Behind the Wheel

2021 Cadillac XT5 Review: Upgraded elegance and tech make the model worth cross-shopping

The Cadillac XT5 was recency updated to become a finer-looking stallion. (2020 XT5 shown.)

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

It's not on sale yet and its pricing has yet to be publicly released, but Cadillac gave AutomotiveMap the keys to the 2021 Cadillac XT5 Premium Luxury and invited us to give it an extensive test drive. Over 2,000 miles were put on the SUV over two weeks, giving plenty of time to peel back the onion on the model and brand that is seeking to re-establish itself as a premium powerhouse.

The XT5 was refreshed for the 2020 model year. Then, it got 40 upgrades including a new engine option, revised styling, and enhanced technology. The exterior of the SUV got more snub-nosed while standard LED lights at the face and back show the model's corners with slimline detail. Twenty-inch wheels are standard. The SUV looks bigger than it is, for better or worse.

2021 Cadillac XT5 The Cadillac has slimline lights at the front and back showcasing the edges of the beefy two-row SUV. (2020 XT5 shown.)Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Inside, it's clear that the SUV is a premium category contender but not a luxury level model. Its interior design and styling are more upscale than its sister vehicle in the General Motors lineup, the Chevrolet Blazer, but the XT5 is more elegant than any Cadillac other than the Escalade. Its cut and sewn leather, and natural wood and carbon fiber accents exude the level of finery Cadillac shoppers have been unable to find on their dealer's lot for much of the last two decades.

The XT5 came to be tested with the available 3.6-liter V6 engine that gets 310 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. Power is sufficient, but the Caddy could benefit from some additional low-end torque, which would inspire more confidence getting off the line.

The engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The transmission was smooth when upshifting but was clunkier when downshifting. When switching to the available Sport drive mode, the shifts were more jittery going up and down.

2021 Cadillac XT5 Shifting is done via a simple controller that requires very little effort. (2020 XT5 shown.)Photo courtesy of Cadillac

With the automatic start-stop technology engaged at start, the system shuts down the climate controls when the vehicle is pauased. Thankfully, a quick tap of the off button for that function keeps the engine running smoothly. If you decide to leave the stop-start system engaged, you'll find very little of the jittering back to life previous Cadillac engines were known for.

Disengaging the functionality is designed to decrease fuel efficiency. However, during testing, with the start-stop tech disengaged nearly all the entire time, the vehicle achieved 25 mpg combined. That's far more than the EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined.

The model tested came with all-wheel drive. It stood firmly planted giving assurance throughout the drive - that includes when the SUV encountered an adventurous raccoon who sought the wrong time to trek across the road.

Right now, General Motors commercials are highlighting their Night Vision technology. It's a $2,000 upgrade on the XT5 Premium Luxury but if you're in foggy areas or frequently travel where there is a large amount of creatures roaming at night, it may be worth the splurge. The weather and wildlife conditions presented the opportunity to try it out on numerous occasions and it can be reported that the tech exceeded expectations, especially in the fog at night.

2021 Cadillac XT5 The interior of the XT5 is elegant enough for its premium positioning. (2020 XT5 shown.)Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Where the XT5 failed most prominently wasn't in its tech, though manually seeking SiriusXM channels is a chore, but instead in its functionality for everyday life. The bottoms of the front seats are too hard for comfortably undertaking hours upon hours behind the wheel. There is very little small item storage. The wheels create bump outs in the cargo area that greatly diminish the space for transporting luggage and boxes, in addition to the high load floor.

The car came standard with an eight-inch infotainment touch screen that worked as advertised and connected with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with ease.

Pleasantly, the SUV's safety features weren't nanny-like in their functionality and worked as advertised. Win-win.

As tested, the mid-grade 2021 Cadillac XT5 has as standard starting price of $48,795. General Motors added on a number of packages driving up the cost. The Platinum Package ($4,850) gives the model the refinement that drives the car's to luxe levels: semi-aniline leather seating, leather-wrapped console and door trim, microfiber sueded headliner, premium carpeted floor mats, real-time damping performance, and illuminated door sills.

2021 Cadillac XT5 The cabin appears elevated compared to many other GM vehicles and right in line with what you can expect from a modern Cadillac.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Enhanced Visibility and Technology Package ($2,275) adds HD Surround Vision, a rear camera mirror and washer, 8.0-inch gauge cluster, rear pedestrian alert, head-up display, automatic parking assist with braking. Night Vision is available for an additional $2,000.

Twenty-inch split six-spoke wheels add $1,700 to the vehicle and a Garnet Metallic paint job was another $625.

The Driver Assist Package ($1,300) adds high-tech safety features like adaptive cruise control, enhanced automatic braking, reverse automatic braking, and automatic seat belt tightening. Getting tri-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, and an air ionizer requires the purchase of the Comfort and Air Quality Package for an additional $1,200.

Bose Performance audio and a navigation system add $1,025 to the SUV as part of a bundle. The upgraded V6 engine is the final option box the tester checked, adding $1,000.

Cadillac charges an additional $995 for delivery, bringing the total cost of the XT5 as tested to $65,765. Let's be honest. That's a bit much.

2021 Cadillac XT5 The XT5 has a movable bar that can hold luggage and boxes in place. That's one of its better cargo space features. (2020 XT5 shown.)Photo courtesy of Cadillac

It is in its pricing where the Cadillac falls flattest. Four of its main competitors all do something better. The Acura RDX is priced lower at every turn and has better-usable passenger and cargo space. The Infiniti QX50 is more comfortable. The Lexus RX 350 delivers a more engaging drive. All are cheaper than the XT5.

The XT5 is head and shoulders above its closest competitor- the Blazer. And priced not too dissimilarly if you pare down some of the packages and negotiate a dealer discount.

That all being said, it's still easy to see why buyers would be willing to pay a bit more for the XT5 Premium Luxury - maybe just not $65,000.

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The 2022 Lexus ES will debut next week.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

The meat and potatoes of the Lexus sedan lineup, the ES, is due for a refresh, and it will get one. The 2022 Lexus ES will be shown publicly for the first time this Sunday as part of the festivities of the Shanghai auto show.

While the photo doesn't tell a lot, there's some things you can bet on in the 2022 ES. For starters, look for all the improvements that the auto has gotten over the last two years to carry over into the new model. That includes the addition of all-wheel drive to the lineup and standard blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

The ES Black Line may not make its way to the 2022 version of the midsize sedan. Generally, blacked out editions are available only at the tail end of a model run ahead of a refresh or generational redesign. However, the blacked out elements could become available as part of a package.

The headlight photo that Lexus has offered as a teaser shows a housing that is not dissimilar to the one that the Lexus IS wears. However, the daytime running light is on the bottom here, instead off the top. Like the IS, there are strong hood lines.

At the back, the preview video shows a vehicle that is very similar to the current model. It's taillights, a strong chrome line that runs the width of the year, and rear lip spoiler all look mostly same as before.

As for what to expect underneath the body of the car, there's not a lot of indication from the teasers, which leads one to believe that's where the biggest changes are coming. There's a good chance that we'll finally say goodbye to the Lexus touch pad in favor of a touch screen display that's within a comfortable distance.

It's also likely that Lexus will fine tune the dynamics of the ES in a similar fashion to how the Lexus IS got more performance-focused driving dynamics in its latest redo.

Stay tuned for more specifics are the curtain is pulled back on April 19 in China (April 18 in the U.S.).

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Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

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