Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: October 11, 2020
Sitting at the entrance of the Cadillac crossover line-up is the XT4, a compact five-seater crossover introduced last year in 2019, and it was a bit late to the party. Luxury-oriented rivals like the Lincoln Corsair and Range Rover Evoque have had ample time to not only establish brand cache but to also re-badge, re-engineer, and tweak as necessary. And the segment isn’t lacking for entrants either, with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1, and Lexus NX all fighting for a slice of the pie.
Good thing then that the XT4 boasts gorgeous sheetmetal that’s decidedly Cadillac. The Art and Science design continues here with plenty of angular lines, and it all starts with the bold new grille and tall LED headlamps. They draw your eyes across the long hood and heavily raked windshield. Follow the sloped roof line, and your gaze will terminate at the steeply raked C-pillar with an integrated LED tail lamp. The proportions and design of this little crossover quickly makes Cadillac’s sporting intentions apparent.
Inside, the cabin conveys a decidedly upscale experience. The wood accents are a nice touch and don’t overpower the interior. The 8-inch center screen is inset into the dash, and can look a little bit out of place, almost aftermarket at first glance. Thankfully, viewing angles are great and don’t constrain its usability. Perhaps my favourite part of the interior are the leather seating surfaces draped in a beautiful camel brown shade. Cadillac calls it Sedona. What I absolutely adore is the visible natural grain of the leather, typically something that’s hidden away by automakers. Not so here. The grain really adds a level depth and texture to the seats, like you’re about to plop into a fancy couch from Restoration Hardware.
Unlike the multitude of engine choices from its competitors, Cadillac has simplified the selection choice. To wit, there’s only one 2.0L turbo-four option available, which squeezes out 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, or what Cadillac likes to refer to as 350 Newton Metres of twist. GM’s venerable 9-speed automatic makes a showing here as well. Prospective buyers can choose between a front-wheel drive only model (in the Luxury trim option) or an all-wheel drive model with a driver-selectable FWD toggle. Those who opt for the selectable AWD drivetrain will need to choose between the Premium Luxury and Sport trims. The latter models have identical MSRPs but the Sport trim does get a few extra cosmetic touches such as alloy pedals, gloss black grille, body coloured door handles, and optional carbon fiber in the interior. The most convincing addition is the Sport-exclusive Active Sport Suspension with Continuous Damping Control.
In many ways, the ingredient list doesn’t really call for an extra dash of sportiness, and there are two reasons for this. For a sporty crossover, there is plenty that the Cadillac XT4 delivers in spades. For example, the steering wheel is well-weighted and offers exemplary turn-in response. Further, the chassis felt lithe and willing to change direction. The active suspension works in tandem with driving and road inputs to provide a ride that in theory, should be more comfortable on smooth roads, and a well sorted vehicle in more spirited driving.
In reality, I found the system to be working overtime in the pothole ridden streets of Toronto, serving up a ride that felt incredibly harsh and jarring. In one instance on Eglinton Avenue, the car produced an extremely loud bang not dissimilar to coil bind when it struck a pothole. Now I’m no stranger to firm rides, and in fact, I’d welcome it as a tradeoff for a more rewarding driving experience when the road gets twisty. Mix in the 2.0L turbo though, and the XT4 feels immediately bottlenecked. It’s a peppy motor that will get you up to speed but there really isn’t enough oomph under the hood to match what the chassis is capable of, let alone excite you.
Further amplifying that feeling is the 9-speed automatic that is better suited for a long cruise to Vermont rather than a blistering hot lap. In normal conditions, it operates imperceptibly. Push the vehicle though, and the gearbox will take its sweet time handing over the next cog. When in Sport mode where the shift logic and shift points have been revised to accommodate spirited manoeuvres, the transmission still doesn’t offer crisp satisfying transitions that plenty of its competitors provide.
Base prices for the XT4 with AWD start at $43,598, which puts it right in thick with the BMW X1, Lexus NX, and Mercedes GLA 250. However, at an as-tested price of $58,008 you’re well into the territory of compact crossovers hopped up on steroids like the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and BMW X2 M35i costing $52,900 and $53,054, respectively. Both feature more dominant powertrains that excite and reward drivers. What the XT4 has going for it is a soft complaint ride with youthful brand prestige to mix. What it lacks in performance, it makes up for with sleek looks and a cozy cabin. Time will tell if it's favoured among young crossover buyers but the high starting price and cut-throat competition won’t make it easy.
Model: 2020 Cadillac XT4 Sport
Paint Type: Stellar Metallic Black
Base Price: $43,598
Price as Tested: $58,008
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,599 / 2,120 / 1,627
Curb weight (kg): 1,767
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 237 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 10.6 / 8.1
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.1