Cadillac certainly listened to its customers when designing the CT5.
While some automakers are moving away from sedans, Cadillac has just introduced its new CT5 at the 2019 New York Auto Show. More of a spiritual successor than a direct replacement for the ATS, the CT5 holds a new position in Cadillac's revised sedan portfolio. We sat down with the CT5's Chief Engineer, Mike Bride, and interior design director, Crystal Windham, to chat about the improvements made from the ATS to the CT5.
The CT5 is "part of Cadillac's revised sedan portfolio," Bride explained. "If you look at the portfolio today, it's a little crowded. We've got the ATS, CTS, XTS, and CT6. And in terms of price point and positioning, there's some overlap in that space. So one of the things we wanted to focus on was creating distinct separation and price size content between the sedan portfolio - this is about developing an American luxury sedan, and continuing that journey."
Bride added that "from a Cadillac innovation standpoint, we continually grow, not stop where we've been in the past, understand and take the learnings, pour through customer data, and talk to folks to find out what we've done well, where we've maybe fallen short, and really work on improvements in those areas."
This desire to learn from customers and continue to innovate carries onto the interior, where the CT5 takes a massive leap forward from the ATS. "From a design perspective, especially on the interior, there are things that we heard from the customer [such as] our interface with the CUE system and responding to that," said Windham. "Also, from a spaciousness standpoint, especially the rear seat making sure we capitalize on increasing our knee room and legroom and also improved entry egress. I think we've done a really nice job carving out more opportunity for storage, overall amenities, and technology is a big piece."
Windham also delved deeper into the changes with Cadillac's CUE system, which was heavily criticized when it was first introduced to the market, including when we tested the ATS-V Coupe. "What we've learned is that the customer loves the technology, but it needs to be very intuitive. And we've offered them more choices to interface with the technology, utilizing the steering wheel or utilizing touch on the 10-inch screen. Remember, we have knobs and toggle switches and the last interface is right at your fingertips - the rotary controller with a volume knob right there," Windham explained.
This is a similar approach taken with the latest Mercedes-Benz MBUX system, which can be controlled via touchscreen, touchpad, steering wheel controls, or by voice command. Offering drivers different ways to interact with infotainment is a great way to make it more intuitive for different types of people.
"It's not even necessarily different people in their preferences, it's situations," Bride pointed out. "If you're on the screen on a long trip, you can get shoulder fatigue. So [we] have in the nice soft touch points on the console, the positioning, and the great feel of the rotary controller for a long trip. Or if you're in conditions where you're driving on some rural roads where you want to keep eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, with some spirited driving, you've got steering wheel controls that you don't have to look away and be distracted."
The CT5 also feels much larger than the old ATS on the inside, partially because this car has to act as a replacement for both the ATS and CTS, which won't get its own dedicated replacement. "From a knee room standpoint, I think we're on the order of 50 to 60 millimeters longer than any other competitive set. That was a weakness [for us] but our current product is longer than most competitors," Bride said.
Cadillac's revised sedan portfolio will include the new CT5 and CT6 as well as a yet-to-be-announced CT4. Bride wouldn't delve any deeper into the CT4 other than saying it would act as an entry level model and telling us to "stay tuned." In regards to any future V versions of the CT5 and CT4, Bride told us "the propulsion system plan for this car is a two-liter turbo with very low-end responsiveness mated with a 10-speed transmission and a three-liter twin turbo, also with a 10-speed transmission. We think those hit the mark in this segment. In terms of future announcements and other propulsion systems, those will come in a later date."