Review: Cadillac XT4 – the Substandard of the World

Standard of the world. The Cadillac of things. The name Cadillac used to be synonymous with being the best. That is exactly, if cautiously, what I was hoping for from the Cadillac XT4, the Crossover Touring 4, a relatively new small CUV from the brand. Truthfully, I was not sure what to expect. I have not driven any Cadillacs in over a decade.

The problem with calling something a standard, which Cadillac officially does not do, is that the word has multiple definitions. Merriam-Webster defines as both a noun and an adjective. The meanings I found most applicable to Cadillac, or cars in general were:

  • sound and usable but not of top quality
  • having recognized and permanent value

Which definition will the XT4 resemble?

cadillac xt4 side

The Design

Outside, the XT4 is generally a pretty vehicle. The front is unmistakably modern Cadillac, expressed through its vertical corporate grill, bumper cover, and CT4/CT6/XT5-like headlights. The rear is also very Cadillac-y, with familiarly shaped taillights.

The side profile suffers from the rear-end that seemed to have been chopped off too close to the rear wheels. The area past the rear door is so small there is no side window, not even a small one, over the cargo area, making the XT4 more of a hatchback than an SUV in my eyes. Then there is a weird window-like extension into the C-pillar for styling reasons.

Another styling issue, which Cadillac is not alone in, is the black trim in the lower front of the car, which extended all around, over the wheel arches, and around the rear. It is supposed to add visual strength and ruggedness, I think.

cadillac xt4 shifter

The Driveline

Cadillac calls it 350T. It’s a turbocharged DOHC four-cylinder engine that makes 237-horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. As to its name, that torque figure translates to 350 newton-meters, a standard seldom used for power measurements in North America, Cadillac’s main market. The T stands for Turbo.

Nine-speed automatic transmission sends that power to the front wheels. On AWD models, four-wheel-drive has to separately engage via the drive mode selector button but can be left in AWD mode permanently. The only other brand that uses this type of AWD engagement on front-wheel-drive based vehicles, to my knowledge, is Mitsubishi.

The performance of the XT4 and fuel consumption can be best described at average, a standard if you will. It’s not slow but it’s not quick. It’s not a fuel-sipper but it does get 30 MPG on the highway.

The Ride

Cadillacs were known for their plush and comfortable ride until the V models came out. BMW-fied, Cadillac did produce some serious performance vehicles. While I did not expect BMW X3 M-level of handling from the XT4, I did expect a comfortable ride. It generally was comfortable until I came upon big potholes. Some automakers do suspension magic in an attempt to reduce the impact of those, but here the Caddy is rather conventional.

XT4 handled freeways ramps with confidence, but really so do most other new CUVs. It’s difficult to draw a comparison, really. But there are a few that stick out, such as the Acura RDX, with its torque-vectoring AWD, which just a lot of fun to drive. Overall, the XT4 was once again average in this regard, a standard if you will.  

cadillac xt4 dash

The Insides

The two things that stand out about the XT4 interior is the rear seat has a good amount of legroom, and the infotainment system is relatively easy to use and is packed with features. The heated and ventilated seats have a massaging function but it is not executed very well – it seems like it’s just air pockets inflating and deflating.

There is no standard wireless phone charger. The sunroof is optional. Generally, the overall design and quality seem more Chevy than Cadillac. Alone, it may seem fine but compared to vehicles even below its class, such as the Mazda CX-5, it just is not great. Compared to similar new vehicles, ones in its price range, the Caddy is just outdone.

cadillac xt4 rear taillight

The Price

The 2020 Cadillac XT4 starts at $35,695. Choose a four-wheel-drive model, throw some options on it, and that price easily surpasses fifty grand. That money buys a nicely loaded Volvo XC60. The problem here is that the XT4 is the size of an XC40, which even fully accessorized cannot approach that price. Cadillac’s American competitor, Lincoln, does not offer a small SUV like the XT4, but its least expensive vehicle, the Nautilus, is much bigger and more powerful than the XT4, and it starts at $41,040.

2020 cadillac xt4 trunk rear

The Conclusion

I wanted to XT4 to be the recognized and permanent value in the world of luxury cars. I wanted the XT4 to be the Cadillac of small luxury cross-overs. The XT4 is a standard but it is the sound and usable but not of top quality kind of standard. The XT4 feels like it’s been designed in a hurry, without much attention to detail. But it’s those details and special features that make premium cars feel premium.

Let’s hope that the money saved on the XT4 went into the design of the new Escalade.

[Disclaimer: Cadillac provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2020]

14 Comments

  1. Now that left a burn mark. It’s hard to disagree with you though – so who ends up buying these? Or are we only talking super discounted leases to random takers?

    1. Cadillac MSRPs tend to mean less than the MSRP of other brands. The sticker represents a lot of profit, and dealers aren’t afraid to give a lot of it back to make a sale.

      I’m looking at a random website for a 2020 XT4 Sport with a sticker price of $52,895. The dealer is advertising it as a final price after factory incentives (some of which you might not be eligible for, and I’m sure you can’t get 0% financing for 60 months at that price) @$44,444. A 2019 AWD Sport with a $52,485 sticker is advertised for $38,777 final price. There are other vehicles at similar markdowns, so these aren’t just the ones that got scratched coming off the truck.

      But yeah, probably a lot of the go as lease vehicles to people in outside sales who get a car allowance but have to use it on a luxury vehicle not more than 4 years old.

      1. The used market for Cadillacs points a very clear path toward deep discounts on new ones. You find some with extremely low miles going for way off MSRP. I slightly more than momentarily contemplated if I could hunt down a privately owned lightly used XTS. It would be as comfy as my living room, but way quieter, and cost me as much as new mid level Civic.

      2. The used market for Cadillacs points a very clear path toward deep discounts on new ones. You find some with extremely low miles going for way off MSRP. I slightly more than momentarily contemplated if I could hunt down a privately owned lightly used XTS. It would be as comfy as my living room, but way quieter, and cost me as much as new mid level Civic.

        1. Also, first owners of Cadillacs tend to have the dealer do all the routine maintenance, so there will be a Carfax history including every minor annoyance that was ever repaired, and you will find that every oil change was right on schedule. Some other brands, when you pull the history, it shows the 2017 purchase and then annual smog checks, but no maintenance records.

    2. A friend of mine (middle-aged, single, professional) bought one of these recently. I need to ask him what he thinks of it. He’s a bit of a GM loyalist, though, so I don’t know that his opinions would be unbiased.

  2. The only Cadillac I’ve ever driven, briefly, was a friend’s ’65 Coupe de Ville in the late 1980s. It was nice enough, I suppose, but in the decades that have elapsed since then I haven’t looked for opportunities to drive another one. I had assumed this placed me outside their target demographic, but now I have to wonder whether this instead places me rather close to their target demographic.

        1. Bypass the 1981 electronics with the snip of a wire, and it turns into a remarkably reliable engine with the architecture of the 500/472/425. Add a couple of switches and relays, and you can have a V4 again. You should probably look for something with the HT 4100 if you want true disappointment.

  3. This simply doesn’t have the premium feel that the price commands. It looks like it should compete with the Ford Edge or CRV. The real problem, as you mention, is that the CX5 exists and looks and feels like a higher end vehicle but costs less and will certainly be more reliable or the Nautilus which is similarly priced but larger.

    And those lights with the extra clear covers just look cheap, like some kind of Pep Boys accessory. What are the odds that they start fogging up in 3-4 years?

    People that buy this are the ones that were going to buy a Cadillac no matter what they put out there.

  4. People who equate this with a CX-5 must be drinking some very special Kool-aid. Obsolete transmission, terrible infotainment, and slow, plus they are everywhere, typically in base trim and in one of about 3 colours. No cachet whatsoever. I do agree Caddy needs to up its game though. The engine is unworthy of a Cadillac and the interior isn’t special enough.

  5. In “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” Al Ries and Jack Trout lay out a compelling case that once a brand has established a position in the public mind, that position can be destroyed, but it can’t be changed. Cadillac is a textbook example of this. Cadillacs are either big, flashy, and distinctively American, or they are nothing and they don’t sell in volumes and at prices at which they make “premium brand” money. The archetypal Cadillac is the 1959 Sedan DeVille. When someone sees a new Cadillac for the first time, their reaction should be “Wow!” By this standard, the only true Cadillac today is the Escalade. No one is going to look at an XT4 and go, “Wow!”

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