Cadillac XT6 makes live debut ahead of Detroit auto show

Henry Payne Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Escalade's stylish little brother, the Cadillac XT6, made its live debut Sunday at the Garden Theater ahead of the Detroit auto show. 

Cadillac's first unibody three-row SUV, based on the same architecture as the two-row XT5, will play an important role in the Detroit luxury brand's growing SUV lineup.

Through clever packaging the XT6 manages to add third-row of seating to the 112.5-inch wheelbase of the XT5 with more legroom than the base, 116-inch wheelbase Escalade. 

The 2020 XT6, however, is smaller in cargo and legroom than its three-row GM siblings, Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse. It sets itself apart from those offerings with Cadillac style and technology. The big crossover will feature the latest application of Caddy's CUE infotainment system with touchscreen-and-remote-rotary dial operation, electronic dampers and a standard panoramic sunroof.

“The XT6 takes the Escalade’s scale down to an everyday package,” says Andrew Smith, Cadillac’s global design chief. The family-hauler will compete in a dog-eat-poodle segment that includes the the Audi Q7, Volvo XC90 and crosstown rival Lincoln Aviator.

Built on the same bones as the Chevy Silverado pickup, the hulking bling-tastic Escalade has long been GM's SUV icon — a favorite of well-heeled suburbanites and rappers alike. With the XT6, Cadillac fills out its soccer mom-oriented crossover lineup with the XT5 and compact XT4 below it.

“The XT6 is exactly what Cadillac needs at exactly the right time," said Brian Moody, an automotive analyst for Cox Automotive. "Expected to be more affordable than the Escalade, the XT6 fits perfectly between that full-size SUV and the smaller XT5."


Like its retiring sedan compatriot CT6 (Caddy sedans use the CT moniker, while XT applies to SUVs), the XT6 offers the biggest canvas to apply its Escala concept-inspired design. The XT6's fascia plants the Escala's large grille/thin LED headlight sculpture to an upright SUV fascia. Vertical LED running lights on the front corners maintain Cadillac's signature vertical design cues and will make it instantly recognizable at night.

RELATED REPORT: Cadillac shows new EV as brand looks to electric future

Spanning the XT6's 16-foot-5-inch length, bold shoulder lines extend over standard 20-inch wheels. Out back, the XT6 eschews the Escalade's vertical taillights for more modest T-shaped lamps.

"The taillights are more like the CT6," says designer Smith. "All our SUVs have their own unique appearance."

Unlike the CT6, which pioneered an all-new, rear-wheel drive, mixed-material chassis, the XT6 will be built on the familiar bones of other GM SUVs. Its horizontally mounted, 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine — the only offering for now — is also common to the smaller XT5. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive as an option.

In contrast, Lincoln's all-new three-row Aviator — which will show in Detroit for the first time this week — boasts a RWD platform shared with the Ford Explorer.

The XT6 adopts Cadillac's new, simplified trim offerings of Sport and Premium models. The Premium model will feature a crest-crusted grille and prominent chrome trim, while the Sport model will carry a more macho, blacked-out theme with black-mesh grille, black window trim and black-rimmed tail lights.

Sport is the pricier of the two trims as it gets standard upgrades like all-wheel drive, electronic shocks and quicker steering to aid its athletic aspirations. The AWD system packs sophisticated, twin clutches in the rear that electronically direct 100 percent of torque to either rear wheel in order to prevent tire slippage in, say, icy conditions.

Inside accents will differ depending on trim, with the Premium available with four species of exotic woods and the Sport outfitted with black leather and carbon-fiber inserts. 

The XT6 console will show off the latest in Cadillac User Experience, aka CUE. The system was maligned for its maddening haptic-touch interface when it debuted on the 2014 CTS sedan. The new system offers the choice of operating the infotainment screen by touch or rotary dial. The new CUE debuted on the XT4 this year, and the XT6 upgrades the dial with BMW-like jog functionality for better menu navigation.

The Cadillac's electronic, 9-speed shifter ditches cable operation and opens up purse-friendly storage underneath the console.

The third rows is easily accessed via a one-pull tab that tips and slides the middle seats. A standard, two-pane, panoramic roof stretches across the cabin.

As is common now on luxury as well as mainstream vehicles, the Caddy comes with a basket of standard safety features including blind-spot assist, automatic emergency-braking, automatic windshield wipers and lane-keep-assist. Optioning a radar and a driver-assist package brings gizmos like adaptive cruise-control. An available visibility Tech Package adds features like heads-up-display, rear-view camera mirror and park-assist into parallel parking spots.

Pricing will be available closer to when XT6 hits showroom floors this summer. The XT6 is assembled in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation. Nora Naughton covers General Motors Co. for The Detroit News. She can be reached at