When my five-year-old daughter gets especially sassy and demanding of life’s luxuries, we tell her she’s “so extra”! It’s both a compliment and a nod to her attitudinal ridiculousness. Cadillac is showing similar behavior with the XT4, a compact crossover that’s taking the brand into a broader array of vehicles. From grille to fins, it’s very clearly the Cadillac of sassy little crossovers.
Stylists had to adapt Cadillac’s traditional design cues to an urban-friendly crossover more likely to attract Millennials than their parents – all without offending their empty nester parents. Our Sport model leads with a black mesh grille, LED headlamps, and 20” alloy wheels. Cadillac has historically been known for sharp creases that finish with at least hints of fins. I could do without the cutesy horizontal elements being added to headlamps and taillights, but the power dome hood and vertical lighting connect the XT4 to all generations.
My favorite part of the XT4 is probably the interior with layered stitched materials on the dash and real carbon fiber trim on the dash and doors. Heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a thick heated steering wheel add comfort. Automatic climate control, Bose audio, dual-pane sunroof, and front seat massagers go several better. Connect devices effortlessly with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G Wi-Fi. Cadillac finessed its infotainment system with a combination of touchscreen and console-mounted joywheel.
Safety is thoroughly considered. The head-up display, which can show navigation directions, is great for drivers, but so are adaptive cruise, forward collision alert, pedestrian detection with auto brake, and lane keep assist. There’s also a blind spot warning, around view camera, and rear auto brake should the car detect an obstacle while reversing.
Tucked between the front fenders is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 237 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, routed to the all-wheel-drive system through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Auto stop/start helps enable 22/29-MPG city/highway. The driving feel is a little light, but the adaptive electronic suspension and adjustable drive modes configure the chassis and powertrain for almost any environment. All-wheel-drive keeps wheels planted on curvy roads, but also make play of snowy streets.
It’s not all perfect. A Cadillac of this price ought not have hard plastic door panels and console covers that rattle in their tracks. Somehow when driving, it’s hard to escape the idea there’s not quite enough substance between other compact GM crossovers and this one. Both the exterior and interior are beautiful, but competitors set incredibly high standards. And, there’s the price. You can get a Mercedes GLC, with a 362 horsepower twin-turbo V6 caressed by AMG, for less money.
Cadillac had a real problem. In an auto market dominated by crossovers, it had only one – the XT5 – while key competitors have them in every size and profile. With the XT4, Cadillac finally has a sassy compact that’s so extra, and if it is any indication, the 2020 XT6 full-size crossover will fortify the brand further. A base price of $34,795 or, a-hem, $57,735 as tested, pits the XT4 against the Mercedes GLC, Infiniti QX50, Audi Q3, BMW X2, and Lexus NX.
Let’s say you like the Cadillac XT4 – as do I. But, you wish the price were a might lower – as do I. Fortunately, we can find a quality alternative at our local Chevrolet dealer in the Equinox Premier – a slightly more affordable alternative to GM’s other luxury crossover.
From the wrapper, it is easy to identify the Equinox as a Chevrolet. The twin port grille, flowing body lines, and quad element taillamps connect it to popular Chevys like the Malibu and Blazer. LED headlamps, running lights, and taillights help it sparkle. It looks especially fetching with 19” alloy wheels and Cajun Red metallic paint.
Cadillac luxury abounds inside where stitched dash coverings, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel rule. There’s also a lot of hard plastic on the dash and doors, but the touch points are all padded. Dual zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, and thumping audio system bring further delights. I wish Chevrolet would add a proper tuning knob to its swipescreen infotainment system, but it works easy enough. Connect devices with Bluetooth, 4G Wi-Fi, and wireless charging. Safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise, forward collision alert, low speed forward auto braking, safety alert seat, rear seat occupant reminder, blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert.
Behind the familiar grille is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, connected to a 9-speed automatic transmission, producing 252 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel-drive inhibits fuel economy slightly, but non-defeatable auto stop/start helps deliver 22/28-MPG city/highway. If you’re counting digits, that’s 15 horsepower and 2 lb.-ft. more than the Cadillac, but you give up 1-MPG highway.
I despise auto stop/start, especially when I can’t turn it off, but otherwise enjoyed driving the Equinox. It has more horsepower (but significantly less torque) than my 1989 Corvette – enabling it to slay on-ramps, quick two-lanes, and fast left-lanes on the freeway. The chassis and steering are firm, making the Equinox among the sports cars of the compact crossover segment. On a three-hour Interstate run, the turbo and transmission kept power in the sweet spot, allowing me to accelerate out of construction zones like a horse slapped to run.
Is the Equinox truly a Cadillac? Well, no, but they are pretty evenly matched on paper given all of the luxury, safety, and power contained within. A base price of $23,800, or $40,930 as-tested, keeps a few dollars in your stock portfolio. Competitors include the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Jeep Compass, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, and Nissan Rogue.
Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.