When it comes to cars, I take the philosophy of buy and hold – possibly motivated by my regular beat as a personal-finance journalist.
If you’re going to buy new, which I resorted to after being horribly stung by poor-quality second-hand motors in the UAE, the only way to justify the high outlay is to keep the car as long as possible.
Which is why my family cars are currently an eight-year-old Mitsubishi Pajero and a five-year-old Nissan Juke – both still in very good condition.
So you can imagine the rapturous response a four-day test drive of the 2017 Cadillac XT5 receives from my two children, Tabitha, 10 and Tasker, 8.
“Wow, it’s so nice,” they coo, stroking the immaculate cream leather seats, when I offer to drive them to a play date in the robust-looking motor. “Can we keep it?”
They’re in awe of the panoramic sunroof, which covers the length of the car and can be opened through a set of controls above the rear-view mirror (there was a lot of opening and closing over the four days). And the heated/ventilated seats are a hit – the kids have their own control panel in the back. Plus, in their eyes, the doors shut with “a nice clunk” and the car feels “big and safe, mummy”.
The XT5 is Cadillac’s first luxury crossover and one of four that the brand plans to roll out. This car focuses on its interiors, with padded and stitched leather seats, and real wood and brushed metal surfaces, plus high-end extras such as those kid-pleasing seats and sunroof, as well as 20-inch wheels on the Platinum model I’m driving.
The five-seater, however, is a comfortable car for a family of four, not five. Three children would be a stretch unless one child is much older, because you can only fit two car seats or two boosters across the back seats. Although the pull-down central partition, with cup holders, is ideal to separate warring siblings.
For me, there are a number of instant pluses for the busy mum. Firstly, the lack of a handbrake – instead, just push a button to the left of the steering wheel. When my children were younger, when I was tired and had a crying baby in the back, the number of times I drove off with the handbrake on – or worse, parked and forgot to put it on – are too many to comfortably mention.
The second plus is the video display, which as well as being a touchscreen control panel for the GPS and music system, streams video from behind the car, making reversing a breeze.
Its 310hp, 3.6L V6 engine allows the car to switch into a fuel-saving mode when it’s not going full pelt; the engine also automatically stops when you are stationary at the lights or in heavy traffic, saving on fuel and emissions.
On a more personal level, I like the electric adjustable seat. Given more time with the car, I would have programmed the memory seat function to remember my short stature.
I’m also a fan of the mode button, which changes the personality of the car depending on your mood; sport was ideal for that bit of extra oomph.
But the XT5’s gear shifter is another story. To reverse, you have to push the gear stick forwards and to the left, all while holding a button in. Frankly, it’s confusing.
When it comes to handling, the XT5 is smooth and takes tight corners with ease. I’m also able to put it to the ultimate UAE test: the rain. On the rare occasions it does rain here, drivers seem to lose all common-sense and either turn on their hazard lights while driving very slowly in the fast lane or zoom past skidding and sliding their way through large puddles. This is where the XT5 really shows its stealth. It grips the roads beautifully and isn’t phased by water on the roads.
Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States gave the 2017 XT5 a Top Safety Pick rating when equipped with front-crash prevention. This is the highest rating a vehicle can earn from the IIHS – a big plus for a family car.
Another plus is storage. With 30 cubic feet of storage space, loading the boot with scooters for the park proves no issue. There’s also a handy management system, almost like a fence, that you can slide across the boot to stop items from sliding around – perfect for keeping strollers or the grocery shopping in place. Fold the rear seats down, and the storage space extends to 63 cubic feet. If you need any more than that, you probably have the wrong class of vehicle.
Cadillac’s XT5 is a solid family car with plenty of parent and child-friendly features. It has just one stumbling block: the price. The XT5 costs from Dh168,000. Yes, I like the luxury extras and the space and, yes, it’s an “absolute winner” for the kids. But for me, it’s too much to shell out for an asset that’s only going to get battered by messy offspring.
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