Tue. Dec 11th, 2018
2019 Cadillac XT4

2019 Cadillac XT4 First Drive Review

The 2019 Cadillac XT4 compact crossover debuted in New York, Cadillac’s recently-adopted home, several months ago. Since then, a lot’s changed. Cadillac honcho Johan de Nysschen got the boot, the economy’s continued to improve, and we’ve changed coasts to experience the XT4. The setting is Seattle and its environs, a place that embodies the moment – a town flush with tech money and outdoor lifestyle experiences. Oh, and traffic. Lots of that.

What hasn’t changed is that this is a vehicle that Cadillac desperately needs. Between and below the Escalade and XT5 are vast gulfs of white space that could swallow entire crossover-focused brands. The dealers, we imagine, howled. And de Nysschen was replaced, it turns out, by a career GM exec with a penchant for building bridges with dealers. Must be a coincidence.

The XT4 should please everybody involved in that power struggle. It’s cute, for one, which will make for happier dealer-customer interactions. It brings appreciable but unintimidating technological advances to a brand looking to flex some segment leadership muscles. And it doesn’t strictly feel like a rebadged version of a lower-tier product, a bad habit that Cadillac keeps failing to kick. We’ll discuss its competition within its segment, and how they compare to the XT4, in another piece to follow.

More importantly, like the XT5, it doesn’t feel much like a Chevy with its badges taped over. A few cheap touches distract, and there’s a very un-Lexus-like rattle somewhere in the guts of the B-pillar by my ear, but on the whole it’s a convincing premium proposition. Cadillac is so close to overcoming closest competitors’ interior experiences. Maybe in a product cycle or two, in an alternate universe, de Nysschen could have done it.

The ride, however, is a perfect compromise. Continuously-variable damping is available on Sport models, but the conventional dampers on the Premium Luxury model are well calibrated. The ride is comfortable without being overly coddling – somewhere, nebulously, between Lexus and BMW. Just as it should be. It’s a rigid platform, with some elements solid-mounted to the chassis and some isolated by bushings, like the rear five-link suspension cradle. The only bad handling habit we noticed in a thoroughly typical freeway and suburban drive route was a bit of head-tossing lateral motion when hitting an imperfection going around a corner. Brake dive and other motion sickness-inducing traits are mostly absent.

If that sounds to you like the template for a competent near-luxury crossover, it is. There’s enough novel tech to provide bragging rights, it’s obviously a Cadillac but also a handsome crossover in its own right, and it’s a pleasing enough place to sit while scooting around in traffic or on the freeway. This is a genre where competence and curb appeal are highly valued, and the XT4 has enough of both to be a real competitor.