It arrived late to the luxury-compact party two years ago so it still has plenty of ground to make up. In fact, some competitors are well into their second or third generations.
But the 2021 Cadillac XT4 has no problem snaring attention on the boulevard, attracting looks, smiles and thumbs-ups. It is one of the sharpest-looking SUVs in this extremely competitive segment, featuring unique vertical LED lights up front, a bulging hood and a broad, black hexagonal grille.
L-shaped LED lights follow the shape of the rear while dual exhausts, a rear lip spoiler and 10-spoke alloy wheels with nickel-painted finish complete its sporty look. Even its new color, Autumn Metallic, a brownish-orange hue, draws raised eyebrows and praise.
All XT4s are equipped with an aluminum block 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection. The four-banger makes 237 horsepower, and 258 pound-feet of torque. That may not sound much, but it’s fast enough from the stoplight — and has some growl, too. It gets to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, which isn’t bad for the segment but a full second behind class-leader BMW X1.
XT4 is linked to a 9-speed automatic with a manual mode for those want to get more involved. The transmission is a bit indecisive amid middle gears, but a quicker-shifting dual-clutch automatic is available with all-wheel-drive ($2,500).
At 20 pounds shy of two tons, this is not a nimble machine. The suspension is stiff, which helps with body roll on corners but also accentuates some bumps and holes around town. The steering is nicely weighted but soft on feedback.
Still, it’s a solid car and great for touring the countryside. Drive modes include Tour, Sport, Snow and Ice, each of which adjusts the driving dynamics to fit the need. For a more aggressive ride, consider the XT4’s new Sport trim, which gets a tighter suspension with adaptive dampers plus unique wheel designs and red-painted calipers.
Fuel economy is decent, with some credit going to a cylinder-deactivation system. EPA estimates 24 mpg around town, 30 on the highway for a combined figure of 26 mpg.
The XT4 is wider and longer than most foes, and that translates to more cabin space for its five occupants and their stuff. Head, shoulder and leg room is plentiful up front, though more cramped in the rear. Front seats have 8-way power plus up to 4-way lumbar adjustments for driver and passenger, making longer trips a comfortable experience.
It also has 22.5 cubic feet of cargo space — sufficient for average-size bags of five folks on a long weekend. Flipping down the 60/40 rear seat backs opens up nearly 49 cubic feet, and access is easy-squeezy with a hands-free power lift gate.
The elegant feel of the cabin comes from leather-trimmed seats with accent stitching and aluminum or carbon fiber-like trim. Behind a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel are analog dials with digital data center in the middle. Or opt for a technology package ($2,600) and get an 8-inch digital gauge cluster, head-up display, wireless charging pad and cornering front lamps.
An 8-inch touchscreen accommodates Cadillac’s CUE infotainment, which can be controlled by touch or a rotary knob on the center console. It’s a manageable system but scrolling through some menus can get tedious. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
Not standard is navigation, but a $1,500 package buys that plus an upgraded Bose Surround Sound audio system with 13 speakers.
Standard safety features include forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking, front and rear park assist, and lane-change alert. Available is adaptive cruise control with following distance indicator and advanced automatic braking, lane-keep assist and automatic high-beam headlamps.
XT4 comes in three trims — Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport — and the “base” Luxury comes well equipped, including a power rear lift gate and leather option that is new for 2021. New for the Sport are red-painted brake calipers.
In a segment that is crowded and competitive, the relative newcomer XT4 has its work cut out. But it has a unique exterior style and an interior that’s laden with standard features and built as well those from Europe, Japan and Sweden. So move over, fellas.
2021 Cadillac XT4
Base Price: $39,795
As tested (Premium Luxury): $48,935 (Includes Comfort & Technology package, $2,600; Navigation and Bose audio, $1,500; Enhanced Visibility package, $1,500; Driver Assist package, $1,100; Heated seats/steering, $850; Driver Awareness package, $470)
What’s all the excitement about? Unique exterior styling, a slew of standard features
Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to 9-speed automatic transmission
How’s the performance? 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds; quiet and confident on the highway
Fuel economy: Not bad at 24 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined