2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD: New icon for new times
General Motors has given Cadillac a serious challenge to overcome with the 2020 XT6 Sport AWD. The midsize, three row crossover SUV is clearly related to similar models sold by other GM brands. And the new Avenir trim level available on the Buick Enclave is nearly as luxurious Cadillac while costing less.
But, after test driving both vehicles nearly back to back, I can say Cadillac has risen to the occasion. Yes, the Enclave and XT6 are the same size, the same shape, have the same interior layout, and share the same drivetrain. But Cadillac has given the XT6 Sport AWD its own character and an even higher level of refinement, allowing it to compete better against even higher priced European models.
For starters, the exterior styling is bold and angular, reflecting the cutting edge look Cadillac has successful pursued since reinventing itself as a world class car company years ago. The front end is dramatic, with thin headlights aside a wide grill and over a very low and wide air dam. Bulging fenders accent the deeply sculpted sides. Even the rear end is broad and blocky, topped off with a spoiler over the rear hatch. Our tester was shiny black with huge 21-inch silver alloy wheels, a combination that attracted attention everywhere we went.
The interior was configured for six, with Captains Chairs for the second row, which allowed easy access to a third row best designed for two teenagers, at most. All materials were high quality, from the leather to the soft plastics. Cadillac has done a good job of upgrading the GM dash layout, with carbon fiber trim looking a lot better than the unconvincing fake wood in the Enclave we tested.
On paper, the optional 3.6-liter V6 should be less than impressive. Its 310 horsepower is not all that much these days, especially for a premium crossover. But the nine-speed automatic transmission is responsive enough to provide good acceleration of the line and serious freeway passing power. And the ride is very smooth, thanks to the kind of isolation from the road that made Cadillac famous.
But shifting into the Sport mode changes everything. Take offs are quicker, shifts between gears more apparent, the suspension is firm — even the exhaust is a little louder, but not too much, because Cadillacs are also famous for being quiet. Needless to say, we spent most of our time in Sport mode, which also activated the all-wheel-drive system for better traction.
The 2020 XT6 Luxury comes standard with a new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The V6 is standard in the Luxury Premium and Sport models. Luxury and Premium Luxury models are offered in FWD and AWD, while the Sport is offered exclusively with dual-clutch Sport Control AWD. They also feature Continuous Damping Control active handling and a faster steering ratio, with increased feedback and greater overall responsiveness.
Of course, without a turbocharged V6 or V8, the XT6 isn't meant to take on the high-pro versions of the European crossovers. But how often does the much higher price really justify itself in day to day driving?
Likewise, is the XT6 a scaled down Escalade, as suggested by Cadillac's TV ads showing an emerging slo-mo "crew"? Thankfully, no. The Escalade is an unexpected survivor of a bygone era, a huge truck-based SUV with a big V8 that has somehow become a urban status symbol. I'm glad it's still on the road because I believe in freedom of choice.
But the 2020 Cadillac XT6 is what most consumers want in an upscale crossover these days, a smaller but still roomy vehicle that can carry as many people in comfort, style and luxury without breaking the bank at every fill up. With a start price below $50,000 and models that emphasis luxury and sporty driving, it should be considered the new flagship model.
2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport AWD
Base price: $57,095
Price as tested: $63,915
Style: Midsize SUV
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 271 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic w/manual mode
Modes: Tour (2WD), AWD, Sport, Off-road
EPA fuel economy: 17/24
Length: 199 inches
Weight: 4,441 to 4,690 pounds
Final assembly: Spring Hill, Tennessee
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