- Comfortable interior
- Good V-6 power
- Sharp face
- Good active safety features
- Available all-wheel drive
- Rivals cost less...
- …and some have better interiors
- Rear is a dud
- No Super Cruise
features & specs
The 2021 Cadillac XT6 is a sharp spin on three-row family crossovers, but misses on a few details.
Cadillac’s three-row hauler not called “Escalade” returns this year for family shoppers. The 2021 Cadillac XT6 adds a turbo-4 engine on lower trims for a lower entry price and wireless smartphone compatibility.
We rate it at 7.0 overall, which is buoyed by good safety scores and good room inside. Three-row competitors are all elbows these days, and offerings from Ford, Lincoln, Kia, and others are just as compelling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Starting from $48,990, the XT6 Luxury tabs a 2.0-liter turbo-4 from the smaller XT4 and XT5 two-row crossovers and presses it into duty in the three-row XT6. It makes 237 horsepower, and we’ve liked it in other crossovers, but we haven’t yet driven it in the XT6. Our hopes aren’t high: it’s saddled with 400 to 800 more pounds to lug in the XT6, and that’s before passengers and gear are aboard. We’ll report back once we drive that version.
More common and likely more palatable is a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 310 hp and used in the XT6 Premium Luxury and XT6 Sport. Both engines are paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option except on the XT6 Sport, where it’s standard equipment.
We have our nitpicks with some of the tuning in the XT6, but most ride comfortably thanks to a four-wheel independent suspension. Adaptive dampers are optional and can help, too.
The XT6 seats up to seven inside, although we prefer the six-seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs. The first two rows are supremely comfortable, we wouldn’t complain in any of its seats. Stick us in the third row with 29.5 inches of leg room and we may have words.
Although the XT6 is related to the Traverse and Enclave, it’s shorter and it shows in cargo capability. With all three rows in place, the XT6 carries just 12.6 cubic feet of gear. That grows proportionally to the number of seats that are folded—all the way to 78.7 cubic feet.
Federal and independent testers agree that the XT6 is safe in a crash, and every crossover has automatic emergency braking.
The new XT6 Luxury base trim wants for little. It’s equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 18-inch wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, seating for up to seven, heated front seats, front-wheel drive, sunroof, and a turbo-4. We’d step up to an XT6 Premium Luxury for about $5,000 more and add 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, and more available luxury options.
It’s possible to spend more, but it’s also possible to spend less on rivals and get nearly as much.
2021 Cadillac XT6
The XT6’s face writes a check that the rest of the Cadillac three-row struggles to make good on.
Cadillac’s put a good face on a three-row crossover skeleton borrowed from Chevy and Buick. It’s the rest of it that brings us to “but” and that pun was intended. It’s a 6 for what’s up front and that’s it.
The automaker’s vertical headlights and mesh grille borrowed from the XT4 look good. The XT6 has sharper angles compared to the Traverse and Enclave, and it looks good. From the nose rearward, it looks…the same.
Even mainstream automakers have managed to make a three-row crossover look compelling: Kia, Toyota, Lincoln. The Cadillac’s upright windows and straight-line shapes are lifeless. Even stick-pin taillights can’t save it.
Inside, the XT6 is wrapped in good materials but they clash with low-cost surfaces and a dull design. The V-shaped dash isn’t much of a salve—compared to the Escalade the XT6 looks 10 years older inside. Not good for a car that was new just last year.
2021 Cadillac XT6
A turbo-4 is new this year, but we’re still talking about the V-6 in the XT6.
A new turbo-4 headlines the biggest change for the XT6 this year. We’ve driven that motor—just in different cars.
Our rating of 6 applies to the more popular 3.6-liter V-6 found in the XT6 Premium Luxury and XT6 Sport that we think will be more common among luxury buyers. Power isn’t its forte, but the ride is. It’s a 6 for performance.
The new 237-hp turbo-4 is borrowed from the XT4 and XT5 crossovers, but in the XT6 it’s saddled with 400 to 800 more pounds to lug around—before passengers are aboard. We like the engine and its 9-speed automatic transmission in the XT4 and XT5 but raise an eyebrow on the task (and hills) coming to it in the XT6. We’ll report back once we drive it.
In the XT6 Premium Luxury and XT6 Sport, a 310-hp V-6 thumps out a lovely snarl when it’s pressed, and we prefer it. The automatic transmission mostly skips gremlins found in 9-speeds from competitors, our gripes are mostly with the throttle tuning (too sensitive) to steering (too quick) to braking (too firm).
Luxury and Premium Luxury models get front-wheel drive as standard equipment, and all-wheel drive costs $2,000 more. The system is similar to the twin-clutch version found in the XT4 and disconnects the rear axle for better fuel economy when all-weather traction isn’t needed. Tapping a button isn’t a big deal, but General Motors knows how to make an automatic system—if not here, then where?
When properly equipped, the XT6 can tow up to 4,000 pounds.
The XT6 mostly rides smoothly on a four-wheel independent suspension, and adaptive dampers are available. Buyer beware: In our experience, the adaptive dampers on the Premium Luxury versions weren’t quite dialed in. At slow speeds, it was too stiff; at high speeds, too soft. The XT6 Sport’s adaptive dampers controlled vertical motions better.
Same goes for steering. Premium Luxury versions felt a little schizophrenic with their steering at different speeds; Sport models speed up the steering and add heft, which we preferred if we’re pressed to make a pick.
The XT6 rode well on 20-inch wheels, but 21-inchers that are optional may be too tall.
2021 Cadillac XT6
Comfort & Quality
The XT6 is tops in rows one and two.
With the XT6, Cadillac fills one of its biggest bodies with seats for up to six or seven, plenty of available cargo space, and good tech. It stops short of the Escalade not only in size, but also splendor. It’s a 9 on our comfort scale, with the last and perfect final point withheld for an interior that doesn’t justify its price.
The XT6 is mechanically related to the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave and keeps the same 112.7-inch wheelbase, although it’s shorter from bumper to bumper than both. The XT6 also scrubs one available seat in the name of comfort; both the Traverse and Enclave seat up to eight, but the XT6 only promises seats for seven or fewer. Our favorite configuration for the XT6 is with two captain’s chairs in the second row instead of a third-row bench—reservations for six are easier to make anyhow.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and every XT6 gets power-adjustable heated front seats. Wonderful.
The second-row captain’s chairs are an excellent fit for our backsides as well. There are more than 40 inches of leg room, which is on par for its class, and the seats slide forward to access a cramped third row. A scant 29.5 inches of leg room pair with hard plastic armrests and a knees-up seating position in the wayback. We’d recommend saving the third row for occasional use or regular punishment—you pick.
Behind the third row is just 12.6 cubic feet of cargo room, which grows to 43.1 cubes with the third seats folded forward. Up to 78.7 cubic feet are available with the second row stowed, assuming your Costco run is a once-a-quarter affair.
A second-row bench is available, although we haven’t yet driven those models. Same goes for the new XT6 Luxury trim that wraps the Cadillac in synthetic leather upholstery instead of the real stuff, which is found on Premium Luxury and Sport models.
In-car storage is just so-so and so are the mishmash materials. The XT6 feels like it’s built to a price, and not the one we see on the sticker. Top trims get soft leathers as an available upgrade, but we can’t help but remember that a three-row Kia Telluride or Hyundai Palisade offers better tech, on-par interior materials (or maybe better), and comparable comfort for a price that tops out where the XT6 starts.
2021 Cadillac XT6
Cadillac’s safety scorecard with the XT6 is nearly spotless.
The XT6 gets exemplary crash-test scores from both of the major safety rating organizations in the U.S. The IIHS called it a Top Safety Pick+ for 2020 and the NHTSA gave it a five-star overall rating. That’s a near-perfect score on our watch, so it’s a 9 for safety.
Why not a 10? Big crossovers have lousy outward vision and the XT6 follows that rule—it’s not exempt.
More on the safety ratings: The IIHS said the XT6 aced its battery of crash-tests and earned a “Superior” rating for its automatic emergency braking system. All of the headlight configurations were rated “Acceptable” by the agency.
Federal testers gave it a five-star overall score but noted that the XT6’s calculated rollover crash protection earned a four-star score, which is common among crossovers.
Every XT6 is equipped with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and parking sensors. Blind-spot monitors, automatic parking assistance, a surround-view camera system, adaptive cruise control, night-vision cameras, and a head-up display are available on top models or as options.
Frustratingly, Cadillac’s ace Super Cruise driver-assistance feature is nowhere to be found on the XT6.
2021 Cadillac XT6
A lower starting price is tempting this year, but the XT6 gets pricey in a hurry.
A new base 2021 XT6 Luxury may bring new buyers into the Cadillac fold, but the automaker reserves most of the luxury for top trims.
The $48,990 2021 XT6 Luxury gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen, active safety features, 18-inch wheels, power adjustable heated front seats, six USB ports, a sunroof, wireless smartphone compatibility, power liftgate, and synthetic leather upholstery. It’s good base equipment with better options available and a touchscreen that’s just big enough for now. It’s an 8 for features.
We’d step up to the XT6 Premium Luxury version that subs in real leather hides, 20-inch wheels, a power-folding third row, and more upgradable options. A premium package adds semi-aniline stitched leather upholstery, and adaptive dampers—along with a trip to the paint shop. Cadillac charges more for any color not called “silver.” Oof.
The XT6 Sport is on relatively even ground with the XT6 Premium Luxury, although Cadillac adds all-wheel drive, a sport suspension, and adaptive dampers to justify the name.
Cadillac’s 4-year/50,000-mile warranty is on par with rivals, although it doesn’t offer complimentary maintenance like some.
2021 Cadillac XT6
The XT6 struggles to keep pace with other three-row crossovers for efficiency.
A new turbo-4 under the XT6’s hood should be more efficient, even if it’s less popular.
The EPA hasn’t yet rated the new powertrain for the 2021 Cadillac XT6, but we think it’ll be in the minority of cars rolling off lots. A 3.6-liter V-6 should be more common and the EPA rates it at 20 mpg combined. That’s a 4 on our scale.
Federal regulators didn’t find much daylight between front- and all-wheel drive XT6 ratings. With front-wheel drive, the XT6 rates 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined. Adding all-wheel drive drops the city and highway rating just 1 mpg but leaves the combined rating unchanged.
For a three-row crossover, 20 mpg combined is on the low side of average.