2020 Cadillac XT6: For When the Escalade Is Too Baller

After two decades dominating the big truck-based luxury SUV segment with its de facto flagship, the Escalade, Cadillac has unveiled the XT6, its first serious competitor in the three-row luxury crossover class dominated by such models as the Volvo XC90, Audi Q7, and Acura MDX. The 2020 Cadillac XT6 goes on sale this summer in both Premium Luxury and Sport guise and will court buyers for whom the XT5 is too small and the brash Escalade is, well, too much of an Escalade.

The new XT6 is not, strictly speaking, the luxury division’s first three-row unibody SUV. That would be the 2004–09 Cadillac SRX, a tall STS station wagon with all-wheel drive. While Cadillac has returned most of its passenger cars to rear-drive over the past 15 years or so, the XT6 rides on the transverse-engine, front-drive-based C1 platform also used to underpin the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. It will be assembled at General Motors’ Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant.

The new Cadillac also will compete with the upcoming 2020 Lincoln Aviator, which goes on sale later this year and shares a new rear-wheel-drive platform with the 2020 Ford Explorer—as well as the next Mustang. Cadillac figures luxury shoppers looking for a three-row SUV, especially with the AWD option, aren’t concerned about FWD versus RWD. We’ll have to see both the Aviator and XT6 next to each other, but at first glance the Lincoln seems to be possessed of more elegant proportions than the Cadillac. (It also has a way cooler name.)

One engine is on the specifications sheet: GM’s naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 making an estimated 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft, numbers that will be nailed down closer to the SUV’s launch. It is coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The Sport model comes standard with all-wheel drive, a twin-clutch electrically controlled rear differential that can be disconnected or apply torque to the individual rear wheels to enhance cornering, and continuously adaptive dampers. All-wheel drive is optional on the XT6 Premium Luxury, and this setup has a single-clutch rear differential that can also disconnect to boost efficiency. Both AWD systems come with driver-select Touring (FWD only), Sport (part-time AWD), AWD, and Snow/Ice modes. The Sport mode switches to more aggressive throttle and transmission shift points, and on the XT6 Sport with its adaptive dampers, it also tightens up the suspension. The steering ratio is 16:1 for the Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury, and 15:1 for the Sport.

Dimensionally, the XT6 is 198.8 inches long, rides on a 112.7-inch wheelbase, is 77.3-inches wide, and stands 70.2 inches tall including the luggage rack. For reference, the Enclave is 5.5 inches longer, 1.5 inches wider, and 0.3 inch lower, and has a 6.2-inch longer wheelbase. The XT6 sits sort of between the Buick and the Acadia, as the GMC is 193.6 inches long, 75.4 inches wide, 66.0 inches tall, and has a 0.2-inch shorter wheelbase than the Cadillac.

Cadillac global design chief Andrew Smith says his staff were tasked with styling a “right-size three-row, where every seat is the right seat.” In other words, the first, second, and third rows all have good outward visibility, and the back row doesn’t feel too separated from other passengers. His staff concentrated on the XT6’s stance and a wide track, as well as making it taller, not lower, and fitting in nicely between XT5 and Escalade.

Cadillac designers gave the XT6 the grille and vertical lamps, which double as daytime running lamps and turn signals, of the Escala concept. Above those lamps are thin horizontal headlamps with three-level LEDs, and cornering lamps will be standard. The taillamps are modeled after the ones on the recently facelifted (and soon to be discontinued) Cadillac CT6 so as to be distinct from the XT4 and XT5, though it’s still instantly recognizable as a modern Cadillac. The XT6 Sport’s grille is an evolution of the XT4 Sport’s, with blacked-out mesh, and that version also will come with black accents on the window and taillamp surrounds and its own unique lower rear fascia.

Premium Luxury models will ride on 20-inch wheels, while the Sport can be upgraded to 21s. In addition, its 20-inch wheels are of a different design. Both will be available with six seats and second-row captain’s chairs, or seven seats and a second-row bench. A manual one-button control folds the second row forward for entry to the fairly capacious third row. The two rearmost rows fold flat, and there’s a handy deep compartment hidden under the floor behind the third row, with a full-size spare located under that. Each row has two USB ports, and Wi-Fi connectivity is standard.

A two-panel sunroof is standard across the board. Cadillac’s latest CUE infotainment system updates on the XT4’s with a rotary control that has a “jog” function to allow control without having touch the 8.0-inch screen. Noise cancellation is built into the standard eight-speaker Bose audio, while a 14-speaker Bose Performance Series system is an available upgrade.

Both the 2020 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury and Sport can be outfitted in Platinum trim. The Premium Luxury Platinum offers a choice of “four species of exotic woods,” while Sport Platinum offers two different carbon-fiber trims. The Premium Luxury Platinum example we saw at a preview event had a jet-black interior and “maple sugar” wood trim, while the Sport one had copper-color thread woven throughout its carbon trim. Both looked elegant slathered with semi-aniline premium leather, though too much of the familiar GM plastic trim and shared control buttons remain. On first impression, the XT6’s interior doesn’t quite pop like the Aviator’s.

Of course, the new XT6 will come with the now-typical long list of safety features, including a standard high-definition rear camera with washer, forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert. Among the optional stuff on this front are advanced adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist with braking, rear pedestrian alert, high-definition 360-degree camera and recorder, a head-up display, reverse automatic braking, and night vision.

Cadillac promises a “surprise” in addition to the new XT6 at its official coming-out party ahead of the 2019 Detroit auto show’s first press day. Smart money bets it will be a rendering or concept version of the Cadillac crossover EV that GM CEO Mary Barra says will lead the automaker’s electric-vehicle product onslaught early in the next decade. Meanwhile, the 2020 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury and Sport will be available for order this spring, ahead of summer deliveries.

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