2020 Cadillac XT5, Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Express Their Darker Sides

2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport

Cadillacs once had an edgy glamorous style directly linked to the derelicts of rock and roll.  They were big, flashy, powerful, luxurious, and for as long as anybody could remember, befinned.  Over the decades, the brand’s image has matured into that of a middle-age musician.  There was clearly room to give the XT5 mid-size crossover a darker personality.  Meet the 2020 Cadillac XT5 Sport. 

Styling encompasses a modern interpretation of classic Cadillac themes.  You see it in the vertical LED headlamps, sharp creases, formal windowline, and rear finlike taillamps that bend into the fenders.  I especially like the line that rises from the front door into shouldered rear fenders and accentuates Cadillac’s trademark lamps.  The Sport package calls for darker trim and a black mesh grille.  It all rides over 12-spoke 20” wheels with pearl nickel paint.

Sliding inside, luxury comes in layers of smooth and perforated materials that cascade from the dash to doors.  Sport models get swaths of carbon fiber trim, too.  Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel keep everybody comfy – as do a twin-pane sunroof and crisp Bose audio system.  Click the rearview mirror to switch between glass and unobstructed video display.                 

Cadillac continues to refine its infotainment system.  In previous generations it was a total swipescreen while the newest version employs a console joywheel to augment functions.  It’s easier to flip through menus for audio, navigation, and phone.  Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G Wi-Fi connect devices easily while wireless phone charging keeps them humming.

Being a Cadillac, the XT5 comes with all of GM’s safety technology that includes adaptive cruise, forward collision alert, auto emergency braking, and blind spot warning systems.  There’s also a driver safety alert seat that vibrates in the direction of danger.  Keeping kids safe in summer is a rear seat reminder that detects little humans.  A reconfigurable head-up display hovers key driving info over the hood, pointing drivers down-road.

Good place to go.  Base models come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but Sport editions roam standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that delivers 310 horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque through a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission.  Cylinder deactivation and auto stop/start optimizes fuel economy, which is rated 18/25-MPG city/highway.  I could do without stop/start, but it can be turned off.

While the XT5 shares its architecture with the GMC Acadia and Chevy Blazer, Cadillac owners get all of the good stuff.  Real time suspension damping gives the vehicle a controlled ride while the drive mode selector adjusts the throttle and steering weight from Touring to Sport.  All-wheel-drive improves handling all the time.

The XT5 carries a sense of history no other luxury crossover can match, but it’s not the most exciting even with its darker personality.  But, who cares?  Certainly not most luxury buyers.  For them, Cadillac delivered an incredibly pleasant and stylish alternative to the Lexus RX, Audi Q5, and Acura RDX.  A base price of $44,095 or $59,340 as-tested seems appropriate.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe

He looks ravishing with his slick body, big muscles, and deep enough lungs to out-run athletes.  The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 that is.  It looks most ravishing on fast roadways, spitting out quick turns, and spoiling four lucky humans in clubroom luxury.  Rumbling exhausts insinuate something evil, so let’s take this jezebel for a spin around the ballroom.

Get a load of the sassy attitude curbside.  It begins with the AMG family grille flashing menacing vertical chrome fins and continues to the angry LED headlamps, glistening 21” wheels, and accentuated side sills that visually lower and elongate the compact crossover.  A wide spoiler and long hatchback tell everybody you went for sexiness over practicality; the rear diffuser and twin exhaust outlets raise a finger to slowpokes who quickly realize they just got the full AMG treatment. 

Basic interior design is a generation behind the latest Mercedes models, but you won’t care.  The GLC43’s passenger zone is awash in decadence from natural grain black ash to aluminum trim and Nappa leather flat-bottom steering wheel.  It all smells like wealth.  The infotainment screen that can be accessed via joywheel or touch.  Tap in to listen to the crisp Bermester audio system and connect to devices via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. 

Safety was paramount.  Blind spot warning, active park assist, surround-view camera, and rear cross traffic alert are present – as are active lane change assist, adaptive cruise with lane centering, forward collision mitigation braking, and evasive steering assist to keep wheels out of ditches.  Reach down and pop the hood.

The red aluminum insert with AMG lettering tells you this crossover is special.  Larger turbochargers stoke the 3.0-liter biturbo V6 to 385 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque.  In a car this size, planting power to pavement with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and a quick-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission, that’s plenty – enough in fact to launch from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds on the way to a 155 mph top speed.  Fuel economy of 18/24-MPG city/highway is unimpressive, but would be worse without auto stop/start.

Further AMG trickery allows the GLC43 to transform from a refined highway cruiser to backroad bruiser.  Pilots can choose from five drive programs:  Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual with each adding intensity to the experience.  In no mode, however, is the GLC43 an S560.  The air suspension adjusts for Comfort and Sport, but taming those big wheels is sometimes a bone-jarring chore.  In whatever mode, press a button to get the full throated roar from the AMG sport exhaust system.

The GLC43 Coupe is a strange concoction, drawing inspiration from generations of C-Class coupes, the original ML SUV, and a healthy helping of gullwinged supercars.  It looks handsome dressed for formal affairs, or elegantly sporting for backroad romps – however you want to enjoy it.          Base GLC coupes start at $50,000, but the GLC43 rises from $63,000.  Our well-equipped model rumbled its exhaust for $71,160.

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.