2019 Cadillac XT4: Cadillac introduces new small SUV [First Look]

2019 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury 16.jpg
2019 Cadillac XT4 Premium Luxury (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

Cadillac is poised for growth. With a 10-year plan in place and a new product launch scheduled every 6 months through 2020, this storied American luxury automaker wants you to know it’s got some good stuff coming.

And the 2019 Cadillac XT4 is just the beginning.

This compact SUV is an all-new vehicle with an all-new architecture and an all-new engine.

It’s about 8 inches shorter than the XT5 and enters the Cadillac lineup with a base price of $36,785 (including destination).

The sharp exterior styling stays in line with Cadillac’s new direction for the lineup, but the XT4 debuts some nice design elements, including the clear taillight covers on the Sport trim and the large available 20-inch wheels.

Plus, the interior is completely up market with well-done stitching, comfortable seats, soft-touch dash materials and attractive accent pieces strewn throughout the vehicle.

During the press preview, we only had access to Premium Luxury and Sport trims, so we can only hope the base Luxury model follows suit and ditches the black plastic lacquer accents.

One thing I am very pleased to note is that CUE (the Cadillac User Experience) gets a huge upgrade. Cadillac tried to get too tech-forward with the previous iteration, which made using the system difficult and unintuitive.

With the addition of hard-button HVAC controls, home button, volume knob and multi-purpose tuning knob, Cadillac has finally found the right balance between what needs a hard control and what can be rolled into a digital touchscreen.

Plus, even with the addition of actual buttons, the center stack looks clean, simple and modern.

Since the XT4 is all-new and doesn’t currently share its architecture with another General Motors product, it makes sense that the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine is completely new and makes its debut in the XT4.

This turbocharged engine delivers 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

The engineers’ goal with this engine was to make the driving experience fun as well as provide more efficiency. With decent low-end torque and an overall weight loss of 15 pounds over the previous generation, I think they did a good job of achieving that goal.

The XT4 has a nice off-the-line start, and while hard highway-merging acceleration isn’t belly-flipping, it gets the job done.

Cadillac estimates that the XT4 with all-wheel drive will get about 24 mpg in combined driving, and my drive partner did better than that as we managed to hover around the 30 mpg point in AWD models with a mix of highway and city driving.

Both the Premium Luxury and Sport models have the same ride and handling, so I presume the base Luxury trim will follow suit. The steering wasn’t as stiff as I’d hoped it would be but the overall ride comfort was smooth.

I played around with the drive mode and toggled through the Touring and Sport modes and noticed a distinct difference in throttle response. Because we were in all-wheel-drive models (+$2,500), this meant I was also flipping between front- and all-wheel-drive modes, respectively.

The test vehicles had the available 20-inch wheels, and while the vehicle was generally quiet, there was a bit of road noise entering the cabin – possibly related to tire size. My drive partner and I also noticed some squeaks and rattles – especially when we played some thumping music and added more base. But we hope this is due to pre- or early-production quality.

Otherwise, build quality seemed pretty solid.

With the introduction of the XT4, Cadillac also begins a new “Y” model strategy to both simplify and differentiate design personas. The idea is to have a base Luxury trim that also serves as the base of the Y, then as the appearance splits between luxury and sporty, the vehicles ladder up the “V” in a kind of parallel structure.

What that means for the XT4 is the Premium Luxury trim and the Sport trim, which are on different stalks of the top half of the Y, are priced exactly the same ($41,285) and equipped similarly.

The difference is solely based on appearance.

The Premium Luxury comes with bright exterior accents on the roof rails, window surrounds and grille, and the interior inserts include real wood. The Sport, however, comes with dark exterior accents and carbon fiber interior inserts. Another key difference: The Sport model has a clear case to the taillights.

One important thing to note is that though these two models start at just more than $40K, you’ll probably top $50K to get this vehicle equipped the way you want it.

Everything seems to be an option, and that includes safety features such as automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control as well as convenience features such as a head-up display, heated front seats and navigation.

XT4 will hit dealers by the beginning of October.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, I liked the 2019 Cadillac XT4. It had a reasonably smooth ride, and the low-end torque made for some spirited driving. While we did notice some interruptions to the interior quietness, our hope is that this is due to the nature of a press preview vehicle – it’s really early in the cycle.

I like the mid-$30K price point, but I’m dismayed by the everything-is-an-option mentality that is more usually associated with the German automakers.

The XT4 enters a pretty hot segment with some stiff competition from the likes of the BMW X1 ($34,895), Volvo XC40 ($33,195) and Audi Q3 ($33,875).

It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out.