by Morgan Carter
The luxury sedan segment has always been a competitive one, with German royalty clinging to its crown with a vice-like grip. Cadillac has made some inroads into the market over the years, and has been met with moderate success; but, for 2020, the motor company has decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater and start afresh, replacing the ATS and CTS sedans with the all-new CT5. Powered as standard by a new turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine that develops 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the compact luxury sedan is set to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. However, a stronger 335-hp twin-turbo V6 engine will be available. While at first glance, it may seem to have the confident styling of a competitor, not all that sparkles is gold. Apart from lacking the raw power of these its German rivals, the Caddy is not as refined inside, cutting corners in too many areas to reduce costs. Still, it acquits itself well enough to earn some attention in the segment, but more discerning buyers may not be impressed.
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 the same platform underpinnings the Chevrolet Camaro. The standard turbocharged inline-four-cylinder engine under the hood of the CT5 is not as powerful as the base engine of the outgoing models, but the optional twin-turbo V6 offers comparable power to the 3.5-liter turbo V6 that the older sedans sported. However, the CT5 does come with more standard gadgets and safety features than its deceased cousins. It will also feature Cadillac's acclaimed Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance.
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.
As opposed to the ATS and CTS, which it is designed to replace, the CT5 comes standard with a lower output turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering 237 hp and 258 lb-ft for the rear wheels, although all-wheel-drive can be optioned. As such, the luxury sedan doesn't feel like much of a performance vehicle, even though its styling suggests that it wants to be athletic on the road. The base powertrain isn't particularly quick either, getting the CT5 up to 60 mph from idle in a sluggish 7.1 seconds, according to testers. By comparison, the entry-level BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 make the same sprint in 5.6 seconds. A larger, twin-turbo V6 is available on the Premium Luxury trim which should improve sprint times, but at the time of writing the V6 is unavailable, and Cadillac hasn't yet published sprint times for the 335-hp six-cylinder unit.
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, the same engine that the outgoing ATS and CTS had on their more premium trims. This gives the luxury sedan a lot more kick, especially on the highway, where only the upper echelon of motorists will give you any trouble when merging or passing.
Both powertrains come mated to a smooth-shifting ten-speed automatic transmission, which helps to give the lackluster engines a more eager personality; it deserves high praise for being intuitive and responsive, making the most of an otherwise lackluster base powertrain. All-wheel-drive is available on every trim level, too, but it is only recommended if buyers live in areas prone to poor weather.
The CT5 aspires to be an athletic competitor to the 3 Series and Audi A4, based on its bold design and aggressive stance. And while it may look the part, that's where the competition ends. The Caddy's handling is definitely not adventurous enough for spirited driving, leaning more towards understeer as opposed to oversteer when finding its limits, meaning there is no playful swinging of the hips here. You can get the rear to pop out a little around corners, but the amount of effort needed ruins the fun. Furthermore, the seats lack the necessary support to inspire confidence and security when pushing the sedan's limits.
The suspension soaks up the odd road imperfection well enough, with only larger bumps and divots causing any real discomfort. Mid-corner bumps are taken in the sedan's stride, even though it does display a modicum of lean around turns.
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. The twin-turbo V6 engine has not yet been rated by the EPA, but we expect it to get much less inspiring mileage figures. 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, and there are a few too many elements taken from GM's budget bin on display. 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 or aluminum 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, but never expect the sedan to be much of a cargo hauler.
Inside the cabin, there is a generous glove compartment, complemented by an equally spacious center armrest storage area. There is a tray beneath the center console, just ahead of a sealed storage bin. 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. The manufacturer claims that this is the world's first truly hands-free driving technology compatible with highways (although only select highways).
Cadillac's standard CUE infotainment suite has received some updates for the CT5's debut, with a focus on improving usability. To this end, the 10-inch touchscreen interface is supplemented by a rotary controller positioned on the center console. 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 new CT5 is certainly an ambitious compact luxury sedan. It aims to compete with refined and established segment leaders like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but the American manufacturer doesn't seem to have put in the effort to see this goal achieved.
The new base engine is lackluster, to say the least, losing 35 hp and 37 lb-ft over the ATS that the CT5 replaces. This gives the new sedan rather unimpressive performance figures when placed beside the German road royalty, accelerating from 0-60 mph almost a full two seconds slower. If that were its only shortcoming, we might be able to overlook it, but that simply isn't the case.
Inside, the CT5 is plusher than its extinct predecessors, with higher-quality materials used throughout the cabin. However, Cadillac has still opted to cut corners on costs, and it shows. There are noticeable budget elements in plain sight that you would never find in a more premium luxury brand. And while the sportback aesthetic may give the Caddy some appeal, it robs the compact sedan of already limited passenger space and results in a truly disappointing trunk. Once you add in the CT5's uninspiring driving dynamics, with unengaging steering, recalcitrant handling, and middling ride comfort, the fledgling sedan seems like it may die to poor opinion before it gets the chance to fly. Viewed in a vacuum, the Cadillac is not a bad car; in fact, it has some appealing traits like a low price tag and plenty of available advanced tech features. But when compared with the prestigious sedans it was designed to compete with, it simply doesn't make the cut. Once again, Cadillac got our hopes up, and once again, they were dashed.
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, and rear cross-traffic alert. The wireless charging pad is also a welcome addition for gadget-lovers.
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.