Test Drive: The All-New 2019 Cadillac XT4

“We had a 23-year innovation gap that unfortunately persisted for many decades,” Cadillac spokesman Andrew Lipman admits. Now the Detroit luxury brand is ready to speed past competition with the launch of the all-new 2019 Cadillac XT4, a compact crossover billed as the stately Escalade’s younger sibling.

General Motors’ high-end marque has had its share of recent shakeups, including the departure of its president and lackluster sales despite a campaign to modernize its image. It hasn’t given up. As Cadillac enters the second phase of its 10-year growth strategy, the brand is forging ahead with plans to launch a new model every six months. Specifically targeted toward the type of affluent, younger customers luxury brands crave, the XT4 utility vehicle is Cadillac’s most important debut so far—and a late arrival to the market’s most competitive and fast-growing segment.

Powered by an all-new, 237-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the XT4 is ready to challenge segment stalwarts including the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, and Volvo XC40. Cadillac engineers say tweaks to the XT4’s engine provide power when you need it and efficiency when you don’t. “‘Fun-to-drive’ is really an emotion,” says Todd Pawlik, chief engineer for the XT4. “It’s not just ride handling.”

We put the new engine and turbocharged propulsion system to the test during the vehicle’s global launch in Seattle. Backlit against blue Pacific Northwest skies, the XT4 looked as refined as its rivals on the road and rode just as smoothly, thanks to advances in GM’s chassis systems, including Active Sport Suspension with Continuous Damping Control, and a new nine-speed automatic transmission. The optional all-wheel drive system transfers torque separately to each rear wheel, based on road conditions, for better control. The XT4 had no trouble handling the idyllic early September weather or scattered showers, but Cadillac’s engineers say the new engine can perform equally well in mud, snow, and ice, routing torque from a wheel where it detects slip to a wheel with greater traction.

Its compact size doesn’t lose any road presence, explains Robin Krieg, lead exterior designer. The back seat can fit adults comfortably, and the trunk bears enough space for several suitcases or shopping bags. “The car doesn’t know how small it is,” he says.

The XT4 is also the first Cadillac marketed under the brand’s new “Y” trim strategy, which the brand says is designed to appeal to younger customers by offering simpler and more affordable access to luxury features. Buyers start with a $35,790 base model and can upgrade to a Premium Luxury or Sport trim, progressively adding more relevant amenities under either theme. Luxury models add leather upholstery, chrome accents, advanced driver assistance and features, and standard red taillights in the rear. The Sport trim trades black accents for chrome, including a gloss black sport mesh grille, roof rails, and side moldings, and gets clear LED tail lights. The top-of-the-line models start at $40,290.

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