Does it feel like a true V car? Did it leave us hanging?
When Cadillac axed the ATS-V and CTS-V, it was unclear if either would ever spawn a successor. While not direct replacements, the 2020 Cadillac CT4-V and 2020 Cadillac CT5-V have been introduced, ushering in a new era for Cadillac's V performance brand. The CT5-V goes after compact models like the BMW M340i and Mercedes-AMG C43, while the smaller CT4-V targets subcompact sedans like the BMW M235i and Mercedes-AMG A35.
We recently tested a CT4-V to determine how it stacks up against the latest performance options from M and AMG. After spending a week with the car, we learned that there is a lot to like about the CT4-V, a few things we didn't enjoy, and a few upcoming changes that we recommend waiting for.
Like the old ATS and CTS, the Cadillac CT4 rides on General Motor's Alpha platform, which also underpins the Chevrolet Camaro. Having sports car underpinnings may sound ill-suited for a luxury sedan, but the Alpha platform is one of the best chassis available on the market today. Cadillac designed the CT4-V with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a modest 3,616-pound curb weight, and excellent driving dynamics.
Though it feels different than the Camaro, the CT4-V retains much of the same driving enjoyment. The steering is nicely balanced and delivers excellent feedback while the chassis communicates what the front and rear ends are up to through the bends. Compared to its M and AMG rivals, the V feels like more of a pure driver's car.
It's hard to stand out in a dying segment of sedans, and we wish Cadillac would have done more on the styling front to help out the CT4-V. Opting for the V model changes the wheels, grille, bumpers, and side skirts, but all of these additions are too subtle for our liking. A brighter color like Red Obsession Tintcoat, Velocity Red, or Wave Metallic can make the car stand out a bit more, but with the base 18-inch wheels, the CT4-V still looks pedestrian. Nicer 19-inch wheels are available, though they are pricey at $2,350.
The CT4 competes in a smaller class than the old ATS, but it's actually a full five inches longer with the same wheelbase. Large families will likely need a larger vehicle, but for a younger couple or single person, the CT4-V feels like the ideal size. The back seat is a bit tight with just 33.4 inches of legroom (less than the 2 Series Gran Coupe or A-Class), and the trunk is equally small at just 10.7 cubic feet. It is much larger than a Camaro, though, so someone upgrading from one of those should be pleasantly surprised.
The CT4 is Cadillac's entry-level model, so don't hop in expecting Escalade-level luxury and premium appointments. We found the interior materials to be sub-par like they were borrowed from a Buick or high-trim Chevy. The overall layout of the interior is clever at least, with ample space to stick a phone with easy access.
The latest Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment system is simple to use, unlike the old system, though the option of something bigger than the eight-inch screen would be nice. For the 2021 model year, Cadillac will add a few major improvements to the CT4-V's cabin, including a new digital gauge cluster, available Super Cruise, and wireless support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. All of these additions are worth waiting for.
The CT4-V is powered by a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. Power goes out through a 10-speed automatic transmission, which rips off upshifts so quickly, we didn't miss having a third pedal and a manual box. There's a bit of turbo lag off the line, but the CT4-V can rocket to 60 mph in a scant 4.8 seconds. It feels quick enough to match the Audi S3, BMW M235i, and Mercedes A35.
The CT4-V comes with several performance upgrades over the standard CT4, which make it a stellar driver's car. These include a limited-slip differential and a V Performance Chassis with GM's fabulous Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 suspension technology. Sadly, if you opt for all-wheel-drive at the cost of $1,100, you lose these features.
Without the limited-slip diff, the CT4-V loses much of its handling composure and the ZF passive dampers offer less comfort and control than the adaptive units. Anyone planning to get their CT4 with AWD should just opt for the non-V model, which packs the same engine, albeit detuned to 309 hp and 348 lb-ft of torque.
With a starting price of $45,490, the CT4-V feels like the right price for what it sets out to achieve. It's not much less expensive than the BMW M235i ($45,500) or Mercedes A35 ($45,850) and the outgoing Audi S3 actually undercuts it ($43,000). But when you factor in optional extras, those cars (especially the Mercedes) can easily exceed $60,000 or even $70,000. By comparison, it's hard to load the CT4-V beyond $60,000, making it the most reasonably-priced car in its segment.
Anyone upgrading from a hot hatchback or a mainstream sedan will be content with the CT4-V's power output, but the greatness of the old ATS-V tainted us. That car was one of the best driving experiences we've ever had (when fitted with the optional six-speed manual transmission), and the CT4-V can't even approach that level of delight. Fortunately, that wasn't Cadillac's aim.
Next year, Cadillac will reveal a sportier CT4-V Blackwing model alongside a larger CT5-V Blackwing. The CT4-V Black is expected to use the same 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 as the old ATS-V, producing around the same 464 hp output. Though that engine was not our favorite, this upcoming Blackwing model should be an excellent rival for the Mercedes CLA45 and the upcoming Audi RS3.