The 2020 Cadillac XT6’s Roundabout Ride to the Top in Safety Ratings

Dark red 2020 Cadillac XT6 rear angle view 2020 Cadillac XT6 | photo by Mike Hanley

When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety first tested the 2020 Cadillac XT6 using its 2019 criteria, the three-row SUV was named a Top Safety Pick, the insurance-industry-backed crash-safety advocate’s second-highest award. For 2020, IIHS revised its award criteria and, now, the 2020 XT6 is a 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus, IIHS’ highest safety award. Both the 2019 and 2020 designations only apply to XT6 models built after October 2019.

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Here’s what happened: In 2019, the model-year 2020 XT6 (at least, those built after October 2019) aced all six of IIHS’ crashworthiness tests: driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. In each of those tests, post-October 2019 XT6es earned the requisite score of good on a scale of good, acceptable, marginal and poor.

The 2019 and 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus criteria required a score of good in all six of those tests. Thus, the 2020 XT6 qualified in both years. Still with us?

A second component of IIHS’ testing is available front crash prevention systems, which are rated on a scale of superior, advanced or basic. In 2019, to earn a Top Safety Pick Plus, a vehicle’s system needed to score superior or advanced in vehicle-to-vehicle crash-prevention testing, which both the standard and optional systems in the XT6 did. For 2020, IIHS expanded the testing to include vehicle-to-pedestrian front-crash prevention, and the XT6’s two systems both scored superior in that testing. In both years, the XT6 would be two-thirds of the way toward a Top Safety Pick Plus. 

The third and final component of IIHS testing is headlight testing, where the various standard or available headlights of a vehicle are rated on the same scale as vehicle crashworthiness (good, acceptable, marginal or poor) — and here’s where things get the trickiest. In 2019, IIHS required that at least one set of headlights be rated good for a vehicle to qualify for Top Safety Pick Plus. Both of the XT6’s headlights rated as acceptable, relegating the XT6 to a 2019 Top Safety Pick designation.

For 2020, IIHS updated the Top Safety Pick Plus headlight criteria to require that all sets of a vehicle’s headlights earn an acceptable or higher rating. While this lowers the minimum criteria slightly, it also makes it less likely that only a vehicle’s highest-available (read: priciest) trim level — typically the trim level with the most advanced, and thus highest-rated headlights — meets all the Top Safety Pick Plus criteria. The 2020 XT6, with acceptable-rated headlights on all its trims, is thus a 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus despite no actual changes to its previous testing scores (though it did also earn the highest-possible rating in the newest vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention test).

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Similar-size competitors among luxury SUVs include the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and 2020 Volvo XC90, both 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus designees, and the 2020 Lexus RX and 2020 Lincoln Aviator, both 2020 Top Safety Picks.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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Road Test Editor Brian Normile joined the automotive industry and in 2013 and became part of the Editorial staff in 2014. Brian spent his childhood devouring every car magazine he got his hands on — not literally, eventually — and now reviews and tests vehicles to help consumers make informed choices. Someday, Brian hopes to learn what to do with his hands when he’s reviewing a car on camera, and to turn his 2021 Hyundai Veloster N into a tribute to the great Renault mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive hatchbacks. He would daily-drive an Alfa Romeo 4C if he could. Email Brian Normile

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