The American presence of automotive luxury is shifting into a new gear with brands like Lincoln and Cadillac, making strides to reinvent themselves. On the side of Cadillac, they are finally getting a newfound recognition with vehicles like the new 2021 Escalade, which gets some of its design cues from its smaller siblings, such as the XT4 that I had a chance to revisit this week.
The 2020 Cadillac XT4, remaining mostly unchanged from my review last year of the 2019 model other than a slightly updated gauge cluster and the addition of forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking now coming as standard across the trim levels, is a good attempt at luxury in a compact package. Having the front-wheel-drive version of the XT4 this week that is missing a few desirable options versus the fully-loaded all-wheel-drive XT4 Sport AWD model I reviewed last year is a surprising contrast. With such, I am rather let-down to find that the FWD lesser-equipped XT4 Sport test vehicle is void of things that a “luxury” brand should include as standard features, such as heated seats. Yes, my 2020 XT4 Sport FWD test vehicle doesn’t even have heated front seats, something you expect from a luxury brand like Cadillac to come as standard equipment. Forcing a consumer to make a Pep Boys run due to the lack of features is very out of character for a brand like Cadillac.
Apart from a few missing essentials, the XT4 remains to be a good-looking compact luxury crossover that has the proper looks and interior fit and finish to fit the luxury mold. The driving character, thanks to its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 237 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs. of torque, is strong. However, with the front-wheel-drive model, the XT4 Sport doesn’t feel all that sporty and loses some of the planted feeling that I had in last year’s test drive of the all-wheel-drive XT4 Sport model. The front wheels often hunt for traction as the robust torque of the turbocharged engine surges. The 9-speed automatic transmission is somewhat on the slow side of shifting, but it does well to avoid gear hunting and allows you to utilize the low-rpm torque of the engine to get things moving. The XT4 Sport remains to be efficient getting 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. Such figures are easily attainable in the real world as I noticed in my time with the FWD XT4 Sport.
Adding to the welcoming aspects of the for 2020 Cadillac XT4 Sport FWD, was a nice array of active safety features combined with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors, which all can quietly produce warnings through vibrations of the driver’s seat – something Cadillac has touted for several years now. Moreover, the simplicity of the XT4’s design is welcomed, from the Sport-trim darkened front grille to its unique and elongated LED tail lamps, to the chiseled LED headlight enclosures, the XT4 Sport is a good-looking compact luxury crossover. The only distraction I find on the outside is the simple addition of the rear “350T” badge, which is Cadillac’s way of indicating the engine power output – only here in America such a number doesn’t correlate well as it is technically the torque figure of the engine in newton meters with a “T” indicating that its a turbocharged engine.
The ride quality of the XT4 without the optional adaptive dampers is somewhat of a mixed bag. There is a loss of confidence in its handling abilities once you start to navigate some sloppiness in its overall control when going over road undulations when making slight turns – or going over bumpy surfaces where there is a bit too much bounce in the body. The optional 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires on my XT4 Sport test vehicle don’t do any favors for the ride quality, but they do help add to the lateral handling abilities of the XT4 Sport to help justify the “Sport” in its name.
Inside of the XT4 Sport is a surprisingly good amount of passenger space up front and out back. The dashboard and its controls may be a little confusing at first, but you quickly become accustomed to how things flow and are fed through the responsive 8-inch color infotainment touchscreen. The cargo room is also a strong point for a compact crossover that looks like it’s much smaller from the outside.
There is a long list of available features and option packages that you can’t help but wonder how fast the base price of the XT4’s base trim price of $35,965 increases when you start to add them on. The three distinct trim levels of the XT4, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport, only add a few incremental sets of features. Cadillac still manages to offer a substantial selection of options. Some of the options and packages should come as standard on a Luxury vehicle but somehow add insult by how much they add to the bottom-line price of the XT4. In the case of my test vehicle, which is void of items like heated seats, heated steering wheel, a sunroof, or even a power-adjustable steering wheel column, it has a shocking price to not include such. My test vehicle comes to a price of $44,960, a point that you should at least have some of the previously mentioned amenities. The XT4 Sport AWD that I tested last year was mostly loaded up with features that you expect in a Luxury crossover from Cadillac, such as massaging, heated, and ventilated front seats, a power steering column, and a color heads-up display. Though, loading up the XT4 Sport will come at a price, about $13,000 more than my current test vehicle to land at nearly $58,000 – quite the proud price point for a smallish luxury crossover. It may have the looks and interior space to surprise, but the bottom-line surprise is in the price that some may find hard to justify.