2019 Cadillac XT4 Review: Nice Ride. How Come More Safety Isn’t Standard?

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 compact SUV is a good car in a field of — you guessed it — very good vehicles. The styling is different yet still distinctively Cadillac, it’s roomy for its size, and there’s a new turbo-four engine that delivers plenty of power as long as it’s not pushed too hard. The Cadillac CUE infotainment interface is finally easy to use. There are plenty of safety features, but most of the active safety features are scattered among a half-dozen options packages that jack up the price by seven grand and force you to take 20-inch rims with sacrifices to your state’s potholes.

The XT4 is the second and smallest of what will be three Cadillac crossover touring (XT) SUVs: the compact XT4, the midsize XT5, and the (pending) full-size XT6. At 181 inches, the XT4 teeters between a compact and a subcompact crossover. Either way, it gives Cadillac entree into the premium side of the hottest car segments: small SUVs.

The XT4 has good room for four adults. Luggage space is adequate. It is a solid highway cruiser with a couple of exceptions. The new four-cylinder turbo engine is average at best accelerating to 60 mph or merging onto the highway. The engine buzzes when it’s pushed hard. And the suspension is only as good as the road underneath; you will feel expansion strips and potholes. Your grandfather’s Caddy with its 120-inch wheelbase was smoother except for the wallowing, but it handled nowhere near as well. Standard active noise cancellation further reduces cabin noise while driving.

If you choose a lighter upholstery color and slide back the screen of the massive sunroof, it’s like riding in a solarium, and that adds to the spacious feel inside. The Bose CenterPoint premium audio sounds fine.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 with the new Cadillac user interface: no longer capitalized, no longer a three-letter acronym (CUE), no longer painful to use.

Cadillac CUE: Now Simpler, Now Usable

Cadillac soft-pedals the name of its infotainment interface.

In 2011, three years after Ford and Lincoln unveiled MyFord/MyLincoln Touch and a decade after BMW debuted the iDrive controller, Cadillac responded with a haptic-feedback, touchscreen interface called Cadillac User Experience, or CUE. As we said back in 2012,

Both CUE and [Ford] Sync/MyFord Touch have advantages. You’ll be impressed – unless you’ve used an iPhone with Siri. If so, game over.

CUE was too clever by half (the face of the screen vibrated where you touched it) and didn’t work well under certain circumstances (the car was moving and the road wasn’t billiard-table smooth). It’s better now.

Cadillac is migrating its cars to the next-generation Cadillac user interface — no initial caps — that combines a touchscreen, a Home button just below the screen (in case you get lost in the menus), and a control wheel on the console for making or fine-tuning selections. Depending on how deep you are in the menus, the wheel can, for instance, move among the onscreen icons, or scroll among radio channels or smartphone playlists. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are integrated (Waze, too). And unlike BMW, you aren’t shut out of Android Auto and aren’t charged an $ 80 yearly fee for the privilege of CarPlay.

Since this is a GM car, you’ve got a rock-solid telematics system (OnStar), teen driver assist (speed limiters, geofencing), and streaming Wi-Fi. Back seat passengers can get a rear entertainment system with DVD player ($ 2,200) or front-seatback universal mounts to hold tablets. Integrated NFC lets you pair an Android phone by holding it next to the logo on the dash. HD Radio and satellite radio are standard, and there’s a pair of USB jacks in the front console, one Type A (traditional) and one Type C, and two more charge-only jacks in the back. An AC jack is not offered.

Cadillac XT4 center console with a control wheel, volume control, shifter, and cupholders.

All the Safety (Ka-Ching) You Could Want

Be warned in advance: If you tell the dealer you want a safe Cadillac, be prepared to open your checkbook. The basic safety — collision, airbags, occupant protection, OnStar-calls-for-help — is rock solid. Blind spot detection and rear parking sonar are standard. Otherwise, the driver assists and active-safety features live in multiple packages.

  • Lane departure warning/lane keep assist, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, pedestrian braking, and automatic high beams are in the Driver Awareness Package, $ 770.
  • Advanced adaptive cruise control plus forward and reverse braking are in the Driver Assist Package, $ 1,100.
  • A head-up display, 8-inch LCD (Driver Information Center) in the instrument panel, Qi wireless charging, front cornering lamps, LED front turn signals, and air ionizer are part of the Technology Package, $ 1,650, or incorporated into other safety packages.
  • A rear camera mirror (wide-angle rear view displayed in the inside rear mirror on an LCD), surround cameras, and automatic parking assist with braking are in the Enhanced Visibility Package, $ 1,500.
  • Driver and front passenger massaging seats, four-way power lumbar adjusters for driver and passenger, vented front seats, and a hands-free power liftgate, are in the Comfort and Convenience Package, $ 2,220, or in other packages.

It’s okay to put a head-up display in an options package. But adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, and forward auto-braking need to be free.

2019 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury

Cadillac XT4 Trim Lines

There are three model variants, or trims:

Cadillac XT4 Luxury, $ 37,790 front-drive / $ 38,290 all-wheel drive including $ 995 freight. The standard tires are P235/60R all-season. The Luxury has fabric seats only and just three options packages: cold weather, trailering ($ 300, 3,500 pounds towing capacity), and battery protection ($ 130 for a $ 60 Battery Tender with Cadillac logo and a case). It does include LED headlamps and taillamps, rear parking assist, CarPlay/Android Auto, and NFC. None of the driver assists or active safety features are available, features that are standard on the base Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V and included in the base price. We can’t recommend the Luxury trim line.

Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury, $ 40,290 / $ 42,790. The step-up brings leather seats, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sonar, a power liftgate, and an interior ambient light. Blind spot detection is the one significant safety feature that has not been made part of an options package. Standard tires are 18-inch 235/60R all-season tires.

Cadillac XT4 Sport, $ 40,290 / $ 42,790. Same price, better handling, somewhat stiffer ride. Sporty features versus the Premium Luxury are a sport mesh front grille, gloss black exterior trim, carbon fiber or wood interior trim, sport steering wheel, and power adjustable seatback bolsters. An $ 1,800 Sport Dynamics Package includes an active sport suspension and 20-inch wheels with 245/45R tires. You may suffer a busted rim at one corner before you wear the tread off the first set.

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 looks good and rides well. Most XT4s will have low-profile wheels and tires at risk with America’s potholes.

Should You Buy the XT4?

The XT4 faces a lot of very good competition. The XT4 is an important addition to the Cadillac line given driving preferences today. Our recommendation is the XT4 Sport over the Premium Luxury, with all the must-have (to be safe) and Sport Dynamics. All-in, that’s $ 52,285.

Before you sign and drive, you’ll want to look at the Audi Q3/Q5, BMW X2/X3, Infiniti QX30/CX50, Lexus UX/NX, Lincoln MKC or better its replacement Lincoln Corsair, Mercedes-Benz CLS, and Volvo XC40/XC60. Each is compelling in its own way. If you get a good payment plan, especially on a lease, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 are hard to beat. And for that matter, the Mazda CX-5 is mainstream-priced but with a luxury car feel, the best of the brands that call themselves class-above.

For Cadillac, it’s getting harder and harder to be the standard of the world. The XT4 is a step in the right direction. Cadillac needs to keep upping its game.

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