by Jay Traugott
Not so many years ago, it appeared that Cadillac had finally shed its old man car image for something far edgier and youthful. The Escalade SUV and CTS-V certainly helped, as did the "art and science" design language, but GM's luxury brand was still missing one critical thing: precision performance and handling on par with its German competitors. The AT4 was supposed to be the ultimate BMW 3 Series fighter but this never materialized. The ATS is now discontinued but instead of abandoning the compact luxury sports sedan segment, Cadillac opted to give it another shot. Meet the all-new 2020 Cadillac CT4, a new compact sports luxury sedan aimed at younger buyers. The also new and upcoming 2020 CT5 is more similarly sized to the ATS.
Built on an updated version of GM's Alpha platform, which also underpins the current sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, this rear-wheel-drive sedan is considered Cadillac's entry-level model, slotting below the also new CT5. With its athletic stance, an all-turbocharged engine lineup allowing for both improved performance and lower emissions, and Cadillac's updated design language, can the CT4 succeed where the ATS failed?
Although the CT4's exterior design is not groundbreaking, its sleek profile and athletic stance will still certainly attract attention. Thanks to its long dash-to-front-axle, wide stance, and rear-wheel-drive setup, the 2020 Cadillac CT4 boasts that coveted sport sedan design. It's clear this is not front-wheel-drive. There are many noteworthy design elements here, such as the bright exterior accents and unique front grille with foil-stampings for the Luxury and Premium Luxury trims. Those seeking a sportier attitude, the Sport and V-Series, by contrast, offer darker accents and performance-inspired details like rocker extensions, a rear spoiler, and unique wheel designs. V-Series cars have V logos throughout. A set of 17-inch wheels are standard while 18-inchers are optional.
Regardless of trim level, all CT4s feature LED headlights, taillights, and signature vertical lights at all four corners. The traditional three-box design is still there, but it's more coupe-like than ever as the rear pillars taper at a greater angle than on the old ATS. In short, we like what we see but we still wonder whether Cadillac designers should have taken the styling a bit further. Time will tell.
One of the first things Cadillac wants us to know about the CT4's interior is its driver-focused cockpit with seating for up to five passengers. A high-definition, 8-inch diagonal touchscreen is front and center. All infotainment and connectivity features are managed here. There are also numerous standard features including keyless entry and push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a dual-display driver information center, rear vision camera, LED interior lighting with stealth mode, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The rest of the cabin is adorned with leather upholstery (leatherette is standard) and trim and various other high-quality trim materials, such as metal accents.
Another example of high-tech 21st-century cars: the CT4's all-new electronic architecture allows for faster signal transmissions and regular systems improvements through over-the-air updates and enhanced cybersecurity.
Given the recent trend of engine downsizing, Cadillac opted not to offer the CT4 with a V6 engine. Instead, buyers will have a choice between two turbocharged four-cylinders. The base engine is a 2.0-liter offering 273 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The optional choice is a 2.7-liter unit with 309 hp and 348 lb-ft which sends that power to a 10-speed automatic. As previously noted, rear-wheel-drive is standard, though all-wheel drive is available on every trim level. Both engines offer active fuel management, a three-step sliding camshaft design, integrated exhaust manifold, and an electric water pump.
The performance-focused CT4-V, as previously announced, comes with the latter engine whose output is pumped up to 325 hp and 380 lb-ft. This trim also receives Brembo front brakes with four-piston calipers and, for RWD variants only, GM's coveted Magnetic Ride Control active dampers, now in its fourth-generation.
Perhaps one of the most notable technologies is the optional Super Cruise hands-free driving system. Previously only available in the CT6 flagship, Cadillac plans to make this semi-autonomous driving system available in all of its models in the very near future. Those who opt for Super Cruise will benefit from a state-of-the-art system that utilizes LiDAR map data, GPS, and a network of camera and radar sensors for complete hands-free driving on an extended range of over 200,000 miles of compatible highways throughout North America.
As of this writing, Cadillac has not released official pricing for the 2020 CT4. A total of four trims are on offer: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, and V-Series. We expect pricing to start off at around $33,000, which would make sense given that its most direct competitors, the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, each have similar starting prices. Of course, the CT4's price tag will quickly climb once the options boxes are marked and we wouldn't be surprised to see a fully-loaded CT4-V go for around $45,000, if not higher.
While the sedan segment, as a whole, is not selling the way it was only a few years ago, Cadillac refuses to ditch them completely in favor of more crossovers and SUVs. That's obviously a good thing but the CT4 faces stiff competition from highly-regarded German brands. BMW is also expected to enter this compact sedan segment in the very near future with its 2 Series Gran Coupe. Hopefully, the 2020 Cadillac CT4 will appeal to those who desire American performance luxury instead of shopping overseas.