2021 Cadillac XT5 pressed from all sides, still earns a look

2020 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury

By Ed Piotrowski and CarPreview staff

What changes will make the 2021 Cadillac XT5 different?

Very little, following a model-year 2020 refresh that tweaked styling, updated features, introduced an entry-level engine, and added a new flagship trim. Cadillac’s best-selling vehicle is a five-passenger premium-compact crossover SUV that bowed for model-year 2017 and quickly became the brand’s best-selling vehicle.

The XT5 shares much of its underskin engineering with other General Motors crossovers, including the Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Acadia, and, notably, the seven-passenger Cadillac XT6. Marketed as a midsize premium crossover, the XT6 launched for model-year 2020 with a body 9.2 inches longer than the XT5’s to squeeze in a kid-sized third-row seat. Bracketing the XT5 on the smaller side is the XT4, which arrived for model-year 2019 and is now America’s third best-selling subcompact crossover SUV.

Those alternatives within its own showroom likely cost the XT5 some customers. Demand fell 18-percent in 2019, dropping it to fifth in the premium-compact-crossover sales race behind the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Acura RDX. The XT5 finished third in 2018.

Note that conclusions in this review are based on road tests of 2020 XT5s provided by Cadillac. In areas where the ’21 might differ, we will reserve judgment.

Should I wait for the 2021 Cadillac XT5 or buy a 2020?

2020 XT5 Sport

Buy a 2020. Considering the model-year 2020 upgrades and an expected redesign just around the corner, the ’21 almost certainly will be a near-rerun of the 2020 – but almost certainly will cost more.

Sources differ about precisely when the next-generation XT5 will launch. Some say in calendar 2021 as a 2022 model, others suggest it’ll arrive during 2022, as a ‘23. It will have new styling and more advanced tech that probably will include Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system. It could also be available with a gas-electric-hybrid or plug-in-hybrid powertrain and may offer a higher-performance V-Sport model to compete with the likes of the Audi SQ5   

Count on the 2021 XT5 to repeat the 2020 model lineup of Luxury, Premium Luxury, and top-line Sport trims. Luxury and Premium Luxury should return with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a V-6. Look for the Sport to remain an AWD V-6 flagship.

Will 2021 Cadillac XT5 styling be different?

2020 XT5 Sport

No. It’ll stay with the minor changes made for model-year ’20: a slight reshape of the lower fasciae front and rear, some new wheel designs, LED headlights made standard on all grades. The subtle nature of the changes was shrewd; the XT5 was already among the most stylish crossovers in the class, and the ’21 will again strike a pleasing balance between, say, the more reserved Lincoln Corsair and the edgier Acura RDX.

Expect visual differentiators for ’21 XT5 trim levels to remain limited to details such as brushed aluminum roof rails for Luxury and Premium Luxury models versus black for the Sport. The Sport will also come with gloss-black exterior accents and clear taillamp lenses, the last a $980 option for the Luxury and Premium Luxury models.

Twenty-inch alloy wheels should again be standard on the Sport and optional on the others in place of standard 18s. The 20s will be available in a variety of designs and finishes, including dark grey and polished bright with pearl-nickel pockets.

2020 XT5 rear seat

The ’21 XT5 will remain among the roomiest premium-compact crossovers, with ample headroom and legroom and a wide rear bench that’s one of the few in the segment to accommodate three adults in reasonable comfort.

Look for attractive leatherette upholstery to remain standard on the Luxury model. Premium Luxury and Sport should again come with leather seating in combination with your choice of interior accents in “diamond cut” aluminum or gloss, satin, or open-pore wood. Overall, though, the ’21 XT5’s cabin design and materials will likely come across as just-good-enough for the premium class, design and décor falling short of standards set by import-brand rivals, and even by Lincoln.  

The tall seating position will continue to provide excellent forward visibility, although the view aft is pinched by a small rearview mirror, tall rear-seat headrests and thick roof pillars. For model-year 2020, blind-spot alert was standard on the Premium Luxury and Sport models but unavailable on the Luxury. We urge Cadillac to include this important driver assist on the Luxury model for 2021; it’s standard on many far less expensive vehicles.

2020 XT5 Sport

The dashboard design is orderly if unimaginative, most controls logical if generic. All ’21 XT5s will again incorporate an 8-inch infotainment dashboard touchscreen. It’s fully integrated, rather than mounted in the fashionable tablet-style. Some folks like that, but 8 inches is small by today’s standards, and this display is surrounded by thick bezels that make it look like a first-generation Apple iPad. It’s also angled away from front-seat occupants, meaning interaction requires a longer reach than it should.

Fortunately, the 2020 refresh included an update to the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment suite. It brought quicker response to user input and a revised center console joystick that makes navigating the menus much easier. This should carry over for 2021, along with standard Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto.

2020 XT5 Sport

Imbedded navigation that doesn’t require a cellular signal to provide real-time GPS mapping probably will remain exclusive to the Premium Luxury and Sport models as a $1,025 stand-alone option or as part of the pricey Platinum Package, a $4,850 option for the Premium Luxury model and a $3,650 extra for the Sport.

Unfortunately, also likely to carry over are USB charging and data ports inconveniently located at the rear of the front center-console storage box. Among other missteps: the cubby under the climate controls is not deep enough to keep even a standard size iPhone in place.

2020 XT5 Sport

And the XT5’s cupholders are small, not especially deep, and lack any spring-loaded tensioners to keep beverages secure. Unless you have a cup that precisely fits the holder’s diameter, it will rattle around, causing an irritating noise. It also increases the risk of spillage, especially if you have a paper coffee cup and neither you nor barista properly secured the lid.

At 30 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 63 with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded, cargo volume is about midpack for the class. A power liftgate will again be standard and will continue to feature hands-free operation on the Premium Luxury and Sport models.

Any mechanical changes to the 2021 Cadillac XT5?

2020 XT5 Premium Luxury

None expected after Cadillac gave the 2020 Luxury and Premium Luxury grades a new standard engine. It’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A similar engine is used on top-line versions of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers. Output is just shy of that mustered by most turbo 2.0-liter fours in the XT5’s competitive set, although the Caddy is also a bit lighter than average. We haven’t yet tested a 2.0-liter XT5, but acceleration ought to be adequate for much of its target audience.

Most buyers, however, probably will be happier with the V-6 engine. It’s GM’s workhorse 3.6-liter, here with 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. It’ll return as an option at around $1,000 for the ’21 XT5 Premium Luxury model and as standard on the Sport. The V-6 delivers strong acceleration in most any situation. It’s impressively refined except when you employ most or all the throttle to merge or pass. Then it can sound and feel coarse in a manner foreign to most engines in this segment.

Both 2021 XT5 engines will continue to pair with a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission.

2020 XT5 Sport

Don’t expect the ‘21 XT5 to match the athletic road manners of its European-brand competition. Do anticipate that it’ll never feel less than confident in corners and planted on straightaways. The Sport will return with tauter suspension tuning that’ll team with its standard 20-inch tires to sharpen reaction in quick changes of direction. AWD can be a dry-road handling enhancement but pays dividends mostly by increasing traction on snowy pavement or gravel paths.

Stick with the 18-inch wheels and tires for the plush ride quality you have a right to expect from a premium compact crossover, especially one wearing the Cadillac crest. With the 20s, and especially with the Sport model’s firmer underpinnings, more bumps make their way into the cabin than is appropriate for a luxury crossover.

GM’s real-time damping suspension should again be standard on the Sport and optional for the Premium Luxury as part of the Platinum Package. It responds in milliseconds to road imperfections, but still can’t seem to adequately isolate the XT5’s cabin from the impacts of potholes, wide expansion joins, and the like. The larger tires are also noisier on most road surfaces. Wind rush, though, is not an issue.

Will 2021 Cadillac XT5 fuel economy improve?

2020 XT5 Sport

No, sadly. The 2021 XT5’s EPA ratings should repeat those of the 2020 XT5’s, leaving this crossover near the bottom of the competitive set for fuel economy.

Expect ’21 XT5 Luxury and Premium Luxury models with the turbo four-cylinder to rate 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/26/23 with AWD. With the V-6, expect a ’21 XT5 Premium Luxury model to rate 18/26/21 mpg with front-wheel drive and with AWD, to match the Sport at 18/25/20 mpg. Our AWD Sport review sample averaged 18.2 mpg in our suburban test loop.

The V-6 engine would again use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline while GM would recommend, but not require, 91-octane premium for the four-cylinder.

Will the 2021 Cadillac XT5 have new features?

2020 XT5 Sport

Unlikely, but 2021 XT5 buyers would be well served if Cadillac included more safety tech as standard across the model line.

Laudably, all 2020 XT5s came with forward-collision warning and autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. Front- and rear-obstacle detection and lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction also were standard. So was Cadillac’s Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates appropriate sections of the driver’s seat to signal the direction of a potential collision.

However, the important safety advantage of blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection was unavailable on the Luxury grade; it was standard on the Premium Luxury and Sport models. Similarly, adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set following distance from traffic ahead was also unavailable on the Luxury model. And adaptive cruise control was available for the Premium Luxury and Sport as part of the $1,300 Driver Assist Package, which also included reverse autonomous braking. All these safety features ought to be standard equipment on any premium-class vehicle.

2020 XT5

Among other driver assists, expect the Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package to again cost $2,275 for the ’21 XT5 Premium Luxury and Sport models and to again add an inside rearview mirror with video-camera projection, a high-definition surround camera, a head-up instrument display, rear pedestrian alert, and hands-free parking assist. Ordering the Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package will likely be a prerequisite for the $2,000 Night Vision option. This displays within the instrument cluster a thermal image of people and large animals that may be beyond headlight range.

Likely to carry over unchanged are other aspects of the XT5’s standard and optional feature sets. In addition to items already discussed, the ’21 XT5 Luxury grade would again come with heated power front seats, GM’s OnStar telematics with imbedded 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a power tilt and telescopic steering column, remote engine start, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Figure the ’21 XT5 Premium Luxury to again include all that, plus a panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charger, heated steering wheel, a Bose-brand audio system with stylish metal speaker grilles, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert. The ’21 XT5 Sport would again build on the Premium Luxury with all the aforementioned appearance, performance, and convenience amenities.

Will 2021 Cadillac XT5 prices be different?

2020 XT5 Sport and Premium Luxury

They’ll likely be marginally higher, due primarily to traditional model-year inflation as opposed to significant changes in equipment. Our 2021 XT5 base-price estimates include Cadillac’s destination fee, which was $995 for 2020.

With front-wheel drive, expect the ‘21 XT5 Luxury model to start around $45,500. Estimated base price for the ’21 XT5 Premium Luxury model is $50,000 with front-drive and the turbo four-cylinder engine, and $51,000 with the V-6. Expect AWD to remain a $2,100 option on the Luxury and Premium Luxury models. With the V-6 and AWD standard, estimated base price for the ’21 XT5 Sport is $56,500.

Among notable options, nearly every paint color other than Radiant Silver Metallic would cost an additional $625-$1,225. Many of the most desirable features should continue in packages limited to the Premium Luxury and Sport models.

Foremost would be the Platinum Package of semi-aniline leather upholstery; leather wrap for the dashboard, console, and door trim; a microfiber sueded headliner; illuminated front doorsill plates; tri-zone automatic climate control; upgraded interior trim; and front and rear premium carpeted floor mats. It would also incorporate the Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package. Expect the Platinum Package to again cost $3,650 on the Sport and $4,850 Premium Luxury model, where it would also include the real-time damping suspension.

When does the 2021 Cadillac XT5 come out?

2020 XT5 Sport

Release date for the 2021 Cadillac XT5 will likely be in third-quarter 2020.

What are the best competitors to the 2021 Cadillac XT5?

Acura RDX, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and X4, Infiniti QX50, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Defender, Lincoln Corsair, Mercedes-Benz EQC and GLC, Porsche Macan, Range Rover Velar, Volvo XC60

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]