Back in the day, Cadillac was considered the “Standard of the World.” It was not only an acknowl-edgement of the superior quality of the car, but the brand’s recognized stature in the global market, as well.

But that was then, this is now. Along the way, Cadillac lost its fo-cus as other luxury automakers ac-celerated ahead and left the Ameri-can icon in the dust. Today, the premium European set and more re-cent, upscale Asian imports all out-sell GM’s king of the hill…right here in America. And on the other end of the spectrum,

Lincoln’s gaining ground and trying to usurp them by heading further up-town.

Giving credit where credit is due though, Cadillac has clearly stepped up and is now aggressively fighting a tough fight. The first thing its designers in Detroit did was to es-tablish a new, edgy styling sense to create a good degree of distinction. In an age where so many cars look alike, Cadillac stands out. And in accordance with the well-established market trend, the brand’s very much migrated from the prestige car cate-gory into the burgeoning, high-end, sport utility segment.

The first such step up Cadillac’s luxury SUV ladder is the XT4. Its intended mission is “in capturing Cadillac essence in a small athletic package,” because they’re not just looking for more buyers. They need younger ones, too, to ensure the fu-ture of the franchise.

So the compact utility is obvi-ously outfitted with all the latest information and entertainment (info-tainment) systems. Apply CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, the XT4 is also SiriusXM satellite radio ready and OnStar Services capable with Wi-Fi Hotspot, phone pairing and wire-less charging, too. It can be fur-ther embedded with Real-Time Traffic Navigation and a 13-speaker, Bose Surround Sound System from the Op-tions list.

While we’re on the subject, I’d like to thank Cadillac for exercis-ing a bit of styling restraint with-in the XT’s spacious interior. The 8-inch display screen is well

integrated within the instrument panel, as opposed to being simply stuck on…as so many other competi-tive entries appear. And an abun-dance of intuitive control switches remain, instead of over-relying on electronic touch activa-tion, while the dash lays low to help provide an open feeling of airiness.

So the well-tailored XT4 is a comfortable, compliant and fairly quiet place in which to while away the hours, because it’s a bit more conservative than cutting-edge. Ca-dillac claims “segment-leading sec-ond row leg room for back seat passengers.” I particulary appreci-ated that there was no sunroof in the top line test car I drove. It can be had with or without, which is a nice choice. Because nowadays, au-tomatic climate control systems are so superior, anyway. An opening glass roof is clearly more than a want, than a have-to-have. A hands-free liftgate with programmable height is also fea-tured.

The Cadillac’s external propor-tions are just right. Not too big, not too small. With four-wheel inde-pendent suspension and optional 20-inch tires, plus Active, Continuous Damping Control, it proved fun to throw around on our twisty, shore-line two-lanes…since it weighs in at just under 4,000 pounds While it was equally obliging, trudging along I-95.

Like a lot of other modern, high-performance/small displacement en-gines, things can get a bit growly when you bang the XT4’s throttle open. Turn up the HD radio. The raspy four cylinder, 2.0-liter Turbo is paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission and generates an ade-quate 237 horsepower. The intelli-gent, twin-clutch All-Wheel Drive system includes selectable Tour, Sport and Snow/Ice drive modes.

With an Overall Government Safety Rating of the maximum 5 Stars, the baby Cadillac includes such big boy-girl features as Automatic Emergency and Front Pedestrian Braking, Stability Con-trol and Lane Change/Blind Zone/Lane Keeping/ Rear Cross Traffic Alerts. Some of which signal through the leather, driver’s Safety Alert seat, which is also heated, cooled and Massage-Controlled. Believe me, it’ll get your attention! Enhanced Visibility (with Surround Vision), Driver Assist (Adaptive Cruise Con-trol) and Cold Weather (Heated Front & Rear Seats, and Steering Wheel) packages are also available.

Cadillac’s Kansas City, KS-built, entry level SUV starts at $35,695. The XT4 AWD Sport that I drove re-tailed for $49,190 with additional Comfort, Convenience and Navigation packages. It delivers a respectable 22 mpg City and 29 mpg Hwy.

The 2020 XT4 is one of those ve-hicles that simply grows on you, be-cause the more you live with it, the more you like it. In my case, it’s because it’s a bit more conservative than cutting-edge…as previously mentioned. So OK, it’s not the sharpest knife in the small SUV drawer.

But Cadillac deserves an “A” for effort. For example, when it comes to aesthetic appeal and the availa-ble color palette for the pleasingly stubby AT4, the Autumn Metallic (+ $625) example I enjoyed received rave reviews wher-ever it went. Which further affirms that the legacy, luxury leader is setting new standards, indeed.

A resident of East Haddam, Steven Rossi is an automotive engineer turned marketing communicator. With some 25 years in the industry, in-cluding three tours of duty in Detroit, he serves as Senior Column-ist for Antique Automobile magazine, and his work has also appeared in Collectible Automobile and The New York Times. He holds 21 International Speed and World Auto-motive Endurance Records.

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