Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Road test: 2019 Cadillac XT4

The all-new compact SUV aims to rival the likes of Audi and BMW with 'youthful athleticism'

For a sub-category that prides itself on its comparative tininess, the compact-SUV market is becoming mighty crowded – and the latest addition to that scrum of small suitors is the Cadillac XT4.

Three years after its bigger brother, the XT5, was revealed to the world, the XT4 signals what is clearly a push to rival the German big boys such as Audi and BMW in the letters-and-numbers nomenclature stakes.

It goes beyond titles, too. Cadillac is happy to claim to anybody who is listening that the XT4 gives you the spaciousness of an Audi Q5, but for a price several rungs down the SUV ladder.

Everything is new about the XT4: this first model year has an entirely fresh engine and platform, which is certainly a welcome differentiation from its Teutonic rivals.

That engine is a turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that is only slightly less potent than the similarly sized unit in the updated Porsche Macan we also recently tested, with 237hp and 350Nm of torque.

You might expect more from Porsche, but Cadillac’s status isn’t quite so thoroughbred, so such figures feel more than adequate – the XT4 is gunning for a younger market and has no illusions of grandeur. Or, as the brand puts it, millennials tempted by the SUV’s “youthful athleticism”. The all-black interior, for one, has a utilitarian simplicity that will definitely play well with the Apple brigade.

Despite attempting to make it sound like a virile teenager at the Olympics, it’s very much a city-dweller, rather than a conduit for serious off-roading. Much like the Macan, out-and-out speed is clearly not the main aim; rather, Cadillac wants to catch the eye of youthful urban drivers with features such as wireless charging and a funky (if slightly annoying) electric option for the rear-view mirror. Plentiful other driver aids include lane-change alert and rear cross traffic alert.

The styling is, again, in the image of many of those aforementioned German manufacturers, straight from the scaling school of automotive design that is increasingly popular the world over. But there’s a fine line between creating your own motoring genre and simply being generic, one that the XT4 manages to skate successfully, despite from the front evoking a mini take on Caddy’s ­Escalade, an SUV so sizeable that you will spot it around the world in presidential motorcades.

This is the first of six new Cadillac models in the next two-and-a-half years. It will be interesting to see where the three-row XT6, due to make its debut later this year, will take the visual evolution.

My time in the XT4 isn’t, it has to be said, the most gruelling programme, because it simply takes in a variety of suburban roads in Dubai, beginning and ending at Dubai Design District – a venue that Cadillac clearly thinks fits for what it sees as a vehicle for young creatives.

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In keeping with its ambitions for the young person’s vote, the XT4 comes in a choice of seven colours, with funky names for the shades such as red horizon tintcoat and stellar black metallic. The pick of the test-drive options is the autumn metallic – metallic orange, in normal-speak.

Nothing about the XT4 suggests that it is anything less than a perfectly serviceable proposition that is fit to take on its German forebears. The problem that Cadillac will probably have in such a brand-driven region is convincing buyers to associate it with compact SUVs in the same way that it is with huge hulks such as the Escalade and saloons with bonnets as long as a desert highway.

The price should certainly help to tempt a good few folks towards American ownership, however because you won’t find many better compact SUVs in the expected bracket of about Dh145,000.

Updated: January 4, 2019 02:54 PM

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