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A red 2023 Cadillac XT6 is shown parked off-road.

Is the Cadillac XT6 a Better Buy Than the GMC Acadia Denali?

The Cadillac name has always been synonymous with high-end luxury, with this storied manufacturer sitting at the very pinnacle of GM’s carefully engineered family of brands. Early models like the Cadillac Sixteen earned the title “Standard of the World,” and the Cadillac Type 55 proved so reliable that the US Army took it with them through the deserts of Mexico and the trenches of World War I.

Over the years, models like the Eldorado, Brougham, and Escalade have continued the Cadillac legacy, serving as aspirational vehicles for generations of drivers. Today, Cadillac has developed a line of luxurious crossover SUVs to meet the needs of modern drivers, with the three-row 2023 Cadillac XT6 sitting at the top of the lineup.

However, recent years have seen domestic turmoil in the GM household. Once the outcast of the family, known for no-frills commercial vehicles and rebranded versions of Chevy trucks, GMC has seized on American drivers’ fascination with ever-larger vehicles in an attempt to usurp Cadillac’s position at the head of the dinner table.

The introduction of the luxurious Denali line in 1999 marked the opening salvo of GMC’s bid to move upmarket and outshine its senior brands. Now, every model GMC produces has its Denali variant, including crossovers like the three-row 2023 GMC Acadia. The question is, can these chromed-out upstarts compete with the refined luxury of Cadillac?

A white 2023 Cadillac XT6 is shown parked on a road.

A Family Resemblance

If you could look underneath the finely-crafted sheet metal of the Cadillac XT6 and GMC Acadia Denali, you’d see more than a passing resemblance. GM is well-known for sharing platforms between its many brands, and these three-row crossovers both ride on the C1XX platform (which is also borrowed by the Buick Enclave, although that premium option has largely been left in the dust by its Cadillac and GMC counterparts). However, they are not identical twins; Cadillac opted to stretch the basic platform, making the XT6 a good five inches longer and two inches wider than the Acadia for a more yacht-like feel.

Under the hood, these two SUVs offer the same powertrain options: your choice of either a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6L V6, both paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. However, the Cadillac version of the 2.0L engine produces 235 hp while the GMC variant only supplies 228 hp. Furthermore, while GMC makes the less-powerful 2.0L standard on the Acadia Denali, Cadillac sticks to the 3.6L V6 on all but the base Luxury trim. These are definitely points in Cadillac’s favor if you’re looking for a more engaging driving experience, but the differences don’t stop there.

While the 2023 Cadillac XT6 is very much not a performance vehicle—this is a three-row family SUV, after all—Cadillac has lent it some of the engineering brilliance that makes models like the CT5-V Blackwing shine. If you select the top Sport trim of the XT6, you will enjoy remarkable performance boosts like a Sport Control AWD system that can direct torque to individual rear wheels for greater control. This trim also comes with six-piston Brembo brakes that help bring this SUV’s bulk to a controlled stop, no matter your speed. Needless to say, similar features are nowhere to be found in the 2023 GMC Acadia Denali.

The black and brown interior and dash of a 2023 Cadillac XT6 is shown.

The Cadillac Touch

Cadillac’s influence truly becomes apparent when you compare the luxury features of these two vehicles. Climb inside the 2023 Cadillac XT6 and you’ll take advantage of all the comforts and conveniences you can imagine. On top of the available semi-aniline leather upholstery with chevron-perforated inserts, there is a French-stitched steering wheel, a suede microfiber headliner, and a leather-wrapped instrument panel, center console, and door trim. While the 2023 GMC Acadia Denali also offers perforated leather seats (what high-tier vehicle doesn’t, these days?), the rest of the interior feels much more mass-market than next-level luxury, with plenty of plastic in places Cadillac wouldn’t dare.

Comparing the technology in the XT6 and Acadia Denali is likewise a night-and-day affair. That is not to say GMC’s three-row luxury SUV is under-equipped—far from it. In the 2023 Acadia Denali, you can enjoy all the most modern features, from a color head-up display to high-definition surround vision; a wireless charging pad and wireless smartphone compatibility are also standard features of this high-end trim. But the 2023 XT6 goes even further and includes features you simply won’t find in many other vehicles. After driving it, you will understand why Cadillac was dubbed the Standard of the World.

For instance, while the Acadia Denali will let you listen to your favorite music through a premium eight-speaker sound system from Bose, the XT6 one-ups this accoutrement by offering a 14-speaker setup from the same legendary audio brand. And while GMC may have surround vision, Cadillac adds a surround vision recorder that will let you capture video from all of the vehicle’s exterior cameras; the XT6 can also be set to record video automatically when it senses movement while parked, or you can manually record video while driving if there are any events you want to capture.

A white 2023 Cadillac XT6 is shown parked on a driveway.

Making the Future a Reality

Two Cadillac-exclusive features are particularly worth mentioning: night vision and Super Cruise. If you have ever wanted to sit back and relax while your vehicle does all the work, Super Cruise makes that dream a reality. Simply activate the system while driving on any compatible highway, and the XT6 will take over steering, braking, and acceleration, giving you a true hands-free “drive.” While GMC now offers Super Cruise on the top-tier Sierra Denali and Yukon Denali, this sci-fi feature has yet to trickle down its lineup to crossover models like the Acadia Denali.

Night vision, on the other hand, can only be found in the Cadillac lineup. This uses a military-style forward-facing thermal imaging sensor to detect heat radiated by pedestrians and animals. When darkness reigns, the feed from the night vision sensor will display on the digital instrument cluster of the XT6, giving you a better picture of what’s on the road in front of you. This system even uses advanced algorithms to highlight potential dangers; if you often drive at night, you know just how difficult it can be to spot pedestrians and animals. You may just as well appreciate the thrill of being able to see in the dark.

It’s a Cadillac. Need We Say More?

While GMC might have successfully thrown off its reputation of olde and embraced its new position as a luxury option in the GM family, it has a long way to go before it can compete with Cadillac on equal footing. The Denali models are extremely well-equipped and will likely satisfy anyone who has not driven a “real” luxury vehicle. However, when it comes to setting the standard, Cadillac continues to reign supreme.

Even in models like the 2023 XT6, which shares its basic platform with the 2023 Acadia, Cadillac demonstrates how it goes further to deliver everything a driver could possibly desire. Sometimes this involves subtle upgrades, like the sophisticated Sport Control AWD system and Brembo brakes available on the XT6. Other times, it means adding sci-fi features like hands-free driving and thermal imaging to enhance the driving experience in ways no other manufacturer was even considering, raising the bar of what it means to be a luxury brand.

These details, large and small, show why Cadillac continues to sit at the head of the GM family.