in New Zealand, nor any other new Cadillac for that matter. While Cadillac had a brief stint in our market over a decade ago there’s no signs of them coming back anytime soon. That said, I strongly believe Holden should ditch sourcing their cars from Opel and instead right-hand drive convert Cadillac’s current lineup. For example, Cadillac’s full-size CT6 sedan would be the ideal Commodore replacement. 

Back to the XT6 and there’s only one engine choice available for it – a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 that’s in pretty much most General Motors products. With 228kW and 370NM of torque it’s potent enough but don’t expect this to get your pulse racing. What’s amazing is while the 11.7L/100km combined fuel economy isn’t exactly class-leading, I was able to match if not get better economy in the XT6 during my time with it. 

Prices for the XT6 start from US$52,695 (NZ$83,800) and there are two trim levels; Premium Luxury or Sport. My test car was a Premium Luxury AWD and was specced out from a base US$54,695 (NZ$87,000) to a whopping $71,585 ($114,000). It was optioned with pretty much everything including the stunning Garnet Metallic paint (which suits the XT6 well), night vision, ventilated seats, and the Platinum Package. 

First Impressions

It’s quite a handsome thing. There’s no escaping its large size though, this thing is over 5 metres long but it manages to carry over the crisp modern styling we’ve come to see on modern Cadillacs. I wish it was a bit more imposing though. Perhaps a bit more of Escalade’s thuggish presence than looking like a typical leafy suburban bus. This is more Big Little Lies than Sopranos. 

That said, I do adore the Garnet Metallic paint of my test car. It goes well with the XT6’s soccer mum looks. While it’s loosely based on the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, the styling is completely different from its GM relatives. Since the XT6 is still quite a new model and not too many were on the road when I had this car in California in the summer, it did manage to turn a few heads. Not too bad for what’s essentially a family-oriented SUV.

The Inside

While the exterior is sharp and very Cadillac, the interior is somewhat underwhelming in comparison. This is more typical GM. Everything is where you’d expect it to be but it’s lacking some of the stylistic flair the exterior had. The optional bronze tinted carbon fibre trim is a real treat though. It’s real carbon fibre and added an uncharacteristically exotic feel to the interior. The standard fit panoramic roof adds a touch of flair and light to the otherwise dark cabin. It’s not a bad place to be, the materials are great but it’s just lacking some pizazz. 

The seats are comfortable though, as you’d expect of a Cadillac. There’s plenty of space for adults in the first two rows, you’d really only use the third row for kids or adults on short trips. There is a caveat, with the third row up there’s isn’t an awful lot of luggage space. Even with the third row folded away, which can be done electronically via buttons on the side of the boot, there’s only enough space for two large suitcases thanks to the rather fiddly parcel shelf cover. 

Having used Cadillac’s old CUE infotainment system in the past, the new infotainment in the XT6 was a vast improvement. Operated via touchscreen or a rotary dial on the centre console like so many European cars, the XT6’s infotainment was much more responsive and intuitive. It’s not quite as good as BMW’s iDrive but certainly on par with systems on Land Rover, Lexus, and Volvo. The best part is it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The optional Bose sound system was pretty impressive too. 

Being an American car it came with a lot of handy creature comforts such as heated seats, large sized cup holders, wireless charging, charging ports for almost all passengers, and hard buttons. It’s so nice being in a car where there are physical buttons to use and a physical gear stick to go through the gears in rather than using buttons or a column-mounted lever. 

The Drive

This is a three-row family SUV, it’s not going to be breaking Nurburgring lap times anytime soon. Instead, it offers a smooth and competent ride. It’s a proper Cadillac in that regard, it isolates its occupants from the outside world rather well. The naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 in combination with the 9-speed automatic transmission is smooth and for the most part effortless. It’s only when you mash the throttle do you get any indication there’s an engine up front, which is necessary more times than I’d like . It should be noted it’s quite rare these days to drive a brand new car with a naturally aspirated engine, even if it’s in a two-tonne SUV. 

During my stay in Monterey, our Airbnb was up on a canyon road, which meant getting in and out required a hill climb everyday. It was certainly more than what the average XT6 owner would put it through but it handled the road surprisingly well. No, it wasn’t as agile as a hot hatch and while the electric steering was a tad vague, the chassis was nicely balanced and kept the car planted at all times. 

As with most new cars there were several driving modes to choose from; Tour, Sport, Sport Plus, AWD, Off-Road. In Tour it keeps the XT6 as a front-wheel drive to save fuel, put into any of the other modes and it automatically goes into AWD. In Sport and Sport Plus it firms up the suspension to keep body roll in check, and does make quite a noticeable difference. It felt surefooted around bends. Certainly more than competent for a family SUV. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s a very easy thing to drive around in. The steering is light making easy work going around the suburbs and parking lot complex or in malls. On the long drive between Los Angeles and Monterey, a 512-kilometre drive each way, the XT6 came into its own. It felt like an old-school Cadillac wrapped up in a contemporary SUV body. It was smooth, quiet, and wafty. With all the modern driving aids such as radar cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring, it was a pretty stress-free car to cover many straight and boring miles in. 

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100kmCargo Capacity(3rd row down), LPrice – High to Low
Land Rover Discovery Si6 SE3.0L V6 Supercharged Petrol250kW / 450Nm10.91137$115,900
Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription 2.0L four-cylinder turbo petrol235kW/4008.11183$114,900
Lexus RX350L3.5L V6 petrol221kW/380NM9.6945$108,400
Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury3.6L V6 petrol228kW/370NM11.71220$87,000 (est)
Hyundai Sante Fe3.3L V6 petrol199kW/380NM9.6625$76,990

The Pros and Cons

ProsCons
• Comfortable and smooth ride
• Cabin is quiet and blocks outside noise
• Great interior materials 
•     Crisp modern styling
• Balanced chassis





• Not quite as practical as rivals 
• Rivals are more economical  
• Uninspiring engine
• Lacking any stand out features  
• Missing some of that old-school Cadillac charm

  


What do we think of it?

The XT6 is a good car but that’s all it is. In a segment that’s as competitive as the premium SUV segment you need to be more than just good. It has a lot going for it; it’s comfortable, smooth, a generous equipment list, premium interior materials, and decent looks. But rivals are more practical, more efficient, and arguably have more unique and distinguishable interior and exterior styling. 

While it’s a sign Cadillac going is in the right direction, there’s nothing that particularly stands out on the XT6 to set it apart from more distinguished rivals. It’s not a bad car by any means, it’s just another entry into this competitive segment than being a stand out car for Cadillac and for three-row premium SUVs. Compared to rivals from Lexus, Volvo, and Land Rover, the Cadillac seems like a value proposition with its lower starting price. However, add options to give it a decent spec and it quickly starts to become pricey. Which would be fine but I wish it had more of the opulence and extravagance from Cadillacs of old, like the Escalade but in a more modern and smaller package. 

For the New Zealand market, I could see a Holden-badged XT6 doing well. In fact, I could see a Holden-badged Cadillac lineup doing a better job than the current lineup. The full-size CT6 sedan would be the perfect Commodore successor. Perhaps that’s something General Motors should consider rather than leaving Holden’s sedans out in the cold. 

drivelife-car-review-chevrons-three-and-half
Vehicle TypeSUV
Starting Price$87,000 (NZ$ est)
Tested Price$114,000 (NZ$ est)
Engine3.6-litre V6, petrol engine
Transmission9-speed auto with manual mode
0 – 100 kph, seconds6.9
Spare WheelNone
Kerb Weight, Kg2,106
Length x Width x Height, mm5050 x 1964 x 1750 mm
Cargo Capacity, litres356/1220/2228
Fuel Tank, litres83
Fuel EfficiencyAdvertised Spec – Combined –  11.7L / 100km
Real World Test – Combined –  11.0L / 100km
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Turning circle12m
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
ANCAP Safety RatingsN/A
Warranty4 year, 80,000km

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