We drove a $52,000 Cadillac XT4 crossover to see if the 2019 Car of the Year runner-up is worth the money (GM)

Cadillac XT4

  • The 2019 Cadillac XT4 fills out the brand’s luxury crossover lineup, joining the XT5 compact SUV and the just-launched XT6 three-row midsize.
  • At $52,000, my subcompact-ish test vehicle was pricey, but worth it.
  • The XT4 is a critical vehicle for Cadillac, which is moving decisively away from a long history of big luxury sedans.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Editor’s note: Business Insider will name its 2019 Car of the Year on November 23. Each day this week, we’re taking another look at the five vehicles that were runners-up selected from a pool of 16 finalists. Thus far, we’ve named the Lamborghini Urus and the Nissan Leaf SL Plus. Our third runner-up is the Cadillac XT4.

Cadillac is getting its crossover game together, and the excellent XT4 is the latest example.

The compact/subcompact crossover joins the XT5 and the newly revealed XT6 in Caddy’s lineup, as the brand moves away from the plush sedans that have always defined it. If you sit inside a Cadillac Escalade on a clear day, you can see dealership parking lots full of SUVs.

The argument is that Caddy is now equipped to take on Audi, BMW, and Mercedes — all these brands have a portfolio of crossovers, and with the XT4 and the XT6, Caddy matches up pound-for-pound.

Of course, there’s a catch. While the Germans favor performance, Cadillac has focused more on easy-to-live-with luxury and technology. It’s a good-drivin’ SUV. But not a great one.

Read on to find out why we thought this crossover earned its place as a contender in our 2019 Car the Year roundup.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

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Our “Twilight Blue Metallic” 2019 XT4 landed on the mean streets of New York City and looked sharp in the process.

This compact/subcompact luxury crossover followed the compact XT5, which Caddy rolled out in 2015. Our tester’s base price was around $42,000, but a substantial number of options brought that up to $52,000.

Cadillac has toned down its so-called “Art and Science” design language, which was originally angular and aggressive. But the XT4 still has plenty of edge.

The cheapest XT4 is about $35,000, which is pretty good for an elegant, premium, small SUV. The XT4 is that rare crossover that looks as good from the back as it does from the front. The SUV is on the large side of subcompacts, really more or a hybrid subcompact/compact.

Overall, the XT4 presents an appealing package. It might be too small for some luxury buyers, but alongside the XT5 and the just-debuted XT6 three-row midsize SUV, it gives Caddy a 1-2-3 crossover punch.

The cargo area offers 25 cubic feet of capacity with the rear seats up. Fold the rear seats down and you have double that.

The LED headlights are almost absurdly bright. They’re easily among the best I’ve seen on a luxury vehicle in the past few years.

Under the hood, the heart of the XT4 is this superb 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, making 237 horsepower with 258 pound-feet of torque.

That power is piped through this annoying joystick-activated, 9-speed transmission. The transmission and the motor get along quite well. Shifts are smooth, and power delivery to the all-wheel-drive system is blissful.

Inside, the XT4 is pleasantly snug. It’s not as tight nor as “cockpit”-like as, say, a BMW X1. Our test vehicle had a lovely “Light Wheat/Jet Black” combo interior.

The seats can be heated and cooled, if you check that option box. The interior exudes a premium vibe without overdoing it. We’re not dealing with a Mercedes interior here.

What about the rear seat? Well, this is a smallish SUV, so large adults shouldn’t expect long-range comfort. But a huge, dual-panel sunroof ($1,550 extra) can fill the space with natural light.

Cadillac Cue is among the best infotainment setups in the industry. The eight-inch touchscreen is responsive, and Cue benefits from 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity and GM’s OnStar services.

The GPS navigation was, in my testing, flawless. The XT4 also offers a range of driver-assist features, along with adaptive cruise control. Cadillac’s Super Cruise handsfree highway self-driving tech could arrive on future models.

The system has been growing by adding apps. Younger drivers will definitely like Spotify. Bluetooth pairing is a snap, and there are also USB/AUX ports to connect devices. The XT4 also has wireless charging.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.

So what’s the verdict on this 2019 Car of the Year runner-up?

When my colleague Ben Zhang and I tested the quite good XT5, we had a few issues with the performance, later explained by Cadillac as being intended to maximize the MPGs. 

But the XT4 gave us little to complain about. I knew as soon as I drove it in early 2019 that it would be a Car of the Year contender. 

With fuel-economy ratings of 22 city/29 highway/24 combined, the XT4 is moderately easy on gas, but it doesn’t lack for pep. The XT5’s larger and more powerful V6 engine, oddly, does. With a 0-to-60 mph speed of around eight seconds, the XT4 isn’t really quick. But its motor supplies abundant torque early, so it feels punchy (without being jerky, which would, of course, indicate actual speed). 

What we have here isn’t a thrilling crossover, but rather one that wears its mission with a dignity and reserve and belies its small size. The Audi Q3, for example, feels like a little car that wants to be big. The XT4 is far more content in its attractive skin. 

Look, I’m old, so this sort of thing now appeals to me. Tightly sprung, overly firm Germanic performance sleds make my back hurt (I’m willing to trade the pain for the pleasure, up to a point). Cadillac has in the past sought to bring it to BMW with its V-Sport lineup, and those rides are harsh. But with newer products, the brand seems to have figured out that it can offer something to its customers that the Germans haven’t: spirited comfort.

And technology. The truth is that tech has given Cadillac a key differentiator. Their target consumers for the XT4 are in their forties and fifties — GenXers who appreciate a functional tech interface and aren’t as hung up on how their SUV tackles a corner (the few 30-something millennials in the market are even more tech-biased). Cadillac Cue has caught flak in the past, but it’s superior to what BMW and Mercedes are selling, and neck-and-neck with Audi’s system.

You could knock the XT4 for being a slightly nicer Buick, but that misses the point. Here’s what this vehicle is: a member of a trio of critical offerings from Cadillac, as their brand shifts its portfolio permanently toward crossovers, away from sedans. In the context, you don’t want some nutty good performance machine. You want a fine luxury SUV, modest of size yet rich with content, that can replace the CR-Vs and RAV4s of youth. 

So sure, if you have it in your head that your compact luxury SUV should be track-worthy, look elsewhere. If you want a nice set of wheels for everyday luxury living, the XT4 is a fantastic choice. 

What about that fifty-two grand price tag? Well, I debated whether it was worth it. My tester was loaded with extras, and they weren’t cheap. But this in itself is a good plan for Cadillac. The brand isn’t denying access to “entry level” luxury buyers. They can spend 40,000 clams for my XT4, minus the goodies. Or they can option up to their hearts’ content.

That’s a generous proposition, and one that I think many affluent consumers will accept — good news for Cadillac and its average transaction prices. The bottom line is that we’ve been waiting for Cadillac to get its crossover act together, and with the XT4, the front door to that segment for the brand is definitely inviting.

That’s why it’s a 2019 Car of the Year runner-up.