Cadillacs have long held their place among the most popular U.S. luxury car brands, which isn’t saying much in a pickup-driving country whose preferences in luxury vehicles lean toward the Japanese or the Germans. Indeed, among the top 20 high-end sedans and SUVs sold in the U.S., only three are American -- two Cadillacs and a Lincoln – while the rest of the list is littered with Lexuses, Acuras, Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs.
As part of an $12 billion program aimed at bucking the “Tier 2” luxury stigma that’s bedeviled U.S. automakers for decades, General Motors made the unusual move this week unveiling the 2017 Cadillac XT5 away from American soil, at the four-day Dubai International Auto Show that began Tuesday.
“The XT5 not only enters the most popular segment in the worldwide luxury auto market, it is the first of four new crossovers from Cadillac,” Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said in a statement released Tuesday. “It’s pivotal to our ongoing growth, which is why we’ve developed XT5 from the inside out.”
Last year, GM plucked de Nysschen from Nissan's Infiniti division to head Cadillac’s reinvention as a global brand while moving the division’s headquarters from rusty Detroit to upscale SoHo in Manhattan. It’s in the process of rolling out a raft of all-new and updated Cadillacs to challenge the dominance of foreign automakers in the all-important, highly profitable luxury car and SUV segments.
Demand for crossovers, small SUVs built on sedan chassis, has skyrocketed globally in recent years, replacing the minivan as the preferred family hauler. In the U.S., the crossover is quickly surpassing the mid-sized car.
The 2017 XT5 crossover adopts the new Cadillac design language, including the window-blind-like grille and distinctive headlights. GM paid special attention to the interior, aiming to give the modern Caddy the feel that drivers of luxury German cars know so well. And, of course, like every other luxury thing on motorized wheels, the vehicle is packed with the latest in-car technologies, including the in-house-produced Cue infotainment system that GM says has an improved capability to respond to voice commands – one of the more challenging (and frustrating) car-tech features.
Like other recent Cadillac models, the XT5 adopts a new alphanumeric naming convention that started this year with the Cadillac CT6 full-size luxury car. Only the Escalade full-size SUV keeps a name that doesn’t sound like a Star Wars droid. Automakers are increasingly adopting the German convention of identifying models with letters and numbers, names that are more easily globally trademarked and avoid cultural and linguistic flubs.
GM says the U.S. version of the XT5 will comes with a new 3.6-liter V-6 engine that shuts off cylinders when they’re not needed in order to save fuel. GM will also produce the car in China with different specs. The new crossover will debut next week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.