I drove a $76,000 Cadillac XT6 to find out if this luxury 3-row SUV is a mini Escalade — here’s the verdict

Could be better.

caption
Could be better.
source
Matthew DeBord/BI

When you get right down to it, three-row SUVs have a simple raison d’être: provide a ute-alternative to the stigmatized minivan.

With this comes one significant compromise, and really two. First, with all three rows in business, cargo capacity on midsize SUVs is drastically reduced. Second, the third row is really good for not much besides seating small children. Plus, the third row tends to be difficult to access.

But that minivan stigma – it is strong, it is powerful.

And as a consequence of the attendant insecurity, we have droves of three-row SUVs on the market.

Naturally, the luxury brands have gotten in on the action. Today’s example is the Cadillac XT6, a seven-passenger hauler that sits above the XT4 and XT5, but below the mighty Escalade, in Caddy’s lineup.

It’s an important vehicle for Cadillac, which once the redesigned Escalade hits next year will be fully staffed-up with premium utes.

But is the XT6 any good? Read on to find out.


My Cadillac XT6, in “Premium Luxury” trim, arrived just as an early snowstorm had blanketed out suburban New Jersey test center in white.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The snow hid the handsome “Satin Steel Metallic” paint job.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Icy snow on the iconic Caddy shield.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

On balance, the XT6 wears its size well. However, the rear is crimped, while much of design action is up front. My tester rode on 20-inch wheels, a welcome $2,000 extra.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The Cadillac XT6’s design is consistent with the brand’s more subdued, stately SUV presentation. The drawback is that the XT6 doesn’t exactly pop visually.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

With only about 13 cubic feet of cargo space available with all three rows in action, the XT6 is challenged for roads trips that might involve the entire family. It’s also difficult to pack a lot of groceries in here.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

But with the seats dropped and the space opened up, you have almost 80 cubic feet to work with. I have three kids, and when we all travel in one of these vehicles with our luggage, we typically end up dropping on of the third-row seats.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Once I got the snow knocked off the XT6, I could witness the SUV in all its shimmering glory.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Here’s a problem: the single engine option is a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6, making 310 horsepower. This is a competent motor, and its gets along well with the nine-speed automatic transmission. But some customers might find it slightly underpowered.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Fuel economy is so-so: 17 mpg city/24 highway/20 combined. What hurts the XT6’s MPGs is the all-wheel-drive system and and sheer weight of the vehicle, 4,700 lbs.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The rear integrated spoiler is dashing but also perhaps a little useless.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The front-end design is the XT6’s strength. Cadillac has done a fine job of creating a recognizable American alternative to BMW and Audi with its fascias.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Let’s get out of the snow and into the XT6’s “Jet Black” interior.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Whatever reservation I might have had about the exterior vanish once I buckle up. Cadillac has developed an interior-design philosophy that’s premium without being blingy, and that joins luxury styling cues with an abundance of useful technology.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

My Cadillac XT6 enjoyed a Platinum package upgrade that endowed the interior with extra loveliness — for about $5,000 more. In all, my tester had close to $20,000 tacked on to the base price of $54,695.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Rear legroom is fairly good, but again, cramming an entire additional row into the XT6 means some comfort compromises for adult-size humans.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The third row is … cozy.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Let’s face it: midsize three-row SUVs are bundles of imperfection. But the XT6’s interior checks off the luxury boxes and offers a counterpoint to, say, the razzle-dazzle one might find in a Mercedes.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Woof! That dual-pane moonroof is massive and really fills the cabin with natural light.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

Multi-function steering wheels are a common sight these days. The XT6 also features an analog-digital instrument cluster and head-up display, as well as the best night-vision technology in the industry.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The infotainment system is the much-improved Cadillac Cue, now among an industry standard-setter for connectivity, device integration, and 4G LTE technology piped through OnStar.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The eight-inch screen is crisp and responsive. But It’s also on the small side for the segment.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The system used to be touch-screen only, but Caddy has added a buttons-and-knob interface to enhance safety. It works well and improves an already excellent setup.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

My Cadillac XT6 tester was equipped with a magnificent Bose Series 14 premium audio system.

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

So what’s the verdict?

source
Matthew DeBord/BI

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 more than gets the job done, although it has three notable drawbacks.

First, the all-wheel-drive system struggled a bit in my testing, which happened during some truly awful weather. I think this was due mainly to the vehicle being on all-season tires, but I also thought that the 310-horsepower engine, making 271 pound-feet of torque, wasn’t quite up the task of spinning all four wheels on a fairly heavy vehicle.

This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about Caddy SUV power – I thought the XT5 left something to be desired, as well. For the most part, the V6 in the XT6 is solid enough, with the usual multiple driving modes to pep things up as desired. Its two main jobs are going to be suburban family transport and freeway journeys, and for those duties, it’s a very fine vehicle. The suite of driver-assist features is useful, and the adaptive cruise control makes for blissful highway operation (although I’m longing to see how Caddy’s Super Cruise handfree highway system adapts to the brand’s SUVs – it’s currently available only on the CT6 sedan.)

Second, the cargo capacity with the third row deployed is a problem. The seats can be raised and lowered automatically, however, so most owners could customize the configuration, depending on their needs.

Third, the XT6 shares its underpinnings with Chevy, Buick, and GMC vehicles, and while the presentation is very much Cadillac, there’s a big gap between the XT6 and the Escalade. A week with the XT6 left me longing for its big brother, an experience I didn’t have with the capable XT5 and the excellent XT4.

So the XT6 isn’t a mini Escalade. And I suppose that’s OK. But the bottom line is that while the vehicle is satisfyingly outfitted with lots and lots of tech and exudes a restrained, premium vibe, it can’t escape the compromises that all three-row mid-sizers have to make in this SUV segment.

At about $55,000, I think the XT6 is worth a look. But once the options take the price tag north of $70,000, the vehicle’s flaws become more difficult to ignore.