Auto123 reviews the 2020 Cadillac CT4-V.
Thirty years ago, there was a very divided market in the world of luxury cars. On the one hand, U.S. brands were surfing along on the big shoulders of their old American-style models. Think Cadillac DeVille and Lincoln Continental.
On the other hand were the German offerings, more-refined and specialized, and also much less well-known by consumers on our continent. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series were seen as foreigners. Even farther out on the fringes were more marginal products made by Volvo, Jaguar and company.
A second wave took place as new Japanese brands like Acura, Lexus and Infiniti arrived on the scene. From them, the best was yet to come, but above all their reputation was still to be built.
These three worlds were destined to cross paths and it was pretty clear that in the long run, there wasn’t enough room for everyone. U.S. automakers tried to reinvent themselves with new vehicles. Lincoln’s efforts were in vain, and today you won’t find any cars in that luxury brand’s lineup.
At Cadillac, the big shift began in 2003 with the arrival of a "new kind" of sedan, the CTS. Unfortunately, this first version was not convincing enough. The second edition, which appeared in 2008, was better, but it suffered in comparisons not only with German products that had in the interim greatly evolved, but also with Japanese proposals that were much more reliable and just as interesting, if not more so.
After that, it was a case of Cadillac stepping on a series of rakes in the backyard, metaphorically speaking of course. Not that the company produced bad vehicles, but its strategy left many scratching their heads. Cases in point: the ATS compact car, it of the too-short career; the CTS, too big; nomenclature that was difficult to follow and changed often; and other models that were just passing through. In short, there was precious little that had much chance of attracting new customers or even retaining existing ones.
And all the while, the sedan as a format was losing ground to the SUV. Time was running out.
Cadillac didn't give up, however. While it set about reviewing its entire SUV lineup, it did the same with its sedans. Thus were born in 2020 the CT4-V and CT5-V, two models that finally elevated the brand’s products to the same level as the competition.
Yes, on the same level - neither the CT4-V or the larger CT5-V have any reason to back down from their rivals. The question remains, however; is it too late for Cadillac?
CT4-V vs CT5-V
In September, I had occasion to test-drive the two cars back to back. First the 5, then the 4. Before doing so, what I had read and heard was, especially in the case of the bigger of the two, glowing. It was quickly confirmed. After a few days, I was convinced that Cadillac had just brought forth its best sedan ever. The CT5-V is solid in every way and its engine is a true, genuine charmer. I have only minor criticisms left, actually; I'll come back to that.
The CT4-V hasn't made the headlines as much since the duo's debut. Smaller and less powerful, it's sitting in the shade of the other. It's no less interesting, mind you, and in fact, in addition to power, it delivers the same quality of construction, the same kind of poise on the road, and above all, the same feeling that Cadillac has finally hit on the right formula.
Which is refreshing, for sure. The challenge for Cadillac remains, however: it has to sell the darn thing.
The CT4-V in a nutshell
The beating heart of the CT4-V is a 2.7L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. It serves up 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, which is, to be honest, more than enough, and it’s managed by a 10-speed automatic transmission. The model also benefits from a quad exhaust system, Magnetic Ride Control suspension and Brembo brakes up front, among other goodies.
Clearly, the company didn't skimp on this variant.
In all transparency, it's important to mention that the CT4-V is the high-end version of the model, which also includes three other variants: Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport. Those models are powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine making 237 hp and 238 lb-ft of torque (with an 8-speed automatic transmission). They also inherit a less aggressively tuned chassis.
Note that the Premium Luxury version can receive the 2.7L engine and 10-speed transmission, but not the Brembo brakes... which are optional on the Sport version. OK, so obviously there’s still some of that oddly Cadillac decision-making at play here when perusing the model lineup and specs, but overall, the offer is interesting. Note as well that all-wheel drive is available.
Prices range from $35,798 for the base version to $45,398 for the CT4-V. The tester had a few option packages so it came in at $57,380, before the exorbitant freight and preparation costs, set here at $2,100.
You will need to evaluate your needs and maintain self-discipline to prevent hyper-inflation of the selling price.
The driving experience
A few words about the time actually spent behind the wheel. First of all, it's clear that Cadillac has given this CT4-V all the tools to help it stand out. The power, the chassis, the brakes - it's all there. But that’s also the case with the competition, and that's where we get to the heart of the matter with this car: the feeling it engenders.
The CT4-V succeeds, just like the CT5-V does, in connecting you with the road. Like you would expect from an Audi A4 or a BMW 3 Series. Although I should say in the case of the latter, the experience has become so “electronic” that it's hard to find your way around at times.
The CT4-V offers excellent sensations whether you're accelerating out of the blocks, jumping on the brakes or taking corners on a twisting road. And that's exactly what you're looking for in this type of car. Cadillac has hit the bull's-eye on this front, as it hasn't often done in recent years.
Regarding the interior, the driving position is perfect and the quality of the finishing makes a good first impression. I'm still disappointed, however, with Cadillac's instrument cluster, which is a common sight throughout the General Motors lineup. The visual presentation, which could be put to use seducing the driver, simply doesn’t.
I want to be blown away by the cocoon and dials found inside a Cadillac, not left indifferent. The multimedia system, on the other, makes a better impression and proves to be effective.
In the past, when asked my opinion on a compact luxury sedan (or mid-size in the case of the CT5-V), I usually rattled off the names of some German and Japanese models, and then mentioned that there were also interesting models at Cadillac.
Well, that's over. From now on, I'm going to bring the CT4-V and CT5-V into the conversation right from the start. That gives you an idea of the progress made by these models and what I think of them now.
And to answer the original question, is it too late? I dare hope not, because it's never too late to do it right. However, the verdict will belong to the buyer, because in this niche, the heart and emotion always play a big role in the decision, as does the prestige associated with the name on the back of the car.
The big challenge is there.
Feeling connected to the road
User-friendly multimedia system
Good value in the product offering
All-wheel drive is available as an option
We like less
The “meh” presentation of the instrument cluster
Cramped second row
The floating-type screen is no esthetic knockout