It’s been just over a decade since a glaring gap in Cadillac’s lineup had first become evident. On one side of the perceived split sat the XT5, Cadillac’s successor to their SRX crossover. And across the way: their pioneering three-row luxury SUV, the iconic Escalade. And while both proved eminently popular (in spite of the brand’s aging demographic and lagging sales) it became hard to ignore the expansive nature of the vacuum which existed between the two. This is where the 2020 Cadillac XT6 makes its entrance.
Priced to start at $75,000 the Escalade stood atop the lineup, the gold standard of luxury domestic SUV offerings. That said, its price point still proved inaccessible for many. And at twice the price of the XT5, it went without saying that something was missing from the Cadillac lineup. Fortunately, for the 2020 model year, Cadillac is poised to do something about that. But is it a genuine case of too little, too late?
Cadillac has long felt like a brand teetering on the precipice of relevance. Once the ultimate poster child of American-made luxury, GM’s crown jewel seems to have been displaced by the kind of innovation and evolution that might feel out-of-place with a generationally displaced brand. But now GM’s strategy is to reinvigorate Cadillac as their “lead electric vehicle brand” courtesy of their new BEV3 platform, promising a wide array of front, rear and AWD vehicles.
But those plans aside, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 remains true to classic form, lacking any electrification. And with any redesign of the flagship Escalade expected to be years away, one could assume that Cadillac intends to position the XT6 as a holdover heir to the throne. But if they’re intending to ‘buy some time’ rather than ‘turn the tide’, is the XT6 a smart move or a misstep?
Recognizing the Need
The need for the XT6 might have been best summarized by Cadillac’s executive director, Andrew Smith when he said, “Escalade is an aspirational vehicle but is too large for much of the world”. With even American automakers having long-since recognized the need for more modest footprints and improved fuel economy, GM had their work cut out for them in terms of updating their SUV lineup. The potential threat of customers jumping ship has long since forced them to acknowledge the need for a unibody three-row SUV closer to the price range appropriate for families who might be interested in it.
Designed to seat six -or- seven passengers, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 allows for certain economies having been built upon the same platform as the XT5 (as well as it’s GM cousins, the Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia). And yet, the XT6 still aims to capture some of the aspirational elements of the Escalade, creating a near-perfect amalgam to bridge the gap between the two properties.
At First Glance
While intended to bridge the gap, Cadillac should be commended for giving the 2020 Cadillac XT6 its own distinct identity. Overall it embodies a softer, more passive aesthetic – evocative of the Escala concept which seemed to resonate with the marketplace as a whole. This back to basics approach is prudent, as it draws attention away from the absence of innovation, allowing focus to remain on its fresh design philosophy.
From what we know, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 is made available in two versions: Sport and Premium Luxury, both relatively self-explanatory as to their respective areas of focus. The latter sits on 20-inch wheels, with the option of acquiring the 21-inch wheels that come standard on the Sport trim. In addition, Cadillac plays with the fascia to differentiate the two models. While the Premium Luxury stays faithful to the aspirational Escala aesthetic, the Sport gains black mesh components and blacked-out trim for hints of a street-savvy sleeper vibe.
And if size matters, a 9.3-inch advantage in length and 2.3-inches of width help to make the XT6 noticeably larger than the XT5. A departure from the current trend of weight reduction, the final dimensions help to assert the XT6 firmly at the center of Cadillac’s SUV lineup.
Stepping inside, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 begins to feel more traditional, embracing all of the signature mainstays of Cadillac luxury. Microsuede, engineered wood and copper trim work are eye-catching components of its high-end cabin design, and an upgraded instrument panel helps to further differentiate the vehicle from its stablemates. With its next-gen CUE infotainment system, the XT6 features an 8.0-inch touchscreen interface (with secondary manual controls) and a 14-speaker BOSE sound system. Bluetooth-enabled, it also offers the convenience of wireless phone charging.
Strong material choices include stitched leather upholstery, with seating ergonomically redesigned for comfort, enhanced further by heating and cooling features. There are also prudent choices made in terms of climate control, vent placement and power outlets throughout the vehicle.
Spaciousness, of course, is a clear area of focus; and the option of configuring the middle row as a three-seater bench or two captain chairs has proven successful for most every three-row SUV out there. Regardless of which option is selected, the XT6 offers easy access to the third row, with the ease of pitch / tilt / slide movement of the second-row seating. The seating also folds flat, allowing for the easy increase of cargo space for everyday use, while covered storage wells provide additional stowing options.
Under the hood of the 2020 Cadillac XT6 sits a naturally-aspirated 3.6-liter V6 mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Wrangling 310 horse, the powertrain delivers 271 lb-ft of torque along with a 4,000 LB towing capacity. And while there has been no clear indication that Cadillac plans to offer the XT6 with additional powertrain options, the platform allows for it.
When and How Much?
It’s been over six months since a trial version of the 2020 Cadillac XT6 first rolled off the production line en route for its initial unveiling before dealers. Now slated to go on sale in the spring months of 2019, those same dealers seem to be clamoring for the XT6, eager to do their part in proving it a huge success.
And while no real pricing details have been released, it makes sense that Cadillac would position it to start somewhere in the $50,000 – $55,000 range. This would allow enough separation from the XT5, while controlling the top-end cost from reaching the Escalade price point.
It’s as good a play as any. If Cadillac is currently focusing (i) on their relocation from New York back to Detroit and (ii) long-term implementation of the BEV3 platform, there’s some appreciable logic in making the best of what you have to work with. Whether or not they’ll be successful in reinvigorating the brand, and whether or not the XT6 will play a role in doing so remains to be seen.
So, what are your thoughts regarding the 2020 Cadillac XT6? Is a prudent act of loss prevention, aimed to lure traditional consumers back from the edge of a mass exodus, or is it a desperate grab for relevance before the electrification platform takes hold? More importantly (and regardless of which side you take) do you think that the XT6 will prove an effective means by which Cadillac can achieve their short-term goals?