Cadillac’s cash cow gets a trip to the vet for a heart transplant

Cadillac was once the Standard Of The World—but in 2019, the standards of the luxury business are set by the Lexus division of Toyota, which invented the two-row upscale crossover with its RX300 and thus turned the industry upside down. Lumbering Sedan de Villes or staid LS430s no longer pay the bills at premium divisions. Instead, it’s the front-wheel-drive, five-passenger anonymous-boxes driving traffic. It’s true here, and, far more importantly, it’s true in China, which has captured the attention of luxury brands the way a young woman in a red dress might steal the attention of a flannel-shirted man on the street.

The remarkably anonymous-looking XT5 is Cadillac’s volume leader both here and in China. As such, it is receiving an expensive mid-cycle refresh in just its fourth year on the current platform. The list of improvements is both extensive and impressive. Outside, a sharpened front and rear fascia incorporates standard LED headlights while recalling both the Escala show car and the new XT4 cute-ute which slots in below the XT5.

Most of the changes, however, can be found inside. The center console now features the combination of large multi-function dial and smaller volume knob which appears everywhere from Mercedes-Benzes to Miatas. The instrument clusters are revised, as is the center console infotainment. Android phones can be one-touch paired with Near Field Communications. The XT5 can park itself and charge phones via a special enclosure.

2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport
2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport Cadillac

Cadillac’s new “Y-Strategy” offers five trim levels, starting with base “Luxury” then splitting into sporty or premium trims before terminating in Platinum variants. The Sport badging is more than just cosmetic, as the rear differential becomes capable of torque-steering the car. Still, experience suggests that these cars are best experienced in comfort-oriented trim.

The XT5 facelift aligns with, and is no doubt made much easier by, the arrival of the three-row XT6, which shares a platform and an approximate wheelbase with both the XT5 and the GMC Acadia. Pricing starts at the $45K mark, which Cadillac says reflects an increased level of standard equipment.

There’s one more alignment at play here; the previously universal 3.6-liter V-6 is now an option on lower trims, with the standard engine downsized to a 237-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four. It sits somewhat forlornly in a very spacious-looking engine bay. One cannot help but think of that previous two-liter transverse Cadillac, the Cimarron—but this has nothing to do with dreams of downsizing. It’s all about China, which has taken to the two-liter turbo with enthusiasm. Will Americans do the same, now that the standards of the world are set outside our shores?

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