Cadillac already has a three row SUV, so why make another one?
Probably because it needs a different kind of three-row SUV—One that’s almost as big and nearly as roomy as the one it already has in the lineup.
But not nearly as expensive.
Until now, the Escalade was the only Cadillac that could accommodate more than five people. It’s also the most expensive Cadillac, with a base price of $75,195. Loaded, that sails to six figures.
That’s a price only a few people can afford, even including Cadillac buyers.
The new XT6 gives buyers room for more people at a price more people can handle.
What It Is
Cadillac’s newest and almost-biggest SUV.
Technically, the seven-passenger/three-row XT6 is a crossover SUV — the difference being it’s more car-like than truck-like under its skin.
The Escalade, which is a rouged-up cousin of the Chevy Tahoe, is based on GM’s half-ton truck architecture. It has body-on-frame construction and comes standard with a big (6.2 liter) V8. It has truck-type four-wheel-drive with 4WD low range gearing.
It can also tow as much as 8,100 lbs.
The XT6 has an integrated body and frame, a unibody construction, like most cars, and is front-wheel-drive, with an all-wheel-drive system available. It does not offer low-range gearing and it comes with a smaller (3.6 liter) V6 and a lower 4,000 lb. maximum tow rating.
But it also comes with a much lower price $52,695 for the Premium trim with FWD, topping out at $57,095 for the top-of-the-line Sport trim with AWD.
Yet it has just as many seats and almost as much room.
The XT6 is a new model, just added to Cadillac’s roster. It slots in above the XT5 and below the Escalade.
Three rows for buyers who need them for about $20,000 less.
Not as hulking as the Escalade.
Newer than the Escalade, which hasn’t been significantly updated since about five years ago.
What’s Not So Good
Less capability than Escalade, especially towing.
Almost as thirsty as the Escalade, despite having a lot less engine.
Like the Escalade, there’s surprisingly little room behind the third row.
Under the Hood
All XT6 trims come standard with a 3.6 liter, 310 horsepower V6 paired with a nine-speed automatic and either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.
The V6 is more or less the same engine used in many GM vehicles, including the current Camaro.
Interestingly, laudably, Cadillac continues to stick with larger engines rather than turbocharging smaller engines.
XT6 competitors like the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLE-Class come standard with much smaller four cylinder engines that have to be turbocharged to make up for their lack of displacement.
But all that boost increases stress on the engine and adds more parts to the vehicle, both of which could lead to more expense down the road. Besides which, the little fours still don’t make as much power as the Caddy’s doesn’t-need-a-turbo V6. The Q7’s standard 2.0 liter four only summons 248 hp and the Audi has the effrontery to cost more than the Caddy ($53,550 to start). You can, however, get a supercharged 3.0 liter V6 in the Audi and it makes a more respectable 329 hp. But that’s hardly more power than the Caddy’s V6 and for a lot more money ($63,300 to start, which is about $6k more than a loaded/top-of-the-line XT6).
Also interestingly, and not as laudably, the XT6’s 3.6 liter V6 uses only slightly less gas than the Escalade’s enormous, and enormously powerful, 6.2 liter V8, which makes 420 horsepower and manages a not-bad (for that much power) 14 city, 21 highway.
The AWD XT6 only manages 17 city, 24 highway.
Towing capacity is also much less—just 4,000 lbs. vs. 8,100 for the Escalade.
It’s also less than rivals like the Q7, which can pull 4,400 lbs. even with the much smaller (2.0 liter) turbocharged engine under its hood.
With its optional supercharged V6, the Audi can pull 7,700 lbs., nearly as much as the V8 Escalade.
One more thing. While the Caddy’s V6 doesn’t have a turbo or an intercooler, it does have direct injection. And doesn’t have a port-fuel-injection circuit to forestall carbon fouling of the valves because of the DI.
Several manufacturers have added a PFI circuit to the fuel system to address the carbon-fouling issue that make DI engines vulnerable. It’s an interesting question as to which is more stupid: Not adding the stand-alone PFI circuit (whose only job is to wash the backsides of the valves, to keep them from gunking up) or replacing PFI with DI, which adds hugely to the complexity and cost of an engine without any meaningful benefit to the vehicle’s buyer.
The government has effectively forced the industry to switch over to DI to achieve angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin differences in miles-per-gallon (for CAFE purposes) and emissions (for EPA purposes).
It’s all make-work, made at your expense.
On The Road
Though it’s nearly as long as the Escalade, 198.5 inches vs. 203.9. The XT6 has a shorter (and not as tall) hood, which makes it feel like a smaller, more maneuverable vehicle.
It is definitely a much lighter vehicle, by about 1,500 pounds.
That’s a difference you can feel, especially in the curves.
While the Escalade rolls along like a Pullman sleeper car once you’re out on the highway and pointed straight ahead—which is nice. All that weight (5,856 lbs. vs. 4.411 for the XT6) sloshes around in the curves —not so nice.
This problem is magnified by the Escalade’s 8 inches of ground clearance vs. 6.7 for the XT6. Cadillac has done a lot to hide the fact that the Escalade is a rouged-up Tahoe. The Tahoe is basically a Chevy Silverado truck with its bed enclosed and carpeted and seats bolted to the floor, but there’s only so much you can do to make a truck behave like a car.
Being almost 1,500 pounds lighter also explains why the XT6 is nearly as quick as the Escalade, despite having an engine only slightly more than half the size. The Escalade gets to 60 in about 6.1 seconds, the XT6 in about 6.8, a difference discernible only by the stopwatch.
But the Escalade feels less thirsty because it has a much larger fuel tank—19 gallons for the FWD version vs. 26 for the Escalade. You can drive the V8-powered and 1,500 pounds heavier Escalade about 150 miles farther on a full tank.
The V6 is a nice, revvy engine and the nine-speed automatic is calibrated to let ‘er rip to the near 7,000 RPM redline with pedal to the metal. Shifts come faster than you can keep track of them, too—there being literally twice as many as was typically the case only about ten years ago.
This isn’t a bad thing, as such, either. The V6 rabbit punches its way through all nine, then settles down to a near-idle at 80-plus MPH highway speeds, something made feasible by the 0.62 overdrive gearing in ninth.
This is one area where Uncle’s regs have had the unintended side effect of making new cars better. The steep overdrive is an expedient used to squeak out more MPGs- and the nine-speeds are there to “step” the transmission to that steep OD without lugging the engine mid-way there.
But an incidental thing occurred along the way that is far from insignificant. We now have cars that can cruise at speeds that require almost no RPMs to maintain. As a point of comparison/reflection, a car like my ’76 Trans-Am spun its engine faster to maintain 55 than the XT6 does to maintain 75.
At The Curb
The XT6 hasn’t got the brutish presence of the Escalade, but that’s probably something many would-be buyers would rather avoid.
The Escalade is a love it, or hate it, thing. Some people bought it because of its louche looks; but just as many likely didn’t for exactly the same reason. But that’s not the only reason to prefer the less-louchy XT6.
It has the room as well as the seats.
With its third row folded flat, the XT6 has 78.7 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s not quite as much as the Escalade’s 94.2 cubic feet. But it’s about 80 percent and the XT6’s third row is roomier (29.5 inches of legroom) than the Escalade’s because of the XT6’s crossover architecture and lower floorpans.
You don’t sit tucked.
The XT6’s second row seats also have a “tip and pitch” function that makes getting to the third row easier.
Both of these ‘utes don’t have much room behind their third rows, though: 12.6 cubic feet for the XT6 and just 15.2 cubic feet for the Escalade.
The XT6 does have something else: at least ten standard safety “assistance” systems, including (deep breath) Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Automated Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Front and Rear Park Assist, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Safety Seat Alert and (exhale) Speed Limit Assist.
The Escalade, as an older design, is less encumbered by all this safety Christmas Tree-ery. It has fewer lights and buzzers hassling you.
GM is particularly pushy when it comes to force-feeding this stuff. It’d be nice if these “assists” were available, and so, avoidable.
While crossovers are common, the Cadillac’s available infra-red night vision system is pretty uncommon. The XT6 also has a rearview mirror with built-in closed-circuit view of what’s behind you when you’re backing up.
The available 14-speaker Bose surround sound stereo is very good — and the Caddy’s cloud storage system for personal preferences/vehicle set-up is very unusual.
It is, however, also at least implicitly creepy. GM knows your preferences — and can access your XT6.
This is The Future.
That said, the XT6 offers most of what the Escalade does, in terms of people and cargo-capacity, for tens of thousands less. It may not be able to pull as much — but that may not matter you much.
The Bottom Line
If you need the room, but don’t want to pay the price — now you don’t have to!
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos
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The Eric Peters Car Review is sponsored by the NMA Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation. The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions.