Auto review: 2020 Cadillac XT6 offers a smaller, cheaper three-row SUV, but not much more

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 Sport. (Jessica Lynn Walker/Cadillac/TNS)
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By Scott Sturgis The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

2020 Cadillac XT6 Premium Luxury: A smaller three-row Cadillac crossover.

Price: $71,585 as tested. Comfort and Air Quality Package, $750; Driver Assist Package, $1,300; Polished 20-inch wheels, $2,095; Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package, $2,350; much more listed throughout.

Conventional wisdom: Consumer Reports likes the “ride, quietness, transmission” but not the “fuel economy, limited seat adjustments, lacks some luxury features and brand reliability.”

Marketer’s pitch: “The first of its kind XT6 is the full-size SUV you didn’t know you were waiting for.”

Reality: At least its $52,000 starting price is a $23,000 discount over the entry fee for an Escalade.

What’s new: Slotted between the XT5 and Escalade, this new-for-2020, smallish, three-row SUV offers seating for six or seven and looks like a slightly taller CTS wagon, or a tarted-up Ford Freestyle. It’s shorter than an SUV but still wide.

What’s worse: It definitely seems like a new SUV is introduced every week; these days there are more SUVs than Star Wars franchises or Starbucks locations.

That probably explains why I had a hard time finding gearhead publications that tested the XT6. Things just fall through the cracks now. And there aren’t many of us left, either. Please buy a newspaper. Please?

Up to speed: The 3.6-liter V-6 engine moves the vehicle around pretty quickly, with 310 horses leading the way. It goes to 60 mph in just 7.1 seconds, according to Consumer Reports, which is not bad, but nothing stellar.

On the road: It comes with four modes — Touring/2wd; AWD; Sport; and Off-Road. I actually like simple all-wheel drive the best. It offered a competent feel, as if the XT6 had no surprises for me.

Shifty: Much of the disappointment with Sport mode came when I would shift the nine gears myself. It somehow seemed to sap power; I found acceleration felt best in Sport mode while letting the transmission take over.

The shifts also sounded wrong, going up in pitch after shifting through the first four gears rather than the usual down. But, ooo, that exhaust note will help you get over it.

Aside from those quibbles, though, transmission operation was smooth.

Driver’s Seat: The Cadillac XT6 is definitely a nice vehicle to have waiting for you when you land at Newark International — as long as you’re familiar with Cadillacs. The gauges and controls are fairly clear, though the infotainment could be a bit challenging at times.

At first I thought the seats to be quite comfortable, but over time, a different story emerged.

The seat bottom is really small, with wings that protrude straight into Mr. Driver’s Seat’s hips. So one has to ask if an athletic-fit Cadillac is really right for America at this point.

Friends and stuff: Faced with two Sturgis kids and a fiance, my wife and I weren’t sure the compact three rows would come in handy. Tall Sturgis Kid 4.0 made it very clear when he looked in the back and said, “Oh, that’s a no way.” But after three hours squashed in United Economy seats flying back from Des Moines, sitting three across in the XT6 was a welcome improvement.

The middle row does adjust forward and back. The rear row is fairly uncomfortable even for more average-sized adults like myself — even worse than those Economy seats — and that’s with the middle row paying almost the same price. If the middle row requires ample legroom, the back is just for kids.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the interior was not nice. The $4,900 Platinum Package decked all rows out in aniline leather, with microsuede ceiling covering, and premium mats (and also added suspension dampening).

Cargo space is 78.7 cubic feet behind the front row.

Play some tunes: The 8-inch Cadillac CUE infotainment system ($1,000) now comes with dials and buttons in addition to the touchscreen, which probably delights newbies. I usually default to voice commands, which operate seamlessly in Cadillacs.

The sound in the XT6, though, didn’t seem up to the usual Cadillac standard. Even after adjusting the bass, treble, and midrange, I couldn’t call it more than a B+.

Night shift: The Premium Headlamp System ($890) shined where I needed it to, and the interior lights don’t interfere with driving when needed.

Night vision ($2,000) adds another dimension in the darkness, allowing a clearer view of the road if you’re in an area laden with deer. But the view in the dashboard is so small that it’s fairly ineffective.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 20 mpg in a highway-heavy week of testing. Feed the XT6 whatevs.

Where it’s built: Spring Hill, Tenn.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts a reliability of 1 out of 5.

In the end: The XT6 is nice enough but cramped and offers nothing outstanding to make me say, “You gotta try it.” And, oh, that reliability rating.

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