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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VinFast will soon launch in the United States.

VinFast

The automotive business is a tough place to cut your teeth as a company. So many have tried and failed to break through with new vehicles, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Electric vehicles seem to present a perfect opportunity for companies of all types to jump in with a new product. Such is the case with VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker. The company launched two new crossovers at the LA Auto Show yesterday, both of which are heading to the United States.

VinFast EVs Two models will debut at first, but the company plans on expanding here.VinFast

The VinFast VF e35 features up to 301 miles of range on a charge, while the full-size three-row VF e36 can travel up to 422 miles on a charge. Both vehicles come with a ten-year/100,000-mile warranty. VinFast says that its launch strategy in the United States wraps in charging stations, as the company realizes that they are a necessary part of EV adoption. In Vietnam, VinFast is in the process of building 40,000 charging stations to bolster adoption.

VinFast EVs VinFast will eventually build a factory in the United States.VinFast

Here, the automaker will build dozens of company-branded stores to sell its vehicles, similar to the approach taken by Tesla. VinFast's plan is to position itself as an exclusive product in the EV space, and to help it expand in the U.S., the company plans to build a factory in 2024. Part of its launch will also involve several special events across the country to introduce the brand and its vehicles.

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The Bronze Edition model builds on the XLE trim.

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The Toyota Highlander entered its fourth generation for the 2020 model year, which brought sleek style, updated tech, and a premium-look interior. A new XSE trim joined the lineup for 2021, and for 2022, Toyota is adding a new hybrid-only Bronze Edition trim.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition adds useful features, such as a hands-free power liftgate.toyota

The new Bronze Edition Highlander builds on the XLE trim with:

  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Digital rearview mirror
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Memory driver's seat with 10-way power adjustments
  • Hands-free power liftgate

Toyota notes that the Bronze Edition previews features that will show up with the greater 2022 Highlander release. Among them are the new Wind Chill Pearl color, which replaces Blizzard Pearl from the previous model, and height/tilt passenger seat adjustments.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Highlander is a supremely comfortable SUV with room for the family.Toyota

The Highlander carries on into 2022 with a standard 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. A Highlander Hybrid is available, which mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. Combined system output is 243 horsepower. With the V6 on board, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition is available for Highlander Hybrid models.Toyota

All 2022 Highlander models get Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, road sign assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, lane tracing assist, a sway warning system, and automatic high beams. Those features and the Highlander's excellent crash testing scores were good enough for the SUV to earn a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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