2020 Cadillac XT6 Review & Buying Guide | Sneaking in through the back

James Riswick
·8 min read

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The 2020 Cadillac XT6 is arriving late to the party, literally decades after some of its rivals. It's a new, three-row luxury crossover that serves as a much-needed, more-modern and less ostentatious family hauler than the Escalade (which is getting overhauled next year, by the way). The question about the XT6, then, is it fashionably late?

The XT6 is indeed quite handsome and refined -- we thought it looked particularly excellent in one our test car's Red Horizon Tintcoat. There's a classic sophistication to it that evokes Cadillacs of the 1960s rather than the overwrought and borderline-tacky designs of other eras (including recent ones). We think the exterior design will age quite well, especially in light of some competitors. However, we're also not sure it's distinctly a Cadillac. Worse, the interior is drab, unimaginative, and blighted with unremarkable materials. A Volvo XC90 and Lincoln Aviator instantly look and feel more special, while a range-topping Hyundai Palisade isn't as far behind as the price gap would indicate.

The driving experience also leaves something to be desired. Besides the ho-hum engine, the XT6 has neither the sharp handling of Cadillac's recent sedans nor the stately ride comfort one also might expect given the brand's past. Overall, the XT6 sneaks in through the back of the party rather than making a grand entrance; an unremarkable effort in a toughly contested segment.

What's new for 2020?

The XT6 is an all-new model and fills a gap in Cadillac's lineup.

What's the XT6's interior and in-car technology like?

Answering this question is all about perspective. In a vacuum, the XT6 interior seems nicely put together, its leather is soft and features are in abundance. The range-topping trim's gold carbon fiber trim is particularly interesting. If you sat in one after a Buick Enclave, the step up would be obvious. However, come from a Lincoln Aviator or Volvo XC90, to cite two excellent examples of the breed, and the difference is stark in terms of design and materials quality (there are too many hard plastics throughout). The XT6 quite simply isn't as cool, isn't as luxurious and doesn't seem to justify its price tag.

At least features content is strong with six USB ports, wireless charging, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and satellite radio all included along with a panoramic sunroof and various driver assistance technologies. Other brands nickel-and-dime you with this sort of content. We even think Cadillac's touchscreen infotainment system is easy enough to use and benefits from a redundant control knob. Again, though, this is a matter of perspective. Lincoln's screen measures 10 inches and is even easier to use, while Volvo is a massive, vertically oriented unit bound to impress your friends (even if its operation polarizes our editors). The Audi Q7's MMI interface and all-digital Virtual Cockpit instrument also continue to wow.

Finally, interior functionality could be better. We like the damped sliding cupholder cover, but the cupholders themselves are narrow, shallow and don't hold bottles in place well. We also like the handy, angled wireless smartphone cubby hidden at the lip of the under-armrest bin, but then the bin forward of the shifter is small, oddly shaped and not grippy, meaning it's next-to-useless. There's also under-console storage, but as in other cars, is of negligible use.   

How big is the XT6?

Cadillac's designers did an excellent job of hiding the XT6's size. It's considerably longer overall than the XC90 and Acura MDX, and only a smidge shorter than the Aviator, yet it doesn't look it. You can find a handy comparison of three-row crossover specs here featuring the XT6 if you want to dig deeper.

Inside, Cadillac prioritized passenger space – even tall adults can fit quite comfortably in the third row. It's more comfortable back there than in the XC90, Aviator and Q7, while the XT6's boxy shape makes things less claustrophobic. If there's one complaint, it's that the second row doesn't slide as far forward for access as in GM's other three-row SUVs. Space in the second row is also excellent and our passengers back there loved the elevated, theater-like seating position that makes it easier to see out over front-seat passengers.

Unfortunately, the XT6 pays for this passenger-friendly space in terms of cargo capacity. As we discovered in our luggage test, it has less cargo room when all seats are raised than any three-row crossover we've tested (including the XC90). Things are at least more competitive when the third row is lower, but this is something to remember if you're counting on using all rows for road trips.

What's the XT6's performance and fuel economy?

The Cadillac XT6 comes only with a 3.6-liter V6 engine good for 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is an option. It'll go from zero to 60 mph in a rather pedestrian 6.9 seconds. Fuel economy stands at 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined with FWD and 17/24/20 mpg with AWD.

Unlike most competitors, there is neither a performance upgrade nor a hybrid one. 

What's it like to drive?

The XT6's only engine offering is effectively shared with the Chevy Traverse and other non-luxury GM vehicles, which may not be a problem per se, but it's relatively unrefined and produces 310 horsepower. That's just not good enough in a segment where the Lincoln Aviator produces a standard 400 horsepower, the Volvo XC90 offers multiple engine upgrades (including a plug-in hybrid) and the Audi Q7 can pump out 325 lb-ft of torque from its optional twin-turbo V6. Cadillac is instead playing in the same sandbox as the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60, aging entries that don't offer appreciable performance upgrades over non-luxury models.

On the up side, the XT6 is quiet and the available adaptive dampers sops up bumps in an impressively damped manner befitting a luxury brand. Although it's built on the same platform that underpins the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave, it feels like a more sophisticated machine behind the wheel. Again, though, we have to consider the segment, and the XT6 also doesn't do enough to stand out. Its handling lacks the verve of a Cadillac CTS or ATS (the uncommunicative steering in particular is a real letdown), nor does it lean into the sort of uber-comfortable, grand touring experience one might expect from a giant Cadillac – and that Lincoln accomplished with the Aviator.

What more can I read about the Cadillac XT6?

2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport Drivers' Notes Review

From the styling and interior to the engine and handling, the big Caddy in its sportiest form left our editors split.

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2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport First Drive | An unexpectedly strong performer

Our first drive, including more details about its design and engineering. We also appreciated its adaptive suspension our first go around, but were similarly underwhelmed by the XT6 as a whole, suspecting that the still-to-be-driven Lincoln Aviator would soon eclipse it. We were right. 

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Comparison | Cadillac XT6 vs Lincoln Aviator, Acura MDX and Volvo XC90

We look at the engine specs and interior dimensions of these four competitors. A must-read should you be considering one of these competitors. 

What features are available and what's the XT6's price?

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 starts at $54,685 for the base Premium Luxury trim with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is a $3,000 option. That base price is considerably more than those of most competitors (ranging from about $45,000 for an MDX to $51,000 for an Aviator), but it also comes with more standard equipment. Included are 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, the accident avoidance tech listed in the safety section below, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, a second-row bench (captain's chairs and subsequent six-passenger capacity are optional), power-folding third-row seats, heated front seats, a heated power-adjustable steering wheel, wireless charging, an 8-inch touchscreen and an eight-speaker Bose sound system.

The Sport ($59,085) is available only with all-wheel drive and adds adaptive suspension and dark exterior trim.

There are quite a few options available that quickly raise the XT6's price to a lofty point that tends to exacerbate its interior and driving experience deficiencies relative competitors. Our test vehicle cost more than $73,000. You can find a full breakdown of the XT6's features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog

What are the XT6's safety equipment and crash ratings?

Every 2020 XT6 comes standard with forward collision warning, a low-speed automatic emergency braking system, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, and GM's Safety Alert seat that buzzes your butt in response to inputs from the above safety systems. The Driver Assist package ($1,300) adds adaptive cruise control, higher-speed automatic emergency braking and reverse automatic braking. The Enhanced Visibility and Technology package adds GM's rear camera mirror, a surround-view parking system (with a video recorder for security purposes), a head-up display and a rear pedestrian alert system when reversing.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the XT6 a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible performance in all crash tests as well as for the Superior-rated performance of both its standard and optional forward accident avoidance systems. Its headlights got an "Acceptable" rating – most do worse.

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