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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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Porsche Panamera lineup has finally fully been revealed.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The 2021 Porsche Panamera lineup has been completed with the announcement of two new models, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid and Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. They join the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid as a trio of Panamera PHEVs for 2021. Each is available in regular, Sport Turismo, and Executive body styles.

The 2021 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is the new flagship in the stable. It boasts an exceptional 689 horsepower and 642 pound-feet of torque. Porsche has engineered the flagship to get a combined a 563-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with a 134-horsepower electric motor, paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Its 17.9-kilowatt-hour battery is shared with the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid.

2021 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The flagship model comes standard with Porsche's Sport Chrono package. The equipment helps the traditionally-bodied Panamera get from zero to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds while the Executive wheelbase model takes one-tenth of a second longer. The Turbo S E-Hybrid sedan and Sport Turismo also offer the quickest acceleration from 0 to 124 mph of any 2021 Panamera at 10.9 seconds. It has a top track speed of 196 mph, a 4 mph improvement over the 2020 model.

Every 2021 Panamera Panamera 4 E-Hybrid has the same electric motor setup as the flagship. It pairs the motor with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 for a total system output of 455 horsepower, an increase of 12 horsepower over the 4S model. It too has an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The 2021 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid takes just 4.2 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standing start and has a top speed of 174 mph. Both of those numbers improve on the 2020 version of the same model.

Both models feature the freshly redesigned interior and exterior of the Panamera. This includes the Porsche Communication Management infotainment operating system, which now features a higher display resolution and includes additional digital functions and services like Voice Pilot online voice control and wireless Apple CarPlay.

The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid family tree has a starting price of $103,800 for the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. The previous Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive topping out the lineup at $198,100. Pricing for the new models has yet to be revealed, but it's safe to expect it to be similar.

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The Cadillac Escalade is one of the most luxurious SUVs you can buy.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Cadillac has given the 2021 Escalade the tagline "Never stop arriving" which seems apropos for a full-size SUV that shows up in nearly every way. Having undergone a complete redesign, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade finds itself securely at the top of the company's lineup showcasing the high-tech features and plush accommodations buyers are looking for.

The three-row SUV is built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, and the GMC Yukon at the General Motors Arlington Assembly plant outside of Dallas. The platform is ridged and good, allowing the Escalade and its brethren to take on corners at speed without fear of coffee spilling.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The Escalade continues to have a commanding presence on the street.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

That also means that it's big. Huge, in fact. But, the Escalade isn't so big it's unmanageable. Sure, you'll need a stepladder to see below the hood. But, how many Escalade owners are doing their own maintenance these days? Camera views help tremendously, as does safety technology.

As tested in the Premium Luxury trim, the two-wheel drive Escalade was powered by Cadillac's standard 6.2-liter V8 that's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a fresh addition to GM's offering list. The power plant delivers 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, just as it is in the SUV's full-size GM stablemates, and has the same SAE-certified horsepower and torque top-out points. It's a competent power plant but it works better in the Yukon Denali.

Why?

That's the big question. The two SUVs are nearly the same weight – pushing 5,800 pounds – and were similarly equipped underneath, as tested. Yet, the Escalade drove like it had a 1,000 pound-boulder strapped into the second row. It didn't feel as agile or swift as the Yukon, but also didn't give the feeling like you're towing when you're not.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The Escalade's imposing body style is not so large that it proves unmanageable. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Escalade was test driven back-to-back-to-back with other vehicles in its segment, the Yukon and the Ford Expedition, and it proved to be, hands down, the least maneuverable. Those poor limousine service drivers in L.A. are not going to enjoy working their way up, and then back down the snaked driveways of the Hollywood elite in this Cadillac.

However, once they get on the road and are able to sit back and relax a touch with their clientele all buckled up, they're going to enjoy the drive. The tester wasn't equipped with GM's Super Cruise, which is a hands-free driver assist technology, but the addition would be a welcome one as the lane keep assist isn't as proactive as other systems from other automakers, and the massive Caddy requires a driver's full attention to stay in the lane.

The 2021 Escalade's massive standard 38-inch OLED screen display area is the highlight of the interior and likely the biggest talking point of the vehicle. Its layout is sensical, proves to not be distracting while driving, and supplies just the right amount of information without going overkill on moving graphics.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The OLED display darkens to deep black at night, giving your drivers' eyes a rest.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The best part of the tech, which is actually made up of three separate screens under the same thin housing, is that it quickly and smoothly goes to near-black, giving drivers the least amount of distraction possible while on the road at night. Its resolution is twice the pixel density of a 4K television.

Though a minor issue, the screen's design does not allow for turn signal indicators to be easily seen as they are positioned directly behind the steering wheel rim. With the indicator's generally soft tone, it's easy to miss when an indicator remains on when exiting a roundabout or merging into traffic.

Surrounding the Escalade's screen are a variety of appointments, some of which feel and look luxurious while others do not. These are, however, typical General Motors product quibbles. The synthetic materials on the dashboard, and thin leather door inserts are not as luxe as what you'll find in SUVs made by Cadillac's rivals. Not that anyone will notice them for long with the OLED elephant in the room.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The layout of the OLED display is easy to understand and read on-the-fly. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Seats in the Escalade are comfortable, providing ample room. No matter the row, the upholstery is well-executed and the ride is sublime as the suspension easily soaks up the road's imperfections. It's a vehicle the aforementioned elite won't mind being seen in and will look forward to riding in.

Along with its comfortable seats and enough legroom in all three rows for adults, one of the best parts of the Escalade is its sound system. It's the first vehicle with an AKG system (offered with either 19 (standard) or 36 speakers), and it pairs the system with an already-quiet cabin. The sound is all-encompassing for front row occupants and musical elements are separated, coming at you like you're at a concert, rather than listening to a glossed-over recorded session. Turning it up, the quality of the sound is not lost. D-E-lightful.

Individual technology elements of the Escalade are why buyers should choose it over the Yukon and the Lincoln Navigator. The OLED display, Super Cruise, and AKG sound system make the Cadillac a step up from its competition even though its drive feels like a step down.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury Cadillac has made the seats of the Escalade comfortable and appointed them well. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Cadillac Escalade is pricey. As tested it was well over $85,000, and that's just a mid-grade model. The Escalade faces stiff competition from the Yukon Denali, which comes in at least $15,000 cheaper and delivers a better drive experience. The similarly priced Navigator is also an elegant option that's sure to be upgraded with Ford's hands-free driving technology in the not-too-distant future.

There may be a sleeper competitor on the horizon. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer is set to debut soon and will likely rival the Escalade with its sound system and elegant design, and come with a similar price tag.

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