In case you haven't noticed, the longtime competition between the American luxury manufacturers has reignited. Cadillac and Lincoln have both introduced new models that are attracting rave reviews as they prepare to release their first all-electric vehicles.
The companies are taking different short-term approaches, however. Cadillac, which is owner by General Motors, is still producing both cars and SUVs, with its new lineup of high-performance sedans being compared to the best European ones. Lincoln, which is owned by Ford, has dropped all its cars and is focusing on SUVs. It offers two plug-in hybrid models while Cadillac continues to feature cutting edge styling to attract attention.
Although Cadillac and Lincoln are known for their enormous full-size truck-based SUVs — the Escalade and Navigator, respectively — they also make much more affordable compact and midsize models. In the case of Cadillac, its larger compact SUV is the XT5 that was first introduced in 2016 with styling influenced by the Escalade. It became and remains the company's best selling vehicle in 2017, thanks to a 2020 upgrade that increased the engine choices and improved the infotainment system.
The XT5 has always been offered with front- or all-wheel-drive, which is a good choice for the wet Pacific Northwest. Originally the only engine was Cadillac's healthy 3.6-liter V6, which produces 310 horsepower and 271 foot pounds of torque. New for 2021 was a base turbocharged 2.0-liter 4 rated at 237 horsepower and 258 foot pounds of torque. That's a reasonable compromise for those looking to save money, with a base price of just over $45,000.
My test version was a top of the line Sport model with the V6, AWD, and option packages that pushed the price up to $69,765. That is less than equivalent European models and not that out of line with the Japanese and Korean luxury brands. Although the XT5 is not marketed as a performance SUV in any trim, I was pleasantly surprised by its acceleration, braking and handling. Despite the lack of a more expensive turbocharged V6 option, I don't think those who opt for the 3.6 will feel shortchanged.
One major departure from the current generation of luxury vehicles is the dash. Cadillac has not yet jumped on the "bigger is better" display screen bandwagon for any SUV except the Escalade. Nor does it use a top-mounted screen that looks like an add on. The relative small screen is still tastefully integrated into the center of the dash. A new rotary controlled knob was also added for the Cadillac CUE system two years ago. Personally, after testing a series of vehicles where the screen dominates the interior (and is frequently confusing to switch between functions), I appreciated the simplicity. I was still able to control everything I needed to.
It's no secret Cadillac and Lincoln models are based on more affordable corporate platforms, like the Japanese and Korean premium brands. What's surprising is how much more sophisticated the XT5 looks, feels and drives than its corporate siblings. Long gone are the days when Cadillac could only slightly upgrade a mid-90s Buick Roadmaster for its largest sedan. The 2022 XT5 deserves to be taken seriously as a Cadillac, and the sales figures show it has struck the balance between the smaller but still compelling compact XT4 and the three row XT6 and Escalade.
Despite the electrification push, most buyers are not going to be be able to go all-electric or even plug-in hybrid for many years, if ever. And even those who can install secure chargers in their garages might choose to continue with gas-powered vehicles, if only because they cost less. And when the alternative is as good as the 2022 XT5, why should they? Cadillac is a traditional car company with a long heritage, and most buyers are likely to be wiling to stick with its tried-and-true models.
2022 Cadillac XT5 Sport AWD
Base price: $45,290 (Luxury)
Price as tested: $69,765
Type: Mid-size crossover SUV
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 271 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 18/26
Overall length: 170.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,356 pounds
Final assembly: Spring Hill, Tennessee
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