With the 2020 XT6, Cadillac has finally given the Escalade the three-row crossover SUV the sibling it needed, but not the sibling it deserved.

The 2020 Cadillac XT6 offers three rows of seats, most of the tech luxury buyers want, and a controlled ride.

It could have and should have been better, and in fact it was going to be. Cost cutting, constant product shuffling, and changes in management resulted in a very different XT6 than what was originally planned.

I spent a week in the XT6 and learned that while it鈥檚 a perfectly serviceable three-row SUV, it could have been much better.

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

It looks鈥ine

The XT6 鈥榮 looks fit into the Cadillac family well enough. It鈥檚 not ugly, but its pedestrian bones from the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, and GMC Acadia shine through in the wrong ways. The tall LED daytime running lights, upright front end, and CT6-like vertical and horizontal taillights keep the design in the family, but the long front overhang belies its pedestrian roots. The XT6 was originally slated to sit on the CT6鈥檚 rear-wheel-drive based Omega platform, which would鈥檝e given it a short front overhang and a long dash-to-axle ratio that creates a more elegant look. It would鈥檝e had a proper luxury-car stance with a long hood and short rear end instead of the front-drive-based look GM鈥檚 mass-market three-row crossover SUV platform provides.

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

Good enough

The XT6 is powered by the same 3.6-liter V-6 mounted transversely up front as its GM three-row siblings. It makes 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, and is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 has plenty of power to move the XT6 down the road swiftly and the 9-speed delivers smooth and responsive shifts, but the Lincoln Aviator offers 90 more hp in base form and an additional 184 hp in its plug-in hybrid model.

Cadillac offers no plug-in hybrid, no V-8, and no turbocharged V-6. If the XT6 were based on the CT6, it would have a longitudinally mounted engine and the engine bay would be able to house everything from a 2.0-liter turbo-4 to a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 to a 4.2-liter V-8. Cadillac could have sold V-8-powered XT6 V and an XT6 V-Sport below it. GM once employed a 410-hp twin-turbo 3.6-liter V-6 in the XTS V-Sport that could be mounted sideways in the XT6 to create a V, but it鈥檚 unlikely to happen.

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

Platform limitations

The XT6鈥檚 steering is well weighted both at parking lot and highway speeds, but don鈥檛 expect the front end to communicate telepathically on the way to Starbucks. Push the XT6 around a clover leaf and it begins to understeer as the tires howl. A rear-wheel-drive-based platform would have been a more dynamic choice to match the driving dynamics bar set by the CT6 sedan and would have imparted a greater feeling of luxury

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

You push what?

Base XT6s are front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is on the options list. The system is engaged by the driver with the push of a button. To Cadillac鈥檚 credit, the system will retain the last setting upon restart, but no other luxury SUV on the market makes drivers engage all-wheel drive. This is the same system found in the XT6鈥檚 two-row XT5 sibling that can disconnect for better fuel economy. The CT6 has full-time all-wheel drive as well. In 2020, buyers shouldn鈥檛 have to engage all-wheel-drive in their luxury SUV.

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

But why?

The interior of my very well equipped $71,585 XT6 Premium Luxury AWD tester came covered in supple leather, quality plastics, and for some reason, lots of bronze carbon-fiber trim. This wasn鈥檛 a Sport model, so the carbon fiber seemed out of place and it does nothing to surprise and delight the senses. The fineline calico wood trim alternative gives the XT6 a more luxurious feel. The Aviator鈥檚 glitzy interior has shiny bits of chrome, quality wood, and aluminum that make it feel special. The interior of the XT6 is screwed together tightly with fine fit and finish, but it doesn鈥檛 feel, or look, special. It looks like a premium vehicle, not a luxury vehicle.

2020 Cadillac XT6

2020 Cadillac XT6

It鈥檚 fine

The 2020 XT6 isn鈥檛 a bad vehicle. The soft, supple seats are supportive and all three rows can fit adults. My tester came with such amenities as night vision, heated and cooled front seats, an 8.0-inch driver information display, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and LED lighting. That鈥檚 a recipe for luxury.

Priced from $53,690 and very well equipped at $71,585 the XT6 has some stiff competition, ranging from the gorgeous 2020 Lincoln Aviator and 2020 Audi Q7 to the 2020 BMW X5. Buyers might also consider vehicles that cost far less but offer more swagger, like the 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Hyundai Palisade.

Management knows there鈥檚 an issue. On Wednesday, GM president Mark Reuss said to Car and Driver, 鈥淒o you think the Cadillac brand is in good shape? It鈥檚 not.鈥

It鈥檚 time for change at Cadillac. In April, the automaker will unveil an electric crossover SUV named Lyriq with a hand-built electric flagship fastback to follow at some point.

In the meantime, there鈥檚 the XT6, which could鈥檝e been a knock-out three-row crossover SUV based on a platform developed specifically for a luxury vehicle. Instead it鈥檚 a competent sibling to the 2021 Escalade that has no chance of stealing any of the big, bold SUV鈥檚 limelight.