Payne: Road tripping to a Georgia raceway in the Cadillac XT5

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 14, 2022

Braselton, Georgia — Three years ago, I watched here at Road Atlanta Raceway as a blood red, V-8-powered Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype streaked ahead of a snarling pack of IMSA race cars into Turn One on its way to a convincing victory at the Petit Le Mans 10-Hour endurance race.

The Cadillac was the class of the field.

This year I returned to Road Atlanta driving an XT5 SUV, the best-selling Caddy in the luxe maker’s lineup. There is an unmistakable similarity between the DPi-V.R and XT5. They share Caddy’s signature tear-drop headlights, vertical taillights and brand logo on the nose. And that’s about it.

These are the bookends of the Cadillac brand: the single-seat, 600-horsepower, championship-winning race car and the five-seat, entry-level luxury utility vehicle. They are part of Caddy’s multiple identities formed from navigating the crazy, shifting winds of the auto industry over the last decade.

How crazy? Consider: the DPi-V.R is the V-8-powered halo for the V-series CT4 and CT5 Blackwing sedans that are soon to be retired because Cadillac is going all-electric beginning with the Lyriq later this year — the model that will replace the XT5. Yet, Cadillac’s racing program will live on with a new, V-8-powered hybrid race car coming in 2023, the same model year as the battery-powered Lyriq. The race car will be the fiercest V-8 this side of a 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V.

Confused? Join the club. But as I drove through Road Atlanta’s gates in the XT5 — the ute loaded with four family members and our luggage — it had an undeniable cool factor.

Like a Porsche Macan or a BMW X3 or an Audi Q5, the Cadillac basks in the glow of its brand’s successful racing heritage.

Which is a good thing, because SUVs are really hard to tell apart. Indeed, my favorite compact SUV is the Mazda CX-5. Stuff it with all-wheel-drive, head-up display, 250-horse turbo-4 and leather seats, and it’s a $42,000 bargain. And its sleek styling echoes that of the Mazda RT24-P IMSA race car that, ahem, once competed against the Cadillac DPi-V.R.

At $70,365, my Caddy tester was loaded with similar features — plus.

The compact 022 Cadillac XT5 swallows luggage for Payne's family weekend trip in Atlanta.

My family and I were at Road Atlanta because we have a team of three sports racers that compete in amateur motorsport. “The Mitty” at Road Atlanta is one of the country’s most famous gatherings of classic race cars competing in classes from our 2-liter sportscar-class to Indy Lights open-wheel cars.

We loaded four carry-on suitcases, a briefcase, and backpack under the rear hatch with room to spare. We three Payne boys are all north of 6 feet and were able to sit comfortably behind ourselves — though I resisted the rear seat due to the compromised headroom caused by the panoramic roof.

Six-foot plus Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne fits comfortably in the back seat of the 2022 Cadillac XT5.

Our weekend round trip to Atlanta’s northeast Braselton exurb would cover some 350 miles, a peek at the challenge of Cadillac going all-electric this decade, led by the 312-mile range Lyriq. Our Best Western hotel had no charging stations. The only hotel in the area that did was a La Quinta with two, 240-volt Level 2 chargers. On a busy weekend’s racing schedule, only overnight charging made sense.

But with 462 miles of gas range and gas stations everywhere, we didn’t give the Caddy XT5’s fuel needs a second thought as I merged into 80 mph Atlanta interstate traffic for our 65-mile drive to Road Atlanta.

The 2022 Cadillac XT5 comes with a turbo-4 or this 310-horse V6.

With a 3.6-liter V-6 under the hood, the XT5 Sport model spits out a healthy 310 horsepower (an upgrade from the car’s standard, 235-horse turbo-4). But the engine is EV-quiet — a stealthy attribute I came to appreciate when I broadcast my Car Radio Show on 910 AM-Detroit from the Caddy’s interior. On Saturday. In the middle of a loud race track.

The quiet cabin made a superb radio studio.

On road, the XT5 is competent but didn’t inherit any DPi-V.R DNA. Which is just as well given the groceries we stored in back — and the grocery bag we put in the XT5’s useful, sub-console storage space.

Wireless Apple CarPlay proved wonky on our trip so we connected the phone via cord for navigation. The dash design is tasteful, though it won’t impress those looking for fashionable, expansive dash screens. The smallish, 8-inch console screen was useful for tight parking in the Road Atlanta paddock.

The cockpit of the 2022 Cadillac XT5 will give way to the screen-dominated, next-gen interior of the Lyriq EV.

The $2,275 tech package offers a bird’s-eye view of the SUV as well as crisp forward-and-rear cameras. Racers tend to leave body parts on the ground — tires, car noses, drills — so the cameras came in handy for parking in the paddock.

In addition to the action on track, the Road Atlanta grounds attracted thousands of spectators — some of them queuing in Shelby Cobras, Acura NSXs, Porsches, Corvettes and so on.

I saw a classic, bling-tastic, 1950s Cadillac Eldorado — an icon the fancy Lyriq intends to recreate. The XT5? Not so much. It will never achieve Eldorado’s legendary status, but it offers a comfortable daily driver experience . . . so you can go check out cousin DPi-V.R when it comes to your local race track.

Next week: 2022 Audi RS3

2022 Cadillac XT5 Sport

Vehicle type: All-wheel drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $57,090 including $1,195 destination charge ($70,365 AWD Sport as tested)

Powerplant: 3.6-liter V-6

Power: 310 horsepower, 271 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.5 seconds (Motor Trend est.); towing capacity, 3,500 pounds as tested

Weight: 4,338 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 18 mpg city/26 highway/21 combined; 463 miles range

Report card

Highs: Distinctive looks; good storage

Lows: Aging interior design; gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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