I have fallen in love with every Cadillac sedan I've driven recently. From the sporty and fun Cadillac ATS, to the more luxuriously appointed—but still fun—midsize Cadillac CTS, to the bigger and even more opulent—but still remarkably fun—full-size Cadillac CT6, Cadillac's sedans are distinct and special from the rest of the GM product portfolio, and the brand is better for it. So it was with that mindset that I got behind the wheel of the 2017 Cadillac XT5. As the replacement for Cadillac's SRX sport utility, the division’s best-selling model in recent years, it has a lot riding on it.

Dressed for success

It sure looks like a modern Cadillac, hewing closely to the general design, size, function and capability of the previous-generation SRX, but looking tighter and more stylish, with the now-signature teardrop descending from the edge of each headlight. Inside it's even better, with an elegantly styled and beautifully assembled cockpit appointed in rich leathers, real carbon fiber (or wood if you prefer), hidden lighting cues and Alcantara trim. The seats in our Platinum test car were all heated, the fronts were also cooled, and our test car offered all the electronic gizmos you could want, including lane-keeping assist and active cruise control with low-speed following. Cadillac's CUE infotainment system is getting better and better, and since it now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you have the option of ignoring it entirely if you like. The audio system sounded terrific, and about the only complaint was that the rear seats could use a bit more legroom.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2017

Drive the XT5 and you'll notice the good steering and nicely sorted suspension that uses active dampers to achieve flat cornering without a punishing ride. It's not especially sporty, even in Touring mode, but even if it wouldn't keep up with a BMW X3 or Audi Q5 it's perfectly pleasant around town. Although the XT5 is about 300 pounds lighter than the SRX and the 3.6-liter V6 puts out 310 horsepower, it only feels adequate, with decent acceleration but so-so passing power. It doesn't sound particularly elegant at full throttle, either. In China, the same vehicle is available with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that offers more torque at a lower engine speed, which could make the XT5 feel a little more peppy, but that's just so much bench racing. We do give credit to the smooth shifting 8-speed automatic, but an unfortunate demerit to the start-stop system, which was intrusive and lacked an "off" switch. Also annoying was the gear selector, which is yet another reinvention of the standard PRNDL arrangement that is neither an improvement nor a space saver.

Nice, but not nice enough

So while the XT5 is nice from behind the wheel, it's not what we've come to expect in recent years from Cadillac. Direct comparisons are hard because the XT5 splits the difference in size between many of its competitors, like the Lexus NX and RX, Mercedes-Benz GLC and GLE, the BMW X3 and X5, and so on. Still, compared to any of these, the XT5 feels a cut below. The Lexus RX, for example, offers a nicer interior, more elegant features, and better materials for the same price. The same is true for the Europeans, which have the added bonus of being generally more satisfying from behind the wheel. There were other things, too. The cargo cover was shiny vinyl that looked excessively cheap, and it rattled constantly in its mounts. The materials closer to the floor were hard plastic that felt low-grade on a car like this.

Also: Class of 2018 – New Cars Ready to Roll

So the upshot is that the 2017 Cadillac XT5 is a good looking, comfortable, luxurious, nicely appointed and high-tech five-passenger SUV that's...nice. Not great, not gripping, but we can't call it bad, either. It's just...nice. It's also pricey, with our XT5 Platinum AWD costing $69,985. That's solidly on the high end, and well within the territory of nicely loaded Audi Q5, Lexus RX, BMW X3 and even BMW X5 models for that matter.

In a way, it's a compliment that the excellent Cadillac ATS, CTS and CT6 sedans have raised our expectations so high that we're disappointed by the XT5. But considering that this luxury SUV is intended to be a bread-and-butter vehicle for Cadillac, we think it should shine in its own light, not just in the glow of its sedan siblings.

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