Test Drive: Book by Cadillac

Jim Fets Photography / Courtesy Cadillac

A new app-based subscription service from the luxury carmaker upends what it means to own a car.

The 2017 Cadillac XT5 Crossover SUV arrives at my front door just like I ordered. I used an app on my mobile phone to make the arrangements. I keep it for as long as I want, and when I’m done with the XT5, I can use the same app to have it picked up and removed from my driveway and replaced with another model. 

I’m testing a new program called Book By Cadillac that challenges the traditional model of car ownership. Instead of owning or leasing one car for years at a time, this new app-based subscription service—which rolls out in the New York City area this February (with the potential to expand to other cities down the line)—lets me choose any vehicle in the Cadillac lineup to use whenever I want it. The amount of advanced planning required is minimal: Cadillac promises next day delivery. Cost of membership is $1,500 per month, and insurance and regular maintenance is part of the package.

The XT5 I take for a spin is very comfortable with a well-appointed interior and a V6 engine that provides plenty of power when I need it. Like all the models featured on the app, the SUV is equipped with the brand’s highest trim level, Platinum, and includes driver’s aids like blind spot alert, lane assist, and pedestrian collision warning that are becoming increasingly common in luxury vehicles. I’m not so keen on the electronic shifter at first but it grows on me with the miles. But what impresses me and my passengers is how the rear view mirror can stream a wide-angle camera feed that offers a more detailed view of what’s behind me than a standard mirror can.


Jim Fets Photography / Courtesy Cadillac

The XT5 already feels like trusted companion but I need something with more cargo space for a ski trip that involves lots of gear. I use the app to schedule a swap for an Escalade and the next day I’m driving a vehicle big enough to handle a ski team in comfort. The app is easy to use and has the advantage of letting me scroll through all the models Cadillac offers (including the ATS-V Coupe) and pick the vehicle that best suits my purpose.

There is also a dedicated concierge team that offers 24/7 support by phone, so you can speak directly to a person if that’s your preference. There are no time or mileage limits on the vehicles (except for the CTS-V model—for now, it’s five consecutive days), and I’m also able to schedule swaps far in advance.

The program makes things even easier for sporadic drivers with the ability to suspend your membership for months at a time so you can be an active member only during those times of year when you’re most inclined to use a car frequently, like the summer, for example, without any penalties or any additional fees (believe it or not). As the program expands, members will also be able to book a luxury car for use at a specific travel destination.

I’ll be back with the Escalade in a few days so I’ve already scheduled a CT6 sedan for a more sporty driving experience. And I just noticed there is a very upscale CTS-V sedan on the list, which looks like a perfect car to drive on a posh evening out. I could get used to this.

Book By Cadillac begins February 1; membership costs $1,500 per month; bookbycadillac.com.