2017 Cadillac XT5 first drive

March 9, 2016

Why again is Cadillac walking away from its best-selling nameplate, the SRX?

We’ll leave that one hanging; but much of what Cadillac’s doing at the moment is very big-picture—and the new XT5 nameplate fits into that picture, as part of a lineup of several “XT” crossovers.

Nomenclature aside, the XT5 is improved in nearly every way. It’s quicker, better-handling, more refined, more comfortable, quieter, and more lavish than its predecessor.

MORE: Read our 2017 Cadillac XT5 review

It’s also a soft, incremental, evolutionary kind of improvement, however. And while the move to replace the nameplate might not seem like the most rational move, the XT5 feels like a rational, calculated effort in most ways.

You wouldn’t by any means call it a daring remake, as was given to the Lexus RX this year; then again, what Cadillac started with was far more head-turning.

Compared to the outgoing SRX, the XT5 is essentially the same length, width, and height; but its wheelbase is about two inches longer and its track an inch wider. That pushes the wheels out to the corners and, in theory, gives this vehicle a more grounded stance.

Cadillac—and some other critics—have called the XT5 bolder than its predecessor; but we don’t see it. At least from the outside, up close, the XT5 feels softer and more organic than the previous SRX. Although it adheres to Cadillac’s Art & Science themes with the vertically oriented lighting, and even packs a version of the Escalade’s elongated, in-your-face grille—chromed to glorious excess in top Platinum trims—by no means does the XT5’s exterior feel anywhere close to as masculine and assertive.

2017 Cadillac XT5 - First Drive

2017 Cadillac XT5 - First Drive

Enlarge Photo

Inside, it’s a different thing—dressed up just the right amount, and not too garish or gleaming. The Cadillac interiors of a decade ago were eccentric, sharp-edged, drab, and plasticky, and we’ve watched cabin appointments from the brand progress nicely, into warmer, more opulent directions—even well before it moved to New York and started elbowing up to fashion designers.

The sweet spot for a Cadillac crossover

The brand was already starting to find its way when the last SRX came out; but with the new XT5 it really finds the right sweet spot, yielding a look and feel that’s elegant yet sporty, restrained yet flamboyant. Just sit in the XT5 for a while, and you start noticing new details, hand-stitched, and precisely placed; it’s an interior of layers, as well, and interesting how the instrument panel has a bit of asymmetry to it, with the top layers of the dash impressing like an overcoat over formal wear.

One conversation point is the new e-shifter, which Cadillac says helps keep drivetrain vibration and road noise out of the cabin (they’re right), and frees up the space below the shifter for a pass-through, to hide away purses, cameras, and other items that are small but not too small.

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