Thom Cannell Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com December 6, 2018 Last month Chevrolet invited us to test the Chevrolet Bison, a ZR2 derivative with distinctive upgrades that add to its already solid off road capabilities. Built off the already-capable Z7R2, American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) provided the collaborative additions that created Bison. It retains the class-exclusive front and rear locking differentials from ZR2, and high-zoot Multimatic DSSV dampers. The design of the Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers uses hollow cylindrical sleeves instead of familiar discs. These were used first on race cars including Champ cars, LeMans prototypes and F1 They provide superb off road damping, particularly on rough trails where they offer greater passenger comfort. Getting to the grit of it, a pickup is hard-pressed to have the approach angle of a Jeep, and impossible for a production bed to provide a really short departure. Nonetheless, Bison does a very good job of going over rocks. One of the AEV additions is a set of five hot-stamped Boron-steel skid plates to protect the oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case and front and rear locking differentials, which we tested extensively. “As this is the first Chevrolet vehicle we’ve given the AEV treatment to,” said Dave Harriton, founder and president of AEV, “we wanted to do something special with the industry’s first use of hot-stamped Boron steel.” We think he’s referring to the off-road industry, as hot stamped High Strength Steel is the basis for modern crash-worthy chassis. However, those skid plates kept the rocks out of our oil pan. Some of the Bison upgrades are more cosmetic than necessary, like replacing the bowtie grille a free-flowing CHEVROLET front grille, Bison decals on the bedsides and an AEV Bison logo on the tailgate plus an embroidered AEV on the floor liners and front head rests. Branding, eh? Performance-oriented changes include the stamped steel front and rear bumpers. The front bumper allows adding a winch (would you go off roading without a winch??), fog lamps and integrated recovery points. As a truck designed to venture deep into open spaces, Chevy added 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires mounted on Bison-specific 12x8-inch aluminum wheels. We tested those, too, and they have plenty of grip on rocks, and in loose dirt. Note that the ZR2 cast-iron control arms and Autotrac transfer case are retained, along with the ZR2’s 3.42:1 axle ratio and front/rear tracks wider by 3.5-inches. Compared to a ZR1, Bison is lifted by two-inches. Our test vehicle was powered by the new 2.8-liter Duramax diesel (186 hp., 369 lb.-ft.) mated to a six-speed transmission. It was the crew cab model; with the short bed which including some AEV upgrades. On our highway drive towards an off-road park, we noted that the Bison was extremely quiet, and not just “quiet, for a truck”. No, it was quiet for any kind of vehicle, including a Cadillac. After switching the transfer case into 4WD-high, we bucked our way towards the promised bigger challenges. Along our trail—nothing extreme but way off the beaten path—we again noted there hadn’t been a single squeak, rattle, or buzz. The only odd sounds in the cabin were from the zippers on our camera bags. Bison’s frame is stiff; there’s no tweaking, everything is absolutely tight. There was no way to call out the suspension and its Multimatic spool-valve-type dampers, however the suspension was supple on the rough trail. Another noise-related note, we picked up no rock noise in the wheel wells despite being pushed around by potholes, rocks and dips. We might as well have been on the freeway, from a noise perspective. Our truck had almost every American Expedition accessory available. There were LED fog or trail-search lights on the hood, a ladder rack and a storage bin system mounted below a false bed. We only lacked the Baja-style intake snorkel. The bolted-on roof rack may have added stiffness to the already ultra-stiff box frame, which allowed the suspension do its work. Watching the vehicles ahead of us, we could see how steady the beds were, and how much the suspension was working. For a stock vehicle, there was plenty of travel available. Bison has a solid rear axle and independent front suspension, and there is a divide among off roaders and rock climbers as to whether a solid axle or independent rear suspension is better. Rock climbers seem to prefer solid rear axles. We thought the ZR2-based Bison chassis with a Duramax diesel made off roading almost a no-challenge event. The diesel engine was totally on-point with torque, needing only a light application of brakes for stability when balancing on rocks. Comparatively, those who had the standard V-6 gasser had a harder time of it, using more throttle to obtain torque, then having to feather the throttle and brake to stay on track. If you've never done rock crawling, you must apply power to get up, apply brake to stop, before being guided down in the correct direction. Yeah, it's really hard to see the front wheels through the engine. One of the options Chevy will offer through dealers is a shorter, cut off exhaust tip. We strongly recommend this if you’re going rock crawling. Many of us “modified” the longer exhaust tips when crawling off rocks. After crawling a rock canyon we grouped to head for lunch. Parked on a hill with loose sand and the tranny set in 4WD high, there wasn't enough traction. Locking the rear differential made climbing the hill as simple as stepping on the throttle, in that low traction situation. Having complete control over axles and each wheel made off roading and rock crawling easy, even for beginners. Note that, in our opinion, the Duramax doesn't deliver optimum fuel economy for the Bison. It's good, but not great. Where it shines is in torque availability for off roading. We can see the Bison with Duramax as a perfect combination for off road camping, adventuring, and modest towing. It's quiet. While on our rock crawls, there was never a sound from the chassis, no wracking, graunching, squeaks or rattles other than when we skidded over rock on those Boron steel protectors. It was billet solid. In fact, we'd go so far as to say our Bison was quieter than a standard Silverado and totally ready for any off road adventure. Interested in the Colorado ZR2? Join the GM-Trucks.com Colorado ZR2 Facebook Group!
ThomCannell posted a topic in The GarageThom Cannell Contributor, GM-Trucks.com November 26th, 2018 Out of the gate you have to be asking the same question as we, “A four-cylinder engine in a truck? My Silverado?" Forget that the engine is rated at 21-combined EPA fuel economy rating, similar to base V-6 engines from Ford’s (3.3.L) and Ram (3.6 with a light hybrid system). Forget that the all-new 2.7-liter engine makes more power and torque than the LV3 4.3-liter V-6 and has accumulated over one million test miles in development. Just forget it…But…Like you, we stumbled over the entire concept. For answers to what some in the industry see as a profound mistake, we turned to those directly involved in its inception since a pen was put to paper, more likely a stylus set to a digital tablet at GMs Global Propulsion Systems in Pontiac, Michigan. Read Thom's 2019 Silverado 2.7L First Drive Impressions Here Kevin Luchansky is the assistant chief engineer for the new 2.7L turbo and formerly was the group manager over all valve train and cam drives. Our interview began with his statement, “This valve train is, we believe, industry leading and industry first.” He is, of course, referring to the Tripower system of cylinder deactivation that lets this engine run on just two cylinders. We’ll get to that. A very happy and proud Kevin Luchansky, a critical member of the 2.7-liter engine team. Since pen was put to paper, development has taken approximately five years, three years since metal, and it was specifically developed as an all-new truck engine from inception. Our first question was what you’d ask, “Kevin, why a four-cylinder in a light-duty truck?” That’s a good question,” Kevin responded, “and it’s all about efficiency. A few years ago we started to look at how to make the most efficient, most fun-to-drive package we can offer our customers, … and to provide what we think the customer would want. This four-cylinder (engine) provides us with excellent torque response. On this engine torque is near instant, less than two seconds at 1,500 rpm is very, very good. In order to accomplish this, we looked at several things. The fact that you've got big cylinder displacement allows us to design the dual-volute turbo that we have, keep the (exhaust) pulses separated and allow the turbo to spool very quickly. Also, we were able to package the turbo on the four-cylinder in an ideal location. It's mounted sort of midway up on the engine and directly in the center. If you know much about engines and exhaust systems, effectively we had equal length from every cylinder to the turbo.” We asked about the competition, which is a hard fact. “This engine is the base engine on the LT, the new RST and competes with Ford’s 3.3L and Ram’s 3.6L. This engine provides a lot of torque down low, much more than the competition. We're excited for our marketing-drive events where folks can compare those applications, because this (powertrain) is significantly more powerful down low and is fun to drive because of massive torque down low.” Note that there remains confusion about this motor versus Ford’s 2.7-liter. Though of similar displacement, GM’s engine was designed as a base engine for light duty trucks. Ford’s is a premium high-performance motor. Apples and oranges. The new engine had to meet objectives in fuel economy, power, weight saving. After all, an engine program costs tens of millions of dollars. The new motor is 80 pounds lighter than the 4.3-liter V-6 engine it replaces. That motor will remain available as the base engine in Work Trucks. “We feel we are offering customers great choices with all the powertrain combinations we have. We provide six different powertrain options starting with the 4.3L V-6 and an AFM version (8 cylinders/4 cylinders) version of the 5.3L for the work truck options. Then we step up to the LT, with the 2.7-liter and 8-speed, and you can upgrade to the 5.3 with Dynamic Fuel Management where engine runs on eight cylinders down to two, whatever it needs for optimum displacement and paired with the 8-speed transmission. Then the 6.2-liter paired with the 10-speed in the upper versions like Trail Boss, and 3.0-liter diesel in some models.” One of the prime directives for the new engine was durability. “I'd like to talk about some of the hardware in the 2.7-liter, from a durability perspective. This engine is not a car engine we've taken and put a turbo on to make a lot of power. This engine was specifically designed for this application, for these cylinder pressures, a lot like a diesel engine. If you think about diesel engines, there are four-cylinder heavy-duty diesel engines available. This engine was designed similarly. If you look at the details, the hardware is similar to what you'd find in a light-duty diesel. Like the piston, which has a cast iron ring carrier that holds the top ring; that's much different than a standard naturally aspirated engine. That cast iron ring carrier can handle the high pressures that a downsized turbocharged engine produces, and makes the piston very durable.” Pistons use a cast-in iron top ring carrier for durability against high in-cylinder pressures. It’s noticeable as less reflective in the chromed display cutaway. Kevin says the program spent good money on seemingly small things, like PVD coated rings. Physical Vapor Deposition coatings are very hard coatings that reduce wear. Piston crowns in the 2.7-liter are 100-percent machined for long-term durability. “The point I want to make is that, in terms of rotating and reciprocating parts is, there was no expense spared in making this a very durable engine. For instance, this is the strongest connecting rod we've ever designed for a gas engine, a tri-metal design. It has a forged steel crankshaft, and rod and main bearings are select-fit, as seen in many light-duty diesel engines. This is for excellent wear resistance and debris resistance. There was no holding back on picking the best parts the industry has to offer.” By now you’ve likely looked at some of the power and torque charts. Torque holds at nearly 90-percent almost to the red line, with matching horsepower. “It holds on pretty good,” Kevin responded. “It makes 310 horsepower at peak, but doesn't really roll off dramatically. That makes it fun to drive, very linear.” Though its published "time-to-torque" of two seconds seems long until you count “One and Two”, it’s not much different from other engines. “Let me explain. Time to torque is an industry standard test for turbos, where you hold the engine at 1,500 rpm on a dyno and don't allow it to go up in speed. You go from zero throttle to maximum and start the count. Then you count how quickly the engine achieves 90-percent of torque. It's (a test of) how fast the turbo responds, as 1,500 rpm is where the engine spends a lot of time in its operation. The best way to think of it is, with a manual transmission and you stepped into the pedal, how fast to you get torque. Two seconds is pretty quick.” Of course this introduces questions about the dual-volute turbocharger, which is a technology sometimes seen in diesels, and with a different design than other twin-scroll turbos. “Response is all the dual-volute turbo, one Borg Warner has just released and is an industry first application. Dual-volutes are, effectively, two chambers or two separated exhaust "screws or scrolls". What you see is the integrated exhaust manifold, which does a few things for us. One is provide heat, taking heat away from the turbo when it begins to get hot. That helps us with efficiency at high loads, like towing. You can see that we've paired the center cylinders together, so cylinders two and three are paired, then cylinders one and four are paired together. What that does is make equal firing order (firing order is 1-3-4-2) so you get, basically, even pulses and they are completely separated all the way to the turbine wheel, and we've separated them as far as possible, 180° apart from one-another. That's what the industry first really is. There are dual-scroll turbos that exist in high volume, but they come together at the same point at the turbine wheel, which means you can have exhaust gas bleed over from the cylinder that's firing to the cylinder that's not firing. Keeping them separated as far as we have done provides a very strong pulse hitting the turbine blades. That's how we get the fast spooling; it's pretty neat!” Borg Warner’s dual-volute turbo uses fixed geometry instead of a variable (VGT) design. The ducts, one inside the other, wrap around concentrically with the inner channel wrapping half way around before its gasses hit the turbine wheel, the outer volute wraps an extra 180° before its stream of gas strikes the turbine. “For example, if you put your two fingers together, that's what a typical twin-scroll would resemble, each dumps into the turbo and you can have cross talk,” Kevin explained. “That reduces efficiency as cross talk reduces gas pressure to the turbo. Also, this turbo is very aerodynamically efficient at low rpm.” “What I can't stress enough is that we have focused this engine on low-speed torque delivery. You should be impressed with how much torque is available, and that gets back to efficiency and drivability. If you have lag, you'll press on the gas pedal more. If we provide instant torque the driver doesn't go as deeply into the throttle, which produces better real-world fuel economy. Our new engines are focused on low-speed torque delivery. The big four-cylinder engine arrangement allows for good gas flow separation and equal lengths to the turbo - it's harder to do that with other engine architectures. By this time we were itching to talk about the novel valve train, which GM has called Tripower (when we first heard that name we thought, Pontiac’s three two-barrel carbs?) So, Kevin, what is the new Tripower? It's simple in concept; a single pin shifts the cam's lobes to produce differing lift profiles. What we've done is, couple cylinders one and two and cylinders three and four, so the first are on one slider in this four-valve overhead cam engine. There are three lobes, the high-lift lobe, a low-lift and a no-lift lobe (Note that cylinder one is the cylinder that never de-activates so it has only low-lift lobes). Between the lobes is the shifting groove geometry. We have two pins in the actuator, one moves in one direction, the other in opposition. The way the pins work, one pin drops in and shoves over one lift, the other pin drops in and moves to the next. So, in two cam rotations we can go from high-lift to AFM cylinder de-activation. The first rotation would go from high-lift to low-lift, the next rotation would go from low-lift to AFM. It's extremely fast. We can be in AFM for fuel efficiency, and if the driver steps into the throttle we can get to high-lift within two rotations and at the same time the turbocharger is spooling. Within a few seconds the engine goes from fuel miser to making peak torque. It's really neat and seamless to the driver. The changes are imperceptible. It's simple, and robust.” Kevin points to one of two of the electronically activated fingers that move cam lobes into position for, either high-lift, low-lift, and no-lift, the later for Dynamic Fuel Management. GM is maintaining its own control over the system, the camshaft is machined in-house, “from billets of the best steel money can buy. A neat process and very robust parts and they're like jewelry when you see them on someone's desk.” Moving along, we asked about thermal management. It seems most manufacturers are using electric pumps for power management and variability. “For the 2.7, it all starts with an electric water pump. We're able to control it from basically zero pump speed to maximum. The pump is completely decoupled from the engine, which allows us to flow what the engine and other components require, including cabin heating. Turbo placement is important; the pump is down low relative to the turbo, which we'll get to. The dual-volute turbo is cooled by oil, and by water. The water is either moved by thermocycling, or pumped. Lot of people have had experience with older turbos, and our engine has both oil and water-cooling. What is neat about the four-cylinder engine and turbo placement is, you can see there is a feed line (water) that goes in to the turbo and out of the turbo and they head upward. That provides natural thermal cycling. If that's not enough, we can turn the pump on to keep the turbo cool. 80's turbos didn't have coolant, only oil, and there was lots of oil coking issues. We've designed this engine for a truck, and the devil is in the details. We paid attention to issues like cooling to drive durability.” If you’re into deep tech, or run a parts department, the pump is a brushless DC pump, and completely controlled by the ECU. Kevin says the system, the block and the head, are completely separate in their coolant systems, so, a split cooling system. “When the engine starts, there's a lot of heat in the integrated exhaust manifold. We have a pipe directly off it and we use it for exhaust heat recovery. From an efficiency standpoint, we heat the oil in the transmission and engine to get them rapidly up to operating temperature to reduce friction. What that means for the driver, it makes the engine and transmission hotter, quicker, for friction reduction, cabin heat and emissions control. Though not part of our discussion, the oil cooler is water cooled. The other thing the pump allows us to do is over-cooling unrelated to the engine speed. For instance if you're running at a light load and suddenly tip-in with the throttle and ask for a lot of torque, we can quickly force coolant at a faster speed than if the pump was attached to the crankshaft. We can overcool the cylinder head, forcing coolant into the hottest part of the head, and in turbocharged engines that reduces knock, an efficiency enabler. Remember, this is an 87-Octane engine running at 10:1 compression ratio, high for a turbocharged engine.” Injection pressure is 3,000 psi as the industry moves to higher and higher pressures. It uses mechanical (solenoid) injectors that can deliver multiple injections. There’s also a fully variable oil pump, which means it is always right-volume for the given engine condition. It's controlled by the ECU to deliver the correct oil volume under any condition. And, we confirmed that the block is high-pressure die-cast aluminum with cast-in iron liners and made in-house. The cylinder head is aluminum from a semi-permanent mold, and also made in-house. “It's all machined in-house and the engine is built in Spring Hill, Tennessee. There’s a lot of USA content in this engine.” Some of the engine's technologies focused on City fuel economy, as well as high-load conditions. “The combustion system is designed for either condition and allows us to run 87-Octane fuel. Stop-Start works well for city fuel economy, as does as Active Fuel Management and Active Thermal Management. Hidden are the friction reduction steps we've taken like the electric pumps, select-fit tri-metal bearings and a low-friction roller chain, driving the camshafts. That’s for durability, and it's relatively immune from stretching.” The engine uses driven chains to operate cams. No cogged belts for durability and long life. One other comment on durability; we run the same durability schedules as any small-block truck engine because it is a truck. Don't think we skimped on durability testing; it's as durable as the legendary small block. What we did not know prior to our interview, Kevin was the architect on the engine, putting the first lines on paper five years ago. "This was one of my ideas, and they said why don't you go and execute it." Kevin, we’re honored to know you.
ThomCannell posted a topic in The GarageThom Cannell Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com November 23rd, 2018 What makes a Silverado a Silverado? The thing is, regardless of our love of V-8 power and torque; V-6 engines are the heart of the truck market. Well, Chevrolet says they are. Read Thom's 2.7L Deep Dive A few days ago, in Scottsdale, Arizona, we put this proposition to the test, logging miles in a 2019 Silverado powered by the all-new 2.7-liter designed-for-trucks engine. And, as Doug Marcaida might exclaim, "This engine will run!" Arriving on site, we were greeted by competing vehicles from Ford and Ram. The Ford was powered by its 3.3-liter V-6, the Ram by its 3.6-liter V-6. Before setting foot in a Silverado we took those competitors for a spin to see what Chevrolet—and GMC—are up against. As you know, Chevrolet has six engines available for Silverado, the older 4.3-liter motor, two versions of the venerable 5.3-liter, one with simple cylinder deactivation, the other with full Dynamic Fuel Management, the 6.2-liter gas engine and a 3.0-liter Duramax diesel. The diesel and 6.2L are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission with stop-start, and others use 8-speed automatics. As Chevy’s business strategy encompasses High Value (Work, Custom, Custom Trail Boss), High Volume (LT, RST, LT Trail Boss) and High Feature (LTZ, High Country) segments, you can see where value customers—mostly fleets—will use the V-6. LE and RST customers will have a wide choice of engines, as will the luxury crowd. Some of that choice revolves around chrome-plated emotions. Back in January, at the launch of the new Silverado, Rich Scheer director, Exterior Design, Chevrolet Trucks said, "Chrome has become more polarizing, and more personal, than any other aspect of truck design. Some customers want no chrome at all and only body-color or blacked-out trim. Others feel a truck isn’t a truck without chrome bumper, but feel extra chrome can be too 'flashy.' Others want as much chrome as they can get." Our Red Hot RST with Jet Black seating fell into the no-chrome zone, the only bright work being on the bowtie, nameplate and bright alloy wheels. We didn’t feel the lack of chrome detracted from its handsome appearance. The all-new 2.7-liter truck engine was specifically designed for Silverado and Sierra (and we're sure several other trucks, soon), and meant to deliver value, which is defined as durability, reliability, performance and fuel economy. The 2.7L is the standard engine for High Volume LT and RST where it delivers 310 horsepower, 348 SAE-certified torques, which is 22-percent more than the 4.3L V-6. There’s no skimping on comparable power. We think one of the selling points to customers (and management) is the new engine’s EPA rated fuel economy of 20 mpg in the city, 23 on-highway and 20 mpg combined. Notice the high rating for city, where many lifestyle trucks reside. The other thing that’s easily overlooked is the essentially flat torque curve from off-idle 1,500 to 4,000. Equally neglected is that torque doesn’t drop off at 4,000, instead knocking out about 300 lb.-ft. at 5,000 rpm. In other words, it is a solid powerhouse right to the redline. Some facts we didn’t stuff into our engine story are the Direct Injection and the 10:1 compression ratio that enables. We did touch on the integrated exhaust manifold and how it has a separate in-head cooling system, and that using predictive algorithms the electric water pump can push cool water into the head as soon as you mash the throttle. We also skipped over the charge-air cooler, intercooler to some, with a very low restriction rate and ability to lower intake air temperature by 130°F. Our notes from driving the competitive vehicles reminded us that the Ford 3.3L in a XLT trim is pleasant, fairly quiet, competent, and under vigorous acceleration feels somewhat leisurely. It gets the job done—with no load. We were surprised by steering pushback from smooth-road imperfections. The Ram Big Horn had a huge display and more modern IP/IC resembling an expensive watch face. Ram has always biased its gear set for impressive launch off the line, so felt more powerful than Ford. We did note tinny controls on steering wheel. Overall, Ram Big Horn was more pleasing, though acceleration produced greater drama than Ford. We didn’t drive the current 4.3L due to time constraints, so can’t offer a head-to-head comparison. What owners will expect of this powertrain—and please think, "what happens when I step on the long black pedal"—is power, durability, power, reliability, power, and of course, power. In Phoenix downtown traffic, hitting almost every stoplight, the new 2.7L and its 8-speed moved ahead briskly, easily keeping up with traffic with only mid-throttle application. The engine just works. It's happy and strong, and on two-lane highways where passing is important it spools up quickly and does its job. You do get some engine noise of course, but with far less drama than other base engines. Outside Phoenix, on the back roads where we could do Wide Open Throttle runs, the 2.7-liter revved somewhat higher than a larger engine might, and with a different kind of engine sound that wasn’t intrusive or thrashing. If we were idling at 1,500 rpm and then accelerating briskly, we got a somewhat noticeable lag that's similar to any engine's transmission kick-down lag-time. However, if we had any pre-existing power, for instance when climbing steep grades or prepping for passing, then there was no lag between throttle and acceleration. Overall, it feels like a pleasant base engine and we are certain we'll see it in other vehicles. Official EPA for our RST was 21 Overall, 20 City, and 23 Highway with an axle ratio of 3.42. That is a standard towing ratio, not a high fuel mileage ratio attempting to bias the fuel economy figures. We’ve seen that, haven’t we? There’s no cheating, no fudging, so those EPA mileage figures are in the ballpark. Again, it's a real truck, a real truck engine. If you’re wondering about cost, our RST with 43% Made In USA parts, listed at $50,625 including $1,495 destination. We had $7,630 worth of options like Bose audio, HD rear vision camera, aluminum wheels, 10-way adjustable seats, the Safety Package of backup and forward assist, trailer hitch, etc., all the cool stuff you'll likely add to your truck. Our final thoughts, the all-new 2.7-liter should not be compared with a 6.2L V-8 that transforms a Silverado into a Corvette with a bed. However, it is an engine that will knock your socks off when thinking of the technology that makes a relatively small turbocharged engine effectively and reliably move a truck.
Thom Cannell Contributing Writer, GM-Trucks.com 9/18/18 A vehicle is, or should be, a harmony of family value, social responsibility and transportation goodness. XT4, Cadillac’s newest and smallest SUV, earns high marks in each area. Likes Overall styling stays true to Cadillac, with signature front and rear lighting. Interior leather, woods, engineered polymers that fit together precisely. The 2.0-liter engine is a powerhouse, as well as an engineering marvel. GM’s 9-speed transmission is seamless, delivers precise gear changes without hiccoughs’. Nifty rotary controller and four-point touch control keeps eyes on the road, not on the screen. CDC damping system belongs on every car, truck CUV or SUV we’d want to own. Or something like it that would haul a ton off road. Dislikes Goofy shifter logic: too many counter-intuitive button pushes to get from Park to Drive. Goofier Manual mode (though we like the paddle shifters). Have to push buttons in, and out. Equally questionable video mirror. Great if you have under-thirty eyes with no correction. Otherwise visually daunting. To pirate a phrase, “What’s in Your Driveway”? A Denali, a Silverado, an Escalade? Would a Cadillac be at home, or out of place next to your working truck? We think the 2019 Cadillac XT4 would fit in where others might not. XT4 competes with Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and Volvo XC40. Several things make it stand out among the competition. These are: all-new chassis; all-new and most-powerful- in-segment powertrain; solid infotainment/telematics; and a comfortable interior with real backseat leg room. The 2019 Cadillac XT4 design team “Was young, and given the task of designing a vehicle for themselves; a small Cadillac crossover,” according to Robin Krieg, lead exterior designer. Hence the crisp lines and hidden aero tweaks that lurk at most corners, like the subtle detent supporting the rear window. Most distinctive are the signature “7” DRLs and taillights. Those transparent-wrapped taillights, by the way, shouldn’t have been available in North America, “But once we saw how the clear covering accented the jewel-like LED lighting, it had to be kept.” That near loss is due to XT4 being a global vehicle designed for the streets of Amsterdam and Beijing and their vehicle rules, as well as Detroit. There three XT4s, each aimed at separate audiences. Should you live in the City and plan never to stray, to find mud or a wicked two-lane road to travel, the Luxury or Premium Luxury version is your match. If the reverse is true, that you like to drive and plan to enjoy driving swiftly, the Sport model is yours. We think that, beyond the luxury surfaces of leather, fine woods, killer infotainment and rock-solid stereo, the real story is under the hood and between the wheels. The 2019 Cadillac XT4 is the first to use what GM calls Tripower (Pontiac fans, dial 911), a system that provides two different valve-lift profiles and AFM or Active Fuel Management that can—briefly—shut off two cylinders. That makes the 2.0-liter into a 1.0-liter two-cylinder motor! Engine specifications boarder on fantastic and race-car like at 118.5 horsepower per liter. This small engine delivers 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That torque is amazing, coming on barely off idle at 1,500 and heading out to 4,000 rpm. Underfoot there’s nearly 80-percent torque at 1,000 rpm and nearly 90-percent of maximum all the way out to 5,000. Engineers actually had difficulty making the XT4 calmly driveable at tip-in! Tripower uses electrically controlled fingers and electrical controls to move splined sections of the cam into one of two profiles, or off. That yields high-lift power or medium-lift economy. And it bolts up a twin-scroll turbocharger with electric waste gate for precise control. Every 2019 XT4 is mated to a 9-speed transmission with deep 7.6:1 gear span; the first gear is deep, 4.69:1 at launch and 0.62:1 in top gear. It is killer-smooth in auto-magic or “manual”. The new 2.0L is 15 pounds lighter than its predecessor, which was among the best in the world. It uses advanced thermal management to eek out every whiff of fuel economy, for instance by warming oil quickly by controlling engine coolant and an oil pump that is continuously variable. On launch events like this, people partner to drive, ours was Executive Editor Zane, who became ill. Our replacement was Bill Patterson, XT4 chief engineer; immediate auto-geek heaven! Exiting our immodest accommodations in Seattle’s Four Seasons, we took our first street-level look at a Premium Luxury XT4. First impressions are important. Immediately noticed after opening the rear door of the XT4 Premium was the leather. “Nice, very nice”, we thought. The surface had a new-old look about it, like the authentic WW II bomber jacket you've coveted but never could justify. It has good feel to the hand (and backside), elegant stitching to connect panels, and everywhere was excellent fit-and-finish. Some of the very cool details include: 8” high-def navi/infotainment screen; rotary controller zooms the Nav; four buttons surrounding the rotary control call up Nav, audio, phone, backup; Amazon in-car package delivery; a smart phone infotainment layout on the main screen with a summary view (audio, phone, Nav); 4-user LTE hotspot; Apple Car Play—Android Auto compatibility; OnStar safety net. Bill was enthusiastic about the 2019 Cadillac XT4 and its details, like how ST4 uses High Strength Steel in the door rings for passenger protection and in the engine cradle for more-connected driving feel, as well as extensive adhesive bonding for strength and NVH. He also described the Macpherson strut suspension on all cars and the isolated 5-link rear suspension. When we stopped on a hill, Bill pointed out the Hill Hold control that allowed an multi-minute extend hold before the brake (or Park) needed to be engaged. Being truck enthusiasts, we found the Premium Luxury to feel, on the highway, very controlled and isolated, delivering a modern Cadillac ride that was quite firm. We tried all the suspension options: Tour, AWD and AWD Sport. As soon as we departed the freeway, Sport mode it was. Several things were clear. This was not the vehicle for us. Too tame and too luxurious—which is sort of funny, it being a luxury vehicle event. We noted plenty of trunk room for our gear, made possible by an all-new platform that’s now exclusive to Cadillac, which delivers the large rear seat volume and rear passenger leg room, as well. FYI an entry Luxury XT4 has an MSRP of $35,790; the Premium Luxury starts at $40,290, as does the Sport. So, our Premium Luxury was equipped with the 18” alloys, aluminum roof rack and Silver Metallic lower bodyside moldings. Option packages that you will want rapidly bring the total closer to an MSRP of $45,000. That’s competitive in the segment. After lunch we switched to a Sport Model. It had a distinctive gloss-black grille, gloss black roof rails, thicker steering wheel, plenty of safety electronics (shared with the Premium) like lane change alert, blind side alert, rear cross-traffic alert. And, an inside rear-view mirror that is either rear camera video screen or standard mirror. If you wear glasses, likely you’ll choose standard; it’s a near-far focus thing. Let’s quantify that nice-to-drive feel that either model exhibits. The XT4's suspension damping on XT4 Sport feels more connected and aggressive than the Premium Luxury version. However, the Sport’s steering effort and body lean are, in anything but Sport mode, shared with the Premium Luxury version. We think that, other than on long commutes, we'd leave the body controller set on AWD Sport for everyday use. We found no value, other than steering feel, in leaving the controller set in Sport. We asked Bill what the trade-offs might be. "In AWD and AWD Sport there would be zero fuel economy difference. But, between FWD and AWD (either AWD setting), there would be approximately one mile per gallon greater fuel consumption in AWD." So, it would be a personal choice to give up that one MPG for firmer chassis control and better steering feel. Which would apply to both Premium Luxury and Sport models. How, you ask, does Cadillac achieve their all wheel drive with FWD option? To perform that trick, there's de-coupler in the drive shaft that severs the rear axle and differential from the power train to wrest every bit of fuel economy your driving style can provide. For XT4 Sport, Cadillac chose a road-reading damping system called Continuous Damping Control or CDC. It’s an active system, reading and adjusting to the road 500 times per second. You may recall that GM pioneered a very precise damping system using magnetorheological fluid to adjust damping with extreme precision. Cadillac chose CDC over MR for XT4. It was simple economics, as MR’s nearly semi-active properties aren't necessary for a CUV, as they are for V-Series Cadillacs. While driving twisting two-lane roads, deep in the hills surrounding Seattle, Wash., there was simply no choice, Sport mode it was. The exclusive CDC suspension felt so much more planted in spirited, mildly aggressive driving, building grip without harshness. There was directness to the chassis that went from heels, to hands, to butt, and heft to the steering feel absent in other modes, and in the Premium. Yeah, we really liked the XT4 Sport. Yes, we’d like more feedback from tires telling us what surface they were gripping. But, there's direct connection between eyes, steering wheel and direction. No problem making the XT4 go where it should, when it should. And that's likely at a greater speed than you'd be driving if your kids, or spouse, were in the car. In fact, dare we say, the 2019 Cadillac XT4 is "BMW-ish" without that extra edge that many find harsh for day-to-day driving pleasure. That, either version of the XT4 will deliver, it all depends on your needs. 2019 Cadillac XT4 First Drive Photo Gallery
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