Cadillac's last generation of V cars was something special; the ATS-V and CTS-V were machines that, while lacking in polish, were dynamically talented enough to go toe to toe with the best on offer from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. Even their base derivatives were something special to drive, which is where the current generation of CT4, CT5, and CT6 models have somewhat fallen flat. Enter the CT5-V, Cadillac's high-powered entrant into the realm of sports sedans, but one that doesn't compete with an M3, but rather the Audi S4, Mercedes-AMG C43, and BMW M340i, despite being slightly larger than all of them. Big size, big power, right? Unfortunately, no, as the CT5-V wades into battle with a 360-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. It's also dynamically softer than rivals, doing a disservice to the hardcore V-suffixed cars of old. Does it mean that Cadillac enters the gunfight wielding a pocket knife or are we just judging it under false pretenses? Put aside all you know of the Cadillac Vs of old - and understand the new CT5 pecking order with the Blackwing as the performance flagship - and suddenly, the CT5-V is something special...
The CT5-V - and the CT5 on which it is based - was an all-new model for the 2020 model year and 2021 sees very few changes. It still occupies that odd, in-between niche that places it in a size class between the 3 Series / C-Class / A4 and the 5 Series / E-Class / A6. Cadillac's semi-autonomous Super Cruise technology has become available on the CT5-V for the first time in 2021. There have been some minor changes to the availability of exterior paint colors.
See trim levels and configurations:
3.0L Turbo V6 Gas
Based on Cadillac's latest design language, the CT5-V gets sharp styling with narrow LED headlights, vertical LED daytime running lights, and a blacked-out grille to signify its darker intentions than lesser models. The front bumper is also reworked with sportier styling, and the side sills get gloss black treatment as well. Around back, quad trapezoidal exhaust tips and a body-colored rear diffuser finish things off, with vertically mounted LED taillights accentuating width. 19-inch wheels fill the arches wrapped in 245/40 profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.
Riding on an advancement of the GM Alpha platform, the CT5-V shares its 116-inch wheelbase with lesser trims, as well as an overall length of 193.8 inches. Body width is equal, too, at 74.1 inches, as is the overall height of 57.2 inches. Where the V differs from lower trims is in its weight, packing extra cylinders under the hood and added high-performance suspension, as well as a limited slip differential. A curb weight of 3,974 lbs is approximately 300 lbs heavier than a base CT5.
V-Series models get eight available exterior hues to choose from, including carryovers from the base car such as Summit White and Black Raven at no extra cost. Seven premium colors range in price from $625 to $1,225, with only Infrared Tintcoat carrying the latter cost and replacing last year's Red Obsession Tintcoat. Evergreen metallic is no longer offered. The less expensive premium options are no less striking, though, and we're partial to Velocity Red and Wave Metallic, although the sleeper look is best achieved with hues such as Satin Steel Metallic and Shadow Metallic. Those are probably the best options, as they give the CT5-V a sleeper-car demeanor which better suits its demure performance. We'd rather surprise unsuspecting victims at the strip than shout loud on the outside and not back it up with credible performance.
It's a little harsh to dismiss the CT5-V's performance as 'not credible', I'll admit, but Cadillac set the bar too high when they affixed the '-V' to the back end of the CT5 moniker. This is not a V-car in the way the ATS-V and CTS-V were, and it's not going to be hunting down M3s on twisty back roads - that's what the new Blackwing is for. Think of it as a lowercase v-car, one to rival the AMG-lites and semi-Ms of the world, like the C43 and M340i. In that company, the CT5-V holds its head high, and with 360 twin-turbocharged horsepower on demand, the rear- or all-wheel-drive V-car will manage the obligatory 0-60 mph sprint in under five seconds, matching its rivals from Germany. Like those, there's no choice of a manual gearbox, but unlike those, the CT5-V rides with pliancy and composure that doesn't make every shoddy backroad feel like a bad dentist's appointment. With tech employed from the Chevrolet Corvette in the form of an advanced Performance Traction Management system and a limited slip differential at the rear, the CT5-V is precise, poised, and a more than capable rival. The genuine M3 rival is the new CT5-V Blackwing, with the V nomenclature now reserved for semi-performance Cadillacs.
Fans of the CT5 that are yearning for a V8 can turn to the CT5-V Blackwing with its 668-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 under the hood. Instead, the CT5-V gets a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine developing 360 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, paired exclusively with a ten-speed automatic gearbox. It's down on displacement and power compared to the old 3.6-liter unit, but it still performs well, getting up to speed and exhibiting urgency befitting of the V badge. There's very little turbo lag exhibited, and the short ratios of the ten-speed keep the motor in its sweet spot brilliantly on the road. It also responds well to inputs from the steering-mounted paddles, with little delay between input and response.
But under duress, the gearbox falls short. Try to manhandle the V for all it's worth and the shorter ratios become problematic, running out of steam quicker than the computers can decide which is the next appropriate gear. In manual mode, it's too easy to forget where you are and bang the rev limiter, ruining the smoothness required for proper performance. We'd love to have seen a modern iteration of the ATS-V's manual to counter this, but the world is moving away from manuals, and so too is Cadillac.
The chassis tuning of the CT5-V is where the bulk of the upgrade associated with the V suffix has gone to - an area where we felt base CT5s left much to be desired. Old V-cars, and rivals in the form of the Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43, tended to be a little too harsh for daily use - something you can forgive when you're dealing with 500 hp under your right foot, but not so easy to accept when you need to daily the thing. This time out, Cadillac has gone soft, but they've done it in a phenomenal way.
The pliancy of the suspension soaks up the imperfections you'll encounter on a backroad blast, but without compromising on high levels of grip and engagement. The former trait has lots to do with both the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and the limited-slip differential equipped to the CT5-V, endowing it with high levels of mechanical grip and the ability to jump on the gas on corner exit without setting a one-tire-fire and slowing progress. Engagement comes down to how the chassis feels, with minimal flex, a hint of progressive, readable body roll, and steering that, while not dripping with feedback, gives one a good sense of the front end's limits. AWD models feel a little more understeery at the limit, and the front end has decidedly less feedback, but they're by no means bad handlers.
The CT5-V might not have the firepower of the old ATS-V or the Blackwing flagship, but the folks in Cadillac's engineering department haven't forgotten how to engineer a great chassis.
You don't purchase a performance-oriented sedan with illusions of frugality, and in the case of the CT5-V, you'll need to buy one knowing that it's the weakest in this regard among all rivals. The EPA estimates 18/27/21 mpg city/highway/combined for RWD models, while AWD models achieve estimates of 18/26/21 mpg. BMW's RWD M340i performs the best of all at 23/32/26 mpg, while Mercedes-AMG's own C43 twin-turbo V6 AWD will sip a combined 21 mpg. A 17.4-gallon fuel tank sees the RWD CT5-V achieve a range of 365 miles in mixed conditions.
While the old ATS-V had a great chassis, the cabin was found severely lacking. With the CT5's growth spurt, it now provides a more viable cabin in terms of passenger space, with rear-seat passengers on the receiving end of greater space and comfort. Material quality has also seen an increase in the transition, but while we can't fault how it all feels, we can't help but feel the interior seems a little pedestrian. Sure, there's leather and carbon, and the new touchscreen infotainment interface (now with supplementary buttons) looks great, but the design itself is staid and feels more Chevrolet Malibu than hot-performance Caddy. Still, it's a big step up, which means the CT5-V might finally be competing on a level playing field with the German competition.
The Cadillac CT5-V is a strictly five-seater sedan, with a decent amount of space for all occupants. With the growth spurt compared to the old ATS, there's now more room for rear occupants, with 36.6 inches of headroom and 37.9 inches of legroom, mimicking rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, give or take a little. The pair of front occupants enjoy the lion's share of the space, with up to 39 inches of headroom and 42.4 inches of legroom. 18-way power-adjustable sports front seats are standard in the CT5-V, providing high levels of adjustment and support, although these are the same items as found in the lesser Sport trim and do little to set the V apart as a 'special' car.
By default, the 18-way adjustable sports seats are upholstered in leatherette - a bit cheap for this level if you ask us, but at least it feels of a decent quality. Depending on how you spec your CT5-V, this can be perforated for ventilation functionality, but we'd rather look at the Platinum Package ($6,290), which upgrades seating surfaces to semi-aniline leather in Sedona Sauvage with Jet Black accents. We'd prefer a greater range of choice as to both materials and colors, and can't help but feel that this one or the other approach is a way of cutting costs and withholding a truly premium experience from buyers. However, there are still classy and sporty touches throughout, like carbon fiber trim panels and a standard leather steering wheel which is thicker than the regular item and plays host to magnesium shift paddles. The latter can be optionally swapped out for a suede microfiber steering wheel with a matching shift knob for $300.
Seating space may be on par with rivals, but if you're looking for a practical sports sedan with a large trunk, the CT5-V is not it. Just 11.9 cubic feet is all the space you'll find inside the trunk, falling below the 13 cubes offered by the BMW 3 Series. There are, however, available convenience options like a hands-free trunk lid, as well as a standard split-folding rear seat that makes it possible to load longer items, although limited depth in the trunk means you need to be careful with how large the suitcases are you wish to tuck in there.
Inside the cabin, things are more or less on par with rivals, thanks to dual cupholders on the center console, decently sized door pockets, and a storage bin beneath the center armrest.
It might be close to the top of the CT5 range, but the V model doesn't get all options thrown at it in some attempt to make it an all-inclusive package. No, you can still add heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, a dual-pane sunroof, power tilt-and-telescoping steering adjustment, a head-up display, a surround-view camera, and a hands-free trunk lid to the mix through various packages. What you do get standard, however, is 18-way power adjustment for both front seats, memory functionality for the driver, launch control, adaptive dampers, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear park sensors, and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking. You also get keyless access, push-button start, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Mention the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment suite, and current owners will cringe. It's hardly been the best infotainment suite on the market for some time, and even when it launched it was somewhat substandard. Things have improved, however, and the new generation equipped to the CT5-V is much, much better.
The system employs a ten-inch touchscreen with a full array of functionality including AM/FM radio, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth functionality, while full smartphone integration is made possible by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A nine-speaker sound system handles audio quality by default, but we much prefer the optional 15-speaker Bose sound system, accompanied on the options list by built-in navigation.
The CT5 range was subject to one recall in 2020 for contamination possibly causing electronic brake boost to be lost, but so far, it's still recall-free for 2021. J.D. Power rates the 2021 CT5 range 86 out of 100 overall and 89 for quality and reliability. Cadillac also adds further peace of mind with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty and six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty, matched with roadside assistance for the same duration.
The NHTSA has not rated the CT5-V overall or in the frontal crash, but awarded it its maximum five stars for the side and rollover tests. The rest of the CT5 range is rated the full five stars overall and for the frontal crash and the structurally similar CT5-V should inherit this rating. The IIHS has not yet rated the CT5.
There's no lack of safety features, with the standard complement including eight airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain, and dual front knee), ABS brakes with EBD, advanced stability control systems inherited from the new Corvette, and standard driver assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear park sensors, and GM's teen driver technology, ensuring your kids don't take the car for an unlawful joyride. Optional safety features include a surround-view camera, rear automatic braking with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, automated parking, and a following distance indicator. This year, Cadillac's Super Cruise suite is becoming available for the first time on the CT5, incorporating hand-free driving on compatible freeways and on-demand lane changing.
When we first caught wind of the CT5-V's intended existence, we had high hopes for an M3-fighter that would pick up where the ATS-V left off, combining the existing endearing chassis with more space, greater levels of quality, and perhaps even a more potent engine. So you could say we were a little disappointed when it debuted with only 360 hp and no manual gearbox. But that's because Cadillac has changed how they position the V brand; it's no longer a top-of-the-range performance badge; the Blackwing is. Viewed in this light, the CT5-V is a stellar performer, and while we might lament the lack of trunk space and the poor level of choice with regards to interior materials, Cadillac has ensured the basics are done right. There's more than ample performance from the twin-turbo V6 engine, and the chassis is a true work of automotive art. That's where the bulk of the development went and it shows, with lithe dynamics paired to supple suspension. We're not saying it's better than an Audi S4 or a BMW M340i, but it's at least worth a look this time.
Pricing for the 'V-Series' - as Cadillac terms the CT5-V - starts at $47,795 before options and a $1,195 destination charge. That's for the rear-wheel-drive model, while adding all-wheel-drive sees the price climb to an MSRP of $49,795. Comparably, the BMW M340i starts off at $54,700.
The Cadillac CT5-V is a standalone model just below the flagship CT5-V Blackwing. It employs a twin-turbo V6 that develops 360 hp, with power sent via a ten-speed automatic to the rear wheels by default with all-wheel-drive optional.
Key features include LED lighting, 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive damping, and a limited-slip differential. Inside the cabin, dual-zone climate control and 18-way power-adjustable front seats await the occupants. The latter are upholstered in leatherette as standard with leather optional, as well as heating and ventilation. The latest generation CUE infotainment system makes use of a ten-inch touchscreen with full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and utilizes a nine-speaker sound system. Standard safety and driver assistance functionality comprises blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, OnStar services, and a rearview camera.
Cadillac makes available several optional packages on the CT5-V, spanning a price range of over $5,500. The $600 Cold Weather Package, for example, adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, while if you want something more than that, the $6,290 Platinum Package bundles together a whole batch of features including both the aforementioned as well as semi-aniline leather upholstery, a dual-pane sunroof, and the contents of the $2,090 Parking Package - a surround-view camera, surround vision recorder, and rear pedestrian detection, as well as a hands-free trunk lid, power adjustment of the steering column, and heated mirrors. The $1,950 Driver Assist and Advanced Security Package is also worth a look, including adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic braking, and various crash and theft-deterrent features, while the $500 Driver Awareness Plus Package includes a following distance indicator, adaptive headlights, and lane-keeping assist The Super Cruise package incorporates hand-free driving on compatible highways, a special steering wheel, and on-demand lane-changing. Equipping the 15-speaker Bose sound system may appeal to audiophiles, but it requires the $6,690 fitment of several other packages including the Premium and Climate Packages, thereafter adding the sound system gratis.
The CT5-V is available as a standalone trim, but there's a number of ways to customize it. First, we'd opt for it in the sleeper-car shade of Shadow Metallic, then equip genuine leather seating, a Bose 15-speaker sound system, the Lighting Package, lane keep assist, navigation, a head-up display, Climate Package, and Driver Awareness Plus Package for an all-inclusive $57,710. Leave it resting on black 19-inch alloy wheels and inside, choose the suede microfiber steering wheel. All-in, it is cheaper than a comparably-specced BMW 3 Series.
With the CT5-V growing bigger than the ATS-V, there's space in the range for something smaller. That's the CT4-V, which takes on the role of the junior performance sedan in Cadillac's lineup. Powered by a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the CT4-V is less powerful with only 320 hp on call to the CT5-V's 360. But it's smaller and lighter, and feels more nimble through the corners, while making use of the same magnetic ride system as the CT5-V to maintain comfort. But it's smaller inside, with less rear passenger room and only 10.7 cubic feet of trunk space (11.9 in the CT5-V). While there are a number of similarities in the way they're equipped, if you need rear-seat space and a little more junk in the trunk, the CT5-V is the more practical option. It's only a couple of grand more expensive than the CT4-V, too, but the extra performance, space, and the V6 engine are well worth the premium.
If you're going to build a performance sedan, the 3 Series is your benchmark every time. The similarities between the CT5-V and the M340i are striking, with both offering turbocharged six-cylinder engines, both allowing you to choose between rear- or all-wheel-drive, and both supplying automatic gearboxes. But the 3.0-liter straight-six in the Bimmer develops more power at 382 hp, and puts the power down better, too, partially thanks to a sharper eight-speed automatic gearbox. Not only is the BMW the better performer, but it drinks less at the pumps. Inside, both are similar, packing similar tech and negligible differences in terms of space, although the 3 Series has a bigger, 13-cubic-feet trunk. Both ride fluently and handle sublimely, and at the end of the day, the battle has never been closer. The Cadillac is a few thousand dollars cheaper, but the materials feel it, and we feel the extra cash is money well spent on the M340i.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Cadillac CT5-V:
Check out some informative Cadillac CT5-V video reviews below.