Self-improvement is big business, promising change as part of the journey. Sometimes big improvements result, while other times the effort falls flat. Think of the 2017 Cadillac XT5 as emerging from a long stay at a tony health retreat, newly honed and toned inside and out, ready to do battle in a harshly competitive world—and with a new identity to boot. We rented a 2017 Cadillac XT5 all-wheel-drive Platinum trim from Cadillac to take a first look.

Built on an all-new platform, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 replaces Cadillac's top-selling model, the SRX. Like many contemporary GM redesigns, weight reduction was a primary goal. Indeed, when we put the XT5 on our scales, it came in more than 200 pounds less than the last SRX we tested, despite having more equipment. Reduced mass should aid drivability and fuel economy, which were never the SRX’s strong suits.

Also helping that cause is a new eight-speed automatic transmission, mated to the latest iteration of GM's corporate 3.6-liter, 310-hp V6 engine. Under light throttle, cylinder deactivation cuts fuel to two of the six cylinders. In addition, the engine start/stop system shuts the engine down when stopped, smoothly rebooting when needed. The available all-wheel-drive system can also be switched off to eke out a bit more savings; a dashboard prompt warns owners to turn the system back on in wintry conditions.

Power is plentiful and the engine revs smoothly. But we're getting spoiled by the low-end grunt packed by competitors' turbocharged engines, like the Lincoln MKX's twin-turbo EcoBoost 2.7-liter V6. The Cadillac lacks that feeling of immediacy. Likewise, while the transmission shifts smoothly, it can be indecisive at picking gears when putting around town. 

2017 Cadillac XT5 interior
Resplendent in wood, leather, detailed stitching, and chrome, the cabin of the 2017 Cadillac XT5 feels rich.

Don't think that losing weight sacrifices a substantial feel. Indeed, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 feels particularly steady and planted on the highway. Twisty roads are met with little protest, with precise steering and little body roll. Outside noises remain where they belong: outside. The result is a very quiet cabin, and the XT5 rides well despite the available large 20-inch wheels and tires. Some credit undoubtedly goes to the continuously-adjusting real-time damping suspension that comes with the big wheels.

Like the SRX's silhouette, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 employs a rakish look that proves challenging for driver visibility. Although it’s much easier to see out of than the SRX, visibility went from lousy to meh, rather than to great. Windshield pillars are pared down, but still on the thick side, and the chunky rear roof pillars and small back window reduce rear vision.

Cadillac throws technology at the problem, with a rear-view mirror camera (first seen on the Cadillac CT6) that displays a wide field of view. It's featured only on the top-level Platinum trim, and we're not willing to declare that this display is the solution. The display image isn't as sharp or precise as an actual mirror, and the otherwise self-cleaning cameras can be obscured by rain.

Nothing hides the decadent interior of our Platinum-trim sample. Resplendent in wood, leather, detailed stitching, and chrome, the cabin feels rich, especially with the sueded headliner that accompanies the top-trim Platinum guise. Superbly comfortable front seats feel soft at first touch, but supply long-trip support beneath. We do have some inside frustrations: the steering wheel should telescope out more, and the left foot rest is a bit too close for comfort. Cadillac's Cue touch-screen infotainment system has been simplified, but we still despise the touch-sensitive volume control. Is a volume knob really so outdated?

Contemporary safety equipment is available on all but the most basic trim line. A $770 Driver Awareness package adds forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic braking with pedestrian detection, automatic self-dimming high-beam headlights, and lane-departure warning with mitigation. Higher trims offer a $2,340 Driver Assist package that adds adaptive cruise control, self-parking capability, and automatic braking when reversing.

A mid-level SRX Luxury with all-wheel drive, upgraded paint (annoyingly, you pay extra for any color but silver), 20" wheels with the trick upgraded suspension, navigation, and the basic safety tech package stickers for $53,275. That falls directly in the crosshairs of the Lexus RX, the class sales juggernaut that boasts a well-deserved reputation for reliability. It also rivals the Acura MDX, which gives you a third-row seat, and the newly-refined Lincoln MKX.

Despite all of the competition, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 feels truly ready to do battle among this monied field. Starting with a clean sheet paid off here, no matter what you call this crossover.  

2017 Cadillac XT5 rear