by Jared Rosenholtz
Cadillac introduced the CTS sedan in the early part of the new millennium as America's first true competitor to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. The CTS was highly successful for Cadillac and eventually grew to 5 Series/E-Class proportions, prompting the need for a smaller sedan called the ATS. As a new decade dawned, Cadillac decided to reinvent its sedan profile once again, replacing both the ATS and CTS with a tweener-sized sedan called the CT5.
Straddling the line between a German compact and midsize sedan, the CT5 arrives powered by a choice of two engines. A standard turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine develops 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, competing nicely with the Audi A4, BMW 330i, and Mercedes C300. A larger twin-turbo V6 producing 335 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque is also available, more closely targeting the S4, M340i, and C43 (but with a less sporty flavor). A hotter V model is also available but receives its own separate review. With the CT5, Cadillac looks to improve on the mistakes of the ATS and CTS by improving the interior while retaining the outstanding driving dynamics. To find out if the CT5 is a worthy successor to the ATS and CTS or a true rival for the German compact trio, Cadillac sent us a 2020 CT5 Premium Luxury with AWD to drive for a week.
The CT5 is an all-new model for Cadillac, with no immediate predecessor. However, it does replace the now discontinued ATS and CTS sedans, making use of an updated version of Chevrolet Camaro platform underpinnings called Alpha 2. The standard turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine under the hood of the CT5 is down on power compared to rivaling base engines, but the optional twin-turbo V6's torque figures outmatch the competition. The CT5 does come with more standard gadgets and safety features than many rivals. It will also feature Cadillac's acclaimed Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance in the 2021 model year.
With a strong legacy to live up to, the CT5 seeks to impress first with its bold new design. To that end, the sedan has opted for a sportback style with a particularly long wheelbase, giving the car an unusual profile that is very much a love-it-or-hate-it ultimatum. The base model rides on 18-inch alloys, with 19-inch variants standard on the Sport trim. LED headlights curve around the angular hood with T-shaped LED taillights bringing up the rear. The front fascia hosts a broad chrome-studded grille, which gets bright-accented elements on the Premium Luxury and an all-black treatment on the Sport. The Sport also gets unique front and rear bumpers and a rear spoiler.
A bit larger than the average compact luxury sedan, the CT5 measures a generous 193.8 inches long with a 116-inch wheelbase. It tries to maintain a relatively sporty profile, though, with an overall height of just 57.2 inches and a width of 74.1 inches. The base sedan weighs in at 3,659 lbs, while the heaviest model adds 26 lbs for a total of 3,685 lbs. Similar sedans like the BMW 3 Series weigh in at a similar level at 3,589 lbs, maxing out at 3,849 lbs.
The color palette for the new CT5 lends heavily from the staple Cadillac range, with Summit White and Black Raven comprising the standard options. For an additional $625, you can choose from the metallic options, which include Satin Steel, Evergreen, Shadow, Wave, Garnet, and Dark Moon. The premium palette consists of Crystal White Tricoat and Red Obsession Tintcoat, each of which will add $1,225 to your bill. The Sport trim cannot be dressed in Dark Moon or Garnet, but it does get exclusive access to Velocity Red, which falls within the $625 premium palette. Our Premium Luxury came finished in Garnet Metallic, which looked a bit frumpy when paired with the base 18-inch silver wheels. We prefer the CT5 in a brighter hue like Red Obsession with darker wheels.
Two engines are available under the hood of the CT5. A base 2.0-liter turbo-four delivers an uninspiring 237 hp and 258 lb-ft to rear- or all-wheel-drive. This lackluster four-banger drives the CT6 up to 60 mph in a sluggish 6.6 seconds (6.9 seconds with AWD), which lags behind the entry-level BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, which make the same sprint in 5.6 seconds. We highly recommend opting for the larger 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Premium Luxury trim, which pushes the output to a healthy 335 hp and a staggering 400 lb-ft of torque. This torque monster shoves the CT5 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, or curiously, 5.1 seconds with AWD.
The Cadillac CT5 is powered, as standard, by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that directs 237 hp and 258 lb-ft to either the rear wheels or all four. This powertrain doesn't lack power but, given the overall athletic aspirations of the sedan, it doesn't inspire drivers with a desire to really punch it, either. It will get you around town and you will be able to pass the average Joe on the highway, but even that will require a bit of planning.
The Premium Luxury gets access to a more powerful 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that develops 335 hp and 400 lb-ft. With so much torque on tap, the V6 effortlessly glides past slow-moving traffic and when you really mat the throttle, it delivers an intoxicating roar as the speedometer readout quickly climbs. This is easily the best-sounding V6 Cadillac has ever offered and it certainly sounds better than the twin-turbo V6 used in the outgoing ATS-V and CTS V-Sport.
Both powertrains come mated to a smooth-shifting ten-speed automatic transmission, which ranks among the best transmissions we've ever tested. It shifts smoothly and effortlessly at all times and when you mash the throttle, the Electronic Precision Shift helps hold gears for longer. At full tilt, the 10-speed shifts quickly, creating a whip-cracking sound as the engine hits the end of a gear.
With the ATS and CTS, Cadillac proved that an American automaker could build a car that handles better than a German sedan. The CT5 is based on the Alpha 2 platform, an evolution of the architecture used in the outgoing cars, and the Chevy Camaro. It's a great place to start, but the non-V CT5 has clearly been tuned more for comfort than sporty driving. There is substantial body roll through the corners, though the ride is comfortable enough to forgive it for not handling flatly like a sports car. That being said, the CT5 is still delightful to drive.
Once you get off-center, there is genuine feel through the steering, transmitting what the front and rear ends are up to through the wheel to the driver. The body lean can easily be managed, and once the suspension loads up, the CT5 feels stable even when you push it absurdly fast through corners. Even with AWD, the CT5 feels like a RWD vehicle, and the rear end can step out progressively, on-demand. Cadillac is rumored to have a hardcore CT5-V Blackwing in the works, which should make full use of the car's excellent platform.
Sadly, GM's excellent Magnetic Ride Control suspension isn't found on the standard CT5, which would likely fix the car's abundance of lean through the corners. We were also put off by the CT5's eBoost brakes, which were difficult to modulate during spirited driving. You may also never notice during normal driving, but we detected an annoying clicking sound from the brake pedal any time we executed a stopping maneuver.
Fuel economy is not significantly improved on the CT5 over the outgoing ATS or CTS, even with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The new powertrain, when paired with a rear-wheel drivetrain, gets 23/32/26 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. This is nowhere near as impressive as the BMW 3 Series' 26/36/30 with its base engine. Swap out the drivetrain for all-wheel-drive and the CT5 loses some efficiency with estimates of 21/31/25 mpg. Fuel economy in the V6 model drops to 19/26/21 mpg in RWD form or 18/25/21 mpg with AWD. In real-world situations, even with cylinder deactivation shutting the engine down to a four-pot, we only managed around 17.5 mpg. With a 17.4-gallon tank of premium gasoline on tap, the Caddy is capable of covering 452 miles between pit stops.
Cadillac has tried to design the interior of its new luxury sedan to rival those of premium German competitors like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. And while the CT5 is certainly a step up from the ATS and CTS, it doesn't quite achieve the goal it aspires towards. The cabin is far from unattractive, but it lacks inspiration. There are a few too many elements taken from other GM vehicles on display here and more than a few that try to copy BMW. On the plus side, the controls for the infotainment and convenience features are well laid-out and easy to access. Several appealing trim accents, like carbon fiber or wood, also help to hide the overall lack of true upscale quality.
There are seating appointments for up to five within the cabin of Cadillac's newest sedan. Due to the sportback design of the vehicle, headroom is never exemplary, with the front row offering only enough for average-height adults, while the rear shaves a few inches off of that. At least legroom is generous in both rows, but you will still want to seat your taller passengers in the front whenever possible. As standard, the front seats feature 12-way power-adjustability with two-way lumbar support, but this is upgraded to 14-way power front seats with four-way lumbar and memory settings on the Premium Luxury. The Sport trim enjoys 18-way power front seats with firmer bolsters to help you feel confident when testing the sedan's athletic capabilities.
The base-level CT5 comes upholstered in synthetic leatherette in your choice of Jet Black or Sahara Beige with Jet Black accents. This is paired with metallic trim decor around the dash and door panels. The Sport comes standard with leatherette upholstery too, only it is limited to Jet Black, and comes paired with unique carbon fiber trim. This can be upgraded to premium leather with mini-perforated inserts, though, available in Jet Black or Whisper Beige for an additional $1,500. The Premium Luxury gets the genuine leather upholstery as standard, with a choice of Jet Black, Sahara Beige, or Maple Sugar, all with Jet Black accents. Wood or aluminum trim can be paired with each of the available colors. The Premium Luxury gets wood, aluminum, or carbon fiber trim decor. Semi-aniline leather with Chevron perforated inserts is available as part of a package for the Premium Luxury and Sport trims and can be had in Sedona Sauvage with Jet Black accents.
The CT5 has not done much to improve on the cargo capacity of its forebears, offering only 1.5 cubic feet more than the old ATS, but less than the CTS. At a total capacity of 11.9 cubic feet, the Caddy certainly feels like a compact sedan; certainly more so than rivals like the BMW 3 Series, which can stow an impressive 17 cubic feet of cargo - about as much as the Audi A4. This makes the CT5 far less useful as a daily driver, as even the most basic of errands seem like a chore when you can barely fit a handful of grocery bags in the trunk. The rear seats do fold down to allow for larger-item storage, though the passthrough is small, limiting your ability to carry oversized items.
Inside the cabin, there is a generous glove compartment, complemented by an equally spacious center armrest storage area. There is a clever phone tray in front of the center console, giving easy access to your device. The door pockets are not particularly large, though, but there are a pair of cupholders beneath the closable lid beside the gear shift.
Quite a long list of features come standard on the base-level Caddy CT5. These include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, adaptive remote engine start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 12-way power front seats with two-way lumbar, dual-digital driver information displays, and two 12-volt power outlets. Standard advanced safety features comprise an HD rearview camera, forward collision avoidance tech, and a safety alert seat. The Premium Luxury adds lane change alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear parking assist with rear cross-traffic alert, and pedestrian detection. An auto-dimming rearview mirror is added along with 14-way power front seats with four-way lumbar. The Sport has the most customizable seats with 18-way power adjustability and sport bolsters. Further available features include heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, front parking assist, a surround-view camera, and a head-up display. Cadillac also boasts that the sedan will be receiving its advanced Super Cruise self-driving technology, but while this was originally slated for arrival on 2020 models, it will only be arriving for 2021.
Cadillac's standard CUE infotainment suite should receive a most improved award. The outgoing glare-filled system with capacitive controls is replaced by a standard 10-inch touchscreen interface, which is supplemented by a knock-off iDrive rotary controller positioned on the center console. The redundant touchscreen and rotary controls are a bit strange, though it does give the driver a choice on how they want to interact with the car. The suite supports AM/FM Radio, HD Radio, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and OnStar services, all channeled through a nine-speaker premium sound system. The system also supports a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot as standard. The Premium Luxury adds a wireless charging pad to the sedan's tech offering. The standard sound system can also be upgraded to the available 15-speaker Bose premium audio system.
The sedan has not yet received a dependability rating from an independent organization, nor has it been subject to any recalls to date. Cadillac offers a 50,000-mile/48-month limited warranty on new purchases, while the powertrain and roadside assistance programs cover 70,000 miles/72 months.
At the time of writing, the Cadillac CT5 has not yet been rated for crash-test safety by the NHTSA nor the IIHS.
Standard safety features comprise ABS, traction and stability control, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, a safety alert seat, and eight airbags: dual front, front knee, front side, and side curtain. Available advanced driver-assistance features include lane change alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera, front and rear pedestrian detection, enhanced emergency braking, automatic reverse braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and a head-up display. The best of these are reserved for the Premium Luxury and Sport trims, so if you want blind-spot monitoring, rear park sensors, and lane keep assist, you better pony up.
The old Cadillac ATS and CTS could be summed up pretty easily - among the best driver's sedans on the market, but lackluster interior quality made them tough to recommend. With the CT5, Cadillac makes a much more compelling argument to not choose one of the German options. By positioning the CT5 between the ATS and CTS rather than directly replacing either, Cadillac can attempt to capture a market of buyers who want to pay 3 Series money but get 5 Series levels of passenger space.
Inside, the CT5 is plusher than its extinct predecessors, with higher-quality materials used throughout the cabin. However, Cadillac has still made some silly cost-cutting decisions with certain materials, making the CT5 feel less cohesive than its German rivals. This is, fortunately, barred out in the price, where the CT5 undercuts the A4/S4, 3 Series, and C-Class by thousands of dollars. It may not be the sharply-focused driver's sedan that the ATS and CTS were, but we think the CT5 is a far more widely appealing sedan for shoppers who are bold enough to try something new. For the enthusiasts, a sharper V model is currently available and a hardcore Blackwing model should go toe-to-toe with the best of Audi Sport, BMW M, and Mercedes-AMG.
Set to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Cadillac CT5 has a pretty tempting starting price tag. Getting behind the wheel of the base Luxury trim will only cost you $36,895 compared to entry-level 3 Series and C-Class models at $41,245 and $41,400, respectively. The Premium Luxury is more on par with these rivals at $40,695, while you can install the available twin-turbo V6 engine at an additional cost of $4,850 if you stick with the rear-wheel drivetrain. The Sport is the most expensive base model at $41,695. Every model can be upgraded with all-wheel-drive for $2,000, although equipping the drivetrain to the V6 engine will cost an additional $1,090. These prices exclude tax, registration, licensing, and Cadillac's $995 destination charge.
The all-new Cadillac CT5 is available in three trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Sport. Every model is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that directs 237 hp and 258 lb-ft to the rear wheels. The Premium Luxury gets access to a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, which develops a more impressive 335 hp and 400 lb-ft, also for the rear wheels. A ten-speed automatic transmission rows the gears for both powertrains, and all-wheel-drive is available for each model.
The Luxury rides on 18-inch wheels and comes equipped with LED head- and taillights. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, adaptive remote engine start, and a dual-screen driver information display. The infotainment suite consists of a ten-inch touchscreen interface with a rotary controller, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a nine-speaker sound system. Standard safety features include a safety alert seat, forward collision avoidance tech, and an HD rearview camera.
The Premium Luxury expands on the standard offering by adding an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a wireless charging pad, and 14-way power front seats. The safety suite is also enhanced with lane change alert, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking assist.
Larger 19-inch wheels come standard on the Sport, along with unique exterior elements, like an all-black sport grille, a rear spoiler, and unique rear and front bumpers. Performance-oriented Brembo brakes, a sport leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 18-way power front seats with sport bolsters replace the standard fare.
Several packages are available to customize your Caddy CT5, with one of the most notable being the Platinum Package ($8,330 to $9,330) for the Premium Luxury or Sport trims. This package installs a dual-pane sunroof and a 15-speaker Bose premium sound system. The upholstery is upgraded to semi-aniline leather and the front seats gain lumbar massage functions. Navigation is added to the infotainment suite and a number of sub-packages are installed, including the Climate Package, the Lighting Package, and the Parking Package. The Climate Package ($1,090 to $1,190), for the Premium Luxury and Sport, adds heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The Driver Assist and Advanced Security Package ($1,950) for the Premium Luxury and Sport sees the safety suite enhanced with adaptive cruise control, enhanced emergency braking, and automatic reverse braking.
While the base Luxury trim comes well-equipped with an impressive list of features, both infotainment and safety, the Premium Luxury adds quite a number of upgrades while only increasing cost by $4,000. On the other hand, the Sport trim doesn't really live up to the badge, adding mostly aesthetic changes. Thus, we recommend sticking with the Premium Luxury, which comes with desirable advanced safety features like lane change alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and the punchy V6 engine. The wireless charging pad is also a welcome addition for gadget-lovers. We'd ignore AWD unless you live somewhere with heavy snow and even with nearly every option, you can keep the CT5 below $60,000.
The BMW 3 Series is what the new CT5 was designed to compete with, but right out the gate, the BMW has more power. The 3 Series can be equipped with a 255-hp turbo-four or a 382-hp turbo-six; both engines are stronger than their counterparts on the Caddy. But the German luxury sedan also handles its power better, with more refined driving dynamics and a more comfortable ride. What's even more impressive is the 3 Series' fuel economy, easily beating out the CT5 at 26/36/30 mpg. When you add to all this the more upscale interior, superior styling, a much larger 17-cubic-foot trunk, and a long list of standard high-tech features on the BMW, you have to wonder if Cadillac was serious about its goal. In just about every way, the BMW 3 Series is the better sedan here. The only advantage the CT5 has is its more affordable price tag, and that should hardly factor in when shopping for a luxury sedan.
The new CT5 is set to take its place between the smaller CT4 and the larger CT6. You'd think that being larger, the CT6 might get stronger engines, but it suffers from the same lackluster powertrains as its smaller sibling. Add to this its more unwieldy dimensions, and you would be foolish to expect much in the way of athleticism. It has the same light, disconnected steering that is common among large luxury sedans, but it never feels smaller than it is, making it harder to engage with around bends. However, the CT6 also disappoints when it comes to ride quality, given that larger cruisers normally offer smoother rides. The interior of the larger Caddy is spacious, and it offers a larger 15.8 cubic foot trunk, but neither of these factors is a significant improvement over the CT5. Overall, the CT5 is the slightly more refined of the American luxury sedans.
Check out some informative Cadillac CT5 video reviews below.