The early morning gut tester of a drive certainly helped showcase the impressively agile and predicable handling abilities of the XT5.

Dana Point, California – Visually it looks bigger and bulkier, but the new 2017 Cadillac XT5 is actually an inch (2.5 cm) shorter in length and considerably lighter (136 kg) than the current Cadillac SRX it replaces.

A longer wheelbase and bigger wheels (19/20 inch) add to the XT5’s optical illusion and its stretched cabin area allows (much needed) additional rear seat legroom.

Like its successful predecessor, the XT5 is a stylish mid-sized luxury utility vehicle. Power is provided by a new direct injection 3.6-litre (315-horsepower) V6 engine with cylinder deactivation and auto stop/start features to improve fuel efficiency.

The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5
The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5
The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5
The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5
The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5
The first-ever 2017 Cadillac XT5

The name change is apparently part of a larger Cadillac master plan for a series of (leaner and meaner) XT crossover utility vehicles (both smaller and larger than XT5) in coming years. The only naming exception will be the – mother of all utility – Cadillac Escalade.

These days, Cadillac benchmarks its products against European competitors such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, instead of domestic rivals. It has high sales expectations for XT5 and Canada is (based on SRX sales) expected to be its third largest market, behind the US and China.

Engineering goals for XT5 included more cabin space, improved ride, better handling, better fuel efficiency and better noise and vibration performance. Mass reduction quickly became a key element to achieving these goals and about half of the weight savings came out of the old chassis.

State-of-the-art digital analytical tools combined with greater use of high-strength and press-hardened steel is how a Cadillac engineer explained the weight reduction. The structural changes also include an interesting new built-in safety innovation – splayed front rails. Designed to deform in a certain way, they deflect (or push) the XT5 away from an offset frontal impact, which is a very common type of vehicle collision.

The new 3.6L V6 is the only engine offered in XT5 and it’s mated with an eight-speed automatic that features Cadillac’s first-ever (drive-by-wire) electronically controlled shifter. This compact shifter unit allows a large storage space under the centre console in the cabin.

The first stage of our XT5 test drive route, which started at our Dana Point hotel, took us over the Santa Ana Mountains via the Ortega Highway (SR74) to Lake Elsinore. It’s a tight two-lane mountain road with steep drop-offs, intimidating rock faces, lots of switchbacks … and spectacular views. The early morning gut tester of a drive certainly helped showcase the impressively agile and predicable handling abilities of the XT5.

Heading south, on a series of freeways and byways, we ended up at an interesting lunch stop called the Miner’s Diner (mighty good eats), in Julian. This high-elevation 19th century gold rush town is also famous for its apple pies (heart of an apple growing area) and crowded signposts (see photo). Well worth a visit, if you’re ever in the area.

The tech

A new Caddy always comes packed with new technology and the XT5 doesn’t disappoint, especially if you splurge for a higher trim version. Even the basic goodie package includes Wi-Fi hot spot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a hands-free liftgate. LED headlights, a head-up display, and advanced safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist are also available.

Unique new tech includes Cadillac’s patented Rear Camera Mirror, which enhances a driver’s rear vision by 300 per cent. A video display, applied over the conventional inside rearview mirror, streams an unobstructed wide-angle view of what’s going on behind. An AJAC Best New Safety Technology winner, it helps solve a driver vision issue that plagues many modern high back design vehicles.

The advanced “twin clutch” all-wheel drive system is now capable of transferring up to 100 percent of available torque to either the front or rear axle and/or to either rear wheel, via an electronically controlled rear differential.

There’s also a new driver-controlled “disconnect” feature that disables the rear drive unit. Improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions are the benefits of operating in this front-drive mode.

Canadian prices for a Cadillac XT5 will start at $45,100 (FWD) and $52,120 for the all-wheel-drive editions. Expected city/highway fuel economy ratings for FWD editions are 12.1/8.6 L/100km and 12.9/8.9 L/100km for AWD editions and an XT5 runs fine on regular gasoline.

bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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