First Drive Review – 2019 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury – By Carl Malek

It’s no secret that Cadillac is very late to the compact luxury crossover party. While the XT5 was a humble attempt at giving Cadillac a fighting chance in the broader luxury segment, it could do little to hide the fact that a very noticeable void existed between it and some of the smaller luxury CUVs that are pulling in younger buyers in droves, especially those that want utility, but in a smaller tidy package that still is jam packed with luxury. The 2019 Cadillac XT4 aims to make up for lost time, and is Cadillac’s first formal foray into this growing niche of the luxury crossover market. But can the XT4 truly succeed in shooting Cadillac into the minds of young buyers and their wallets? Or is the XT4 another example of too little too late for General Motors in its quest to rapidly fill product segments.


Sophisticated Style Ready For Urban Commuting:

Unlike its big brother the XT5, the XT4’s exterior styling is decidedly more athletic, and will certainly please the eye when viewed from several key angles. Yes, it is yet another iteration of Cadillac’s Art & Science design theme that has defined the brand in some shape or form for over the past decade, but here, the styling actually works with the XT4’s dimensions, and this results in a bold front fascia that features sharply honed front headlights, as well as athletic lines in the hood and side profile. Wheras the bigger XT5 and XT6 are decidedly tamer iterations of the long running Cadillac script, the XT4 is unarguably the wild child of the bunch, and is more than eager to showoff its youthful optimism. Our favorite styling points centered around the handsome power bulge hood, as well as the sabertooth tiger-esque light signature for the lower portion of the headlights. Move along the side profile, and the end result is admittedly a bit more mixed in execution. The look is handsome and very tidy, but like on other Cadillac utility offerings, the big hockey stick style taillights look very garish and tacked on. Our Premium Luxury tester had traditional red lenses, versus Sport models that pitch those in lieu of clear lenses. We prefer the clear lenses since they manage to mesh more cohesively when paired with certain paint colors including the Shadow Metallic hue on our tester.

When compared to rivals like the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1, the XT4 does look a bit cruder, and lacks some of the final polish that defines its German rivals. That said, its hard to deny the higher levels of visual excitement that Cadillac designers baked into the basic design of the XT4. This design also has the unintended consequence of looking a bit odd when configured in lower trim levels, and the smaller wheel options that come with these lesser models. The design however blossoms when paired with higher grade variants, with the bigger wheels in particular playing a big part in beefing up the side profile of the XT4. The lone wart is that the small proportions of the XT4’s platform forced Cadillac engineers to sacrifice ergonomics to help achieve its high design quotient. While the bulk of these are found in the interior (more on that later) the exterior has one lone offender, with the sensor for the foot powered liftgate moving from the traditionally center mounted position to the left corner of the rear bumper. The area is marked with a handy puddle lamp at night, but it took us a bit of effort to not only get used to the odd layout, but to also get it to work, with the sensor sometimes not picking up our foot when we waved it in front of the unit.


Drab Interior Brings Little Excitement To Buyers:

With the bold styling statement that the XT4’s exterior styling makes to the world, it’s a pity that the interior embraces a completely different, and unfortunately more boring mentality when it comes to achieving its own mission in life. While the look is very clean and technology driven, the cabin also lacks some of the more visually stimulating cues that define countless others in its segment. Material quality is also below what we come to expect in the segment, with a faux leather wrap covering the upper door panels and the dashboard itself. Move lower, and cheap sharply edged plastic still dominates the lower portions of the doors, as well as the center console. Buttons and switches also look and feel like they were merely transplanted in from GM’s less expensive offerings versus being borrowed from other Cadillac entries like the XT5 for more family identity. While we’re complaining, questionable ergonomics dominate some of the control layout. For example, our tester had optional massaging front seats, but in order to operate them you have to hit a button that is mounted awkwardly on the side seat controls, which is a long reach for some drivers. We wish this particular button would’ve been mounted either higher up on the panel, or in the door area like other Cadillac offerings.

But despite the questionable material choices on hand, there are still a number of things that we came to like during our time inside the XT4. For example, Cadillac engineers finally listened to the laundry list of complaints about the CUE infotainment system, and have added a much welcome control knob to the system. Obviously inspired by the I-Drive control wheel that is commonplace in numerous BMW offerings, the knob in the Caddy lacks some of the finer articulation offered by its German counterpart, but we like the way this feature vastly improves the user experience for occupants, especially in accessing certain menus and icons. We also liked how comfortable the seats themselves were, and there is even adequate room for second row passengers. Cargo capacity is also adequate for its class, but buyers looking to haul even more stuff will have to fold the rear seats down in order to make optimum use of the cargo area that is available to them.


Athletic Performance:

Performance for all Cadillac XT4s comes from GM’s familiar 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine which aims to give the XT4 some zip to its step thanks to the 237 horsepower that is on tap. A stout 258 lb-ft of torque helps give it adequate stoplight acceleration with virtually un-noticeable turbo lag. Arguably the engine’s biggest calling card is just how smooth and quiet it is when it is running. It has been awhile since we encountered a CUV that offers this degree of smoothness, and there were occasions where we had to actually check the tachometer to make sure that it was indeed running. This unreal level of quiet even extends to full throttle acceleration, with our tester easily recording drama free 7.2 second sprints to 60 mph (front-wheel drive models are slightly quicker at 7.0 seconds.) The engine (codenamed LSY) is 15 pounds lighter than the 2.0 liter typically seen in other Cadillac models, and boasts technology such as a dual-scroll turbocharger, a continuously variable oil pump, as well as an electronically operated wastegate.

Meanwhile, Cadillac’s all new nine-speed automatic has a wide ratio spread, with a super short first gear helping this Caddy cement some satisfyingly quick launches, while a very tall ninth gear allows the XT4 to achieve what Cadillac calls the best horsepower to efficiency output in its class. Like the engine, the transmission is very quiet, and you will have to listen very hard to pick up the shifts as they occur. This remains true when it is placed in sport mode, which does help alter the XT4’s character slightly, but does not quicken the shift points. The XT4 also features steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, but rev-matching downshifts are off the menu here, and the relatively small size of the paddles themselves make them hard to operate for those with bigger hands. During our time with it, we discovered that the transmission prefers to be left to its own devices when it comes to rowing through the gears, and it is when drivers respect this quirk that the XT4 truly delivers in its playful driving demeanor.

Handling in our tester will not come close to some of the more engaging drives that we have extracted from offerings such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, but the compact Cadillac does put on a spirited effort in this arena. Despite not having the adaptive dampers that are part of the Sport model, our Premium Luxury grade tester still did a good job delivering crisp feedback and equally quick turn in from its steering system. This is without sacrificing its smooth ride, with our tester ironing out bumps and ruts about as well as the last Cadillac full-size CT6 platinum sedan that we tested. But alas, all is not perfect, and that buttery smooth ride also brings an absolute lack of connectivity to the road, with the lifeless steering returning virtually no feel to the driver. That’s a shame since the rest of the steering system (and the platform itself) has quite a bit of untapped potential, and it would be interesting to see just how much more exciting the XT4 becomes when equipped with a steering system that actually delivers noticeable amounts of road feel and feedback to the driver.


Value Quotient:

Pricing for the 2019 Cadillac XT4 is squarely aimed at the bulk of its rivals, with the base XT4 starting at $35,790 for the base Luxury model, with range topping Sport models starting at $40,290. Meanwhile, our mid-range Premium Luxury example also boasts a $40,290 base sticker, but a healthy suite of optional extras helped push the final price of our Shadow Metallic hued tester to $54,785. This is a serious amount of coin to pay for a subcompact luxury CUV, but with its competitors not ashamed at charging similar prices for some of its rivals, this figure is within the ballpark in regards to its segment. Unlike some of its rivals though, the XT4 truly feels like a bona fide luxury car, with many of the amenities that buyers come to expect from such a luxurious marque. We hope that a future V-Sport version will help address some of the handling and braking issues that we experienced, and also add a bit more beef to the already impressive engine.


With all the good things that the XT4 brings to the table, it’s good to see that Cadillac’s first foray into the subcompact luxury CUV market is off to a roaring start. We hope that more interior polish, as well as an infusion of items to help enhance the driving experience will help elevate the XT4’s game, and allow it to truly make the leap into the same section of the pool where some of its established German competition dwell. With the broader crossover segment constantly expanding, the XT4 will need to be on top of its game to avoid being left behind its rivals in the broader quest for sales supremacy.