Cadillac moved its global headquarters from New York back to Michigan late last year, and chose the eve of this week’s Detroit auto show to reveal its latest vehicle. The XT6 is a three-row SUV that’s a bit smaller than the full-size Escalade and a bit larger than its best-selling XT5.
This is a popular size in North America’s fastest-growing vehicle segment: Lincoln revealed its three-row Aviator late last year, in competition with the mid-sized SUVs already sold by other premium brands.
Cadillac is a bit late to market, thanks to reorganizing its priorities: It’s now headed by Canadian Steve Carlisle, the former president of General Motors Canada, who says the company has “a renewed focus on the fundamentals of running a luxury car brand.”
“We’re working to elevate Cadillac to what we call the pinnacle of mobility,” he added. “Cadillac will take the lead at General Motors to a world of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion. Cadillac will become GM’s leading electric brand.”
First, though, it has to pay the bills, and that means selling an SUV that fills a gap in the product lineup. The XT6 is a spacious six- or seven-seater that’s built on the same platform as the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse, but has an altogether more elegant demeanour. There’ll only be one engine available when it comes on sale in the spring: GM’s familiar 3.6-litre V6 that makes 310 hp and 271 lbs-ft of torque.
There will be two different trim versions, either the Premium Luxury or Sport. The Sport won’t be any more powerful, but it will feature racier carbon-fibre accents instead of exotic woods, and the suspension will be tuned for a firmer, more responsive drive. Both versions will come standard with all-wheel drive and a nine-speed transmission.
No pricing is yet announced, but “you can do the math,” says Carlisle. “We won’t sell at a premium [over other makers] or at a discount.” The XT5 starts at $44,125 and the Escalade at $86,540, so it’s reasonable to assume the XT6 will be priced firmly between them.
The big Escalade is a body-on-frame SUV that drives like a truck while the smaller XT5 and compact XT4, introduced last fall, are unibody SUVs that drive more like cars – the XT6 is also a unibody vehicle that will offer car-like characteristics, really more of a crossover than an SUV, with four different drive modes.
The XT6 will also provide more driver’s assistance and safety technology than previous Cadillacs, including available night-vision cameras and a “Surround Vision Recorder.”
“This is tied into the built-in camera system that gives you a 360-degree perimeter view – it’s looking at the immediate vicinity of the vehicle,” says John Plonka, the XT6’s chief engineer. “You’re able to trigger that. If you’re parked and you want to record somebody crashing a shopping cart into your car, you can capture video of that.”
The XT6 does not include Cadillac’s Super Cruise technology, which is the next step for General Motors’ push to Level Three semi-autonomous driving. It debuted on the soon-to-be-discontinued CT6 sedan, and engineers are still working to improve it, says GM’s CEO Mary Barra.
“We will be gated by safety, but we’re making great progress,” she said. “We are on track, and now we’re winning awards and recognition for how great that technology is.”
The XT6 will be built at GM’s assembly plant in Springhill, Tenn., which was given a US$300-million investment to upgrade its facility, and which Carlisle said is now hiring hundreds of new workers. General Motors has announced it is closing its Oshawa, Ont., plant, which builds the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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