Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

The Cadillac XT5 is the luxury brand’s best-selling model, but the compact-class SUV is not sitting on its laurels.

Three years after its introduction as a 2017 model, XT5 gets a major refresh for 2020 as Cadillac continues to re-position itself as an SUV brand. The new XT5 receives 40 upgrades – most significantly engine, technology and trim upgrades first seen on its subcompact XT4 and midsize XT6 siblings introduced in the last two years.

Throw in an all-new, full-size 2021 Cadillac Escalade coming to market next year and Cadillac’s SUV lineup is poised to be one of the freshest in the industry even as it lags BMW, Audi and Mercedes in sheer numbers of models offered.

The expansion of Cadillac’s ute line comes as GM's luxury badge appears to be winnowing its three-sedan lineup to two — the forthcoming CT4 and CT5 — with the demise of the CT6 sedan expected this January.

At the center of the XT5’s upgrades is a revised console featuring a new user-experience infotainment interface. Past versions of the interface — the so-called CUE — were innovative but panned by customers for its buttonless, clumsy-to-operate interface. The new system aims to please with three different ways to access the console screen: touch, voice or rotary controller.

First introduced on the XT4, the rotary controller was refined on this year’s XT6 and is as dexterous as BMW’s industry-pioneering system.

Also imported from the XT4 is Cadillac’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine, which will complement the workhorse 3.6-liter V-6 that has been a mainstay of the XT5 (and the SRX ute before it). By offering two engine options, the XT5 catches up to the BMW 3-Series, which offers 4- and 6-cylinder options. Both Cadillac engines will be mated to a nine-speed, automatic transmission.

The turbo-4, boasting 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, is offered as the standard mill in the front-wheel drive Luxury trim starting at $45,090 including destination. That’s a hefty $2,400 increase over the outgoing 2019 model. But Cadillac now positions the standard XT5 with a boatload of standard features for that price, including LED headlamps, heated front seats, auto high-beam, lane-keep assist, safety-alert driver’s seat and more.

After the base Luxury model, the XT5’s offerings split into two personalities, following a “Y-trim” strategy shared with other Cadillacs.

A Luxury Premium trim offers a more luxurious ride complemented by brightwork like a chrome grille, while an aggressive Sport model comes with standard all-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels and 310-horse V-6.

The Sport trim is distinguished by blacked-out window trim and grille, and a more-athletic suspension and steering settings. A fancy Platinum trim can be optioned on both the Luxury Premium and Sport trims.

But for the distinct trims, the XT5 externally appears little different from the last generation with minor front and rear fascia upgrades. Consumers may notice new alphanumerics on the trunk-lid depending on their engine choice — “350T” for turbo-4 and “400” for the V-6. The figures represent an approximation of the engines’ torque in Newton-meters, an indicator of Cadillac’s ambitions for an all-electric future in which torque is valued over engine displacement.

As SUVs continue to displace sedan sales, the XT5 now anchors Cadillac’s first full-sport ute lineup.

In so doing it catches up with GM stablemate Buick which has been a pioneer in SUVs with its tiny Encore and hulking, three-row Enclave. Cadillac’s SUV strategy differs from Buick in offering more-athletic vehicles while also boasting some of the best interior elbow-room in the segment.

The last-generation XT5 sought to straddle the subcompact and compact segments. But now with the entry-level XT4 — already the best-selling subcompact SUV in its class — the refined XT5 is intended to target the compact class. It will face formidable competition against established vehicles like the BMW X3 and its array of choices including a coupe-like sister, the X4.

Assembled in Spring Hill, Tennessee, the 2020 XT5 goes on sale later this summer.

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.

Read or Share this story: