First Drive: 2019 Cadillac XT4 Crossover is Hopeful Millennial Magnet

October 05, 2018 by Carly Schaffner, @carlyschaffner

Cadillac, a brand long associated with old-school luxury, is eager to reboot its image and reintroduce itself to a younger, hipper crowd.

The centerpiece of the plan is the brand’s all-new 2019 XT4 small crossover, a vehicle Cadillac believes has the right look, capability and price point to capture youthful attention.

The average age of a Cadillac buyer is 70, the second oldest in the industry behind Buick at 71, according to data from AutoPacific.

The target market for the XT4 is “older millennials,” according to Donny Nordlicht, a Cadillac spokesman. Specifically, the crossover aims to attract singles and young families in urban areas, Nordlicht said.

The XT4 also marks the start of an aggressive product rollout. Cadillac plans to launch a new model every six months through 2020, including a complete family of luxury SUVs.

“The brand is in need of younger blood, and offering a variety of crossover products is definitely a good way to go about achieving that,” said Ed Kim, industry analyst with AutoPacific.

The XT4 is built on an all-new platform with a brand new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The new engine architecture is all about balancing “power and efficiency,” Todd Pawlik, chief engineer of the XT4, said at the vehicle’s global launch in Seattle.

The crossover will be offered in three variants to start: Premium, Premium Luxury and Sport. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations are available.

Subtle style differences set the cushier Premium Luxury and Sport trims apart. Standard roof rails and lower accents are metallic on the Premium Luxury and black on the Sport. The Sport also gets its own black mesh grille. The Premium Luxury’s interior choices are aluminum or wood, and the Sport’s are wood or carbon fiber. The wood and carbon fiber options are both handsome.

The crossover felt underpowered on inclines, and shifts were noisy, especially in Touring mode. But in Sport mode it tackled country roads easily and with more vigor. All-wheel drive felt the most confident on both versions.

The XT4 isn’t meant to go off-roading. The AWD option will give drivers confidence in inclement weather. It’s also built to help urban dwellers ditch city life on weekends.

It comfortably navigated the tight corridors, stop-and-go traffic and chaotic one-way streets of downtown Seattle. It also happily escaped the city center, zipping across the I-90 bridge toward Mercer Island, through the thick evergreen forests of surrounding state parks. The XT4 also comfortably made its way to Bainbridge Island, onto a ferry, and back to iconic Pike Place.

The crossover is muscular and athletic. Cadillac designers took styling cues from the brand’s flagship Escalade full-size SUV. The features are oversized, including optional 20-inch wheels that run out from the corners. The front grille design, including the Cadillac badging, is bold. Vertical headlights and taillights are tall and reminiscent of its Escalade sibling.

But the crossover itself feels light and peppy. It’s not hard to believe that fuel efficiency was a primary goal during development of the new engine.

New features that help boost mileage includes an active fuel management system that shuts down two of the four cylinders depending on driving conditions; active thermal management, which cools the engine when needed; and start/stop technology that kills the engine when idle.

New active suspension lends to a sportier driving experience. The XT4 feels planted, and continuous damping control assures the ride stays smooth over bumpy or unpredictable terrain, including potholes in the city.

Despite the added technologies, the engine weighs 15 pounds less than its predecessor. It gets an estimated 24 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It also tops the subcompact crossover segment that includes the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.

However, the XT4 has enough space to compete with compact crossovers such as the Audi Q5.

“The XT4 is a tweener — it’s bigger than the likes of BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, but it’s not quite as big as X3 or GLC-Class,” Kim said.

The nearly 40 inches of legroom in the rear seats is enough to fit a 6-foot-1 man, said Pawlik, who designed the vehicle so he could sit comfortably in the back. With both the 60/40 split rear seats folded, there is nearly 50 cubic feet of cargo space.

“Cadillac has long been associated with big and accommodating cars,” Kim said. “So to have the biggest vehicles in the segments the brand competes in isn’t a terrible strategy and may be a deliberate action.”

There is enough cargo space to accommodate bulky luggage for a weekend getaway to the slopes, but skis or snowboards would require a roof rack. For more equipment-laden adventures, a tow hitch is available with a $300 trailering package. Towing capacity for the XT4 is 3,500 pounds.

Pricing for the stripped-down, base-level Premium trim starts at $35,790 including destination. The Premium Luxury and Sport both start at $40,290. Amenities are limited on the base versions.

  • 2019 XT4 Sport. (All photos: Carly Schaffner/Trucks.com)
  • 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury
  • 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury
  • 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury
  • 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury
  • 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury
  • 2019 XT4 Premium Luxury

The comfort and convenience package, which includes ventilated leather seats, massaging eight-way power seats and a hands-free power liftgate, costs an additional $2,450 on the Sport ($1,050 on the Premium Luxury). It also requires purchase of the $850 cold weather packages that includes heated seats. The enhanced visibility package with a rearview camera mirror, HD surround vision and automatic parking assist costs $1,500. The technology package that adds a head-up display and wireless charging is $1,400.

The driver-assist package, $1,100, has adaptive cruise control and forward and reverse automatic braking. The driver-assist package begs to be paired with the driver-awareness package, $770, because it includes the rest of the must-have active safety technology such as lane-keep assist and front pedestrian braking.

The price rockets to $56,835 after adding everything the XT4 needs to gain ground among peers.

“The XT4 is a critical product for Cadillac, as the brand is currently far too sedan-heavy and lacking in a variety of crossover products, which are what luxury customers are buying in droves these days,” Kim said.

“The XT4 helps fill out the brand’s crossover lineup, and not a moment too soon,” he said.

Editor’s note: in-line photo is the 2019 XT4 Sport. Photo by Carly Schaffner for Trucks.com.  To facilitate this report, Trucks.com attended an event where General Motors hosted travel and lodging.

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