Fogo Island is an idyllic place, perched about as far to the Northeast as you can go in North America. Study the history of Fogo Island, Newfoundland, and you learn what grit and tenacity are all about. Drive around the island, and you’ll see decades old waterfront buildings that used to process what was the Island’s economic mainstay, cod.
The history and economy of Fogo Island bear a resemblance to the story of one of America’s once storied automakers – Cadillac. Cadillac was formed from the remnants of the original Henry Ford Co. A new company called the Cadillac Automobile Co. was established in August 1902, named after French explorer Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701.
Cadillac was purchased by General Motors in 1909 and became its prestige division. Some of its classic models today fetch hefty sums at collector auctions worldwide. However, as the years have passed, Cadillac lost the ability to compete on the high end of the luxury car scale.
Fast forward to 2016, and rather than reinventing the wheel, Cadillac poached some of the brightest minds from the “enemy,” hiring away top talent from competitors to reinvigorate the brand, and so far, the results are impressive. The new flagship sedan, the CT6 is a world beater, on par and in some ways superior to the best from Europe.
But the luxury market has been shifting away from sedans, and that’s why another new Caddy model, the XT5, is so critical. And, appropriately enough, Cadillac chose to give us the opportunity to drive the replacement for the old SRX utility vehicle on Fogo Island.
The 2017 XT5 is in a word: complete. Want to drive in full luxury? XT5 delivers. Need to do light off-roading as you visit your beach or mountain home, or around Fogo Island? With optional all-wheel drive, the XT5 will get you there. Want safe, reliable, high-tech transportation? Look no further than this impressive crossover.
When you compare the XT5 to the old SRX, Cadillac wisely took the best of the popular SRX and made the rest even better.
Objectives for the new XT5 included: more content, more agility, more usable interior space, enhanced safety, a stiffer, yet quieter cabin, and better acceleration and fuel efficiency. And by the way, the new XT5 is 292 pounds, or 132 kg, lighter than the SRX.
Did they succeed?
As we break down the new XT5, one can’t help but notice the incredible good looks the vehicle possesses. Where SRX looked like a Caddy built on a shared General Motors platform, the XT5 looks like a clean sheet design, even though there are not dramatic differences between the two. The new XT5 just looks cleaner and more muscular.
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Comparing old and new, the XT5 features a bold shoulder line that runs just below side door handles. The SRX shoulder line ran through the door handle line, which gives the impression that it is shorter than the XT5, and it is, but the difference is only 65.7 inches for the SRX versus 66 inches for the XT5.
Up front, Caddy ditched the traditional egg-crate grille in favor of a sleeker, multi-rib affair, and again, the results are an improvement in style and muscularity. A new Cadillac logo replaces the crest and wreath version present on the SRX.
And Caddy has gone buck wild with what I see as the best application of LED lighting in the industry. Across the Cadillac lineup, from base ATS to top dog Escalade, you know at night when a Cadillac is approaching or departing by the sharp, linear application of LED lighting. It’s pretty much an art form on their cars.
On the XT5 up front, The High Intensity Discharge headlamps are flanked by LED Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs), that drop off the front hood in a waterfall effect those who admire Niagara Falls would be proud of. Look closely inside the jeweled headlamp housing, and a Cadillac Crest is embossed along the LED signature line. A similar embossed treatment continues with the stunning rear LED tail/brake lamps.
The “waterfall” treatment continues on tail/brake lamps, with a narrow, chrome bar nearly spanning the complete width of the hatchback lid just below the new logo and just above the license plate nacelle. A chrome rub strip adorns the top part of the bumper, and a silver diffuser plate sits between the more aggressive dual, rectangular exhaust outlets, replacing a diffuserless lower fascia with twin round exhaust outlets on the SRX.
When it comes to the interior, how do you make the SRX better? It was a sizeable challenge that Caddy was obviously up to the task for. Cut and sewn leather covers seats and parts of the dashboard, melding with metal trim and tastefully placed wood trim.
The Cadillac User Experience (CUE) interface screen seems better integrated into the center console, and the slightly smaller steering wheel airbag pod lends a sportier look to the multifunction, thick-rimmed steering wheel. The transmission shift lever is centrally placed has been moved left of center in the XT5. The configuration works well should you want to manually row the new “Electronic Precision Shift” eight-speed automatic transmission.
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Below the center console, useful space has been carved out to store electronics or other goodies. Network your daily drive with OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity supporting multiple devices. A 12V power point in the storage nacelle adds to convenience. Tall, wide people and shorter, smaller people will both find the new interior well-suited for their frames.
The available “Ultraview” panoramic sunroof really brightens the interior, and you can adjust light volume with dual sunshades.
On the road, the XT5 delivers solid performance from a 310 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 in FWD or AWD driveline configurations. A “real-time” damping suspension monitors road and vehicle inputs, ensuring a smooth ride. And the AWD XT5 has selectable driving modes: Touring Mode for everyday driving; Snow/AWD Mode for inclement weather; and Sport Mode for highway sprints.
Ride quality is excellent and the interior is old-school Cadillac quiet, a very good thing. Yes, you’ll hear the V6 emit a snarl when you put your foot in it, but that’s about all.
My test model featured standard 20-inch wheels, which look fab, yet did not detract from ride or handling quality. During drives around Fogo Island with terrain that varied from highway smooth to washboard, with many sharp curves taken at speed, XT5 proved it’s adept at road carving duties.
On the safety front, Cadillac and all GM products are now world class in technology. Standard/available safety features include, among others, multiple airbags with driver’s knee airbag, forward collision alert, front pedestrian detection, automatic collision braking, automatic parking assist, lane keep assist, lane departures warning, rear cross traffic alert, side blind spot alert and surround view cameras.
But my favorite is the new rear vision camera. A simple flip converts the seemingly conventional rearview mirror to a near-HD quality, live view of traffic. It takes a minute to get used to, as you can see trees and cars rushing by in your peripheral vision, but once you do, you’ll recognize what a great safety feature Cadillac has incorporated in the XT5.
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Johan de Nysschen, the indomitable head of Cadillac worldwide, and who once worked his marketing, brand quality and sales magic as the head of Audi America and Infiniti’s global operations, is now in charge of bringing the storied marque back to prominence. If the XT5 and recently released CT6 Sedan are indications of de Nysschen’s impact and laser-sharp focus on the brand, then Cadillac has a very bright future indeed.