Auto123 reviews the 2020 Cadillac CT5-V.
Cadillac has a long history of trying to build luxury sedans. The first attempt gave birth to one of the worst cars in GM's history, the Cimmaron, which remained on the market from 1981 to 1988. A barely disguised Chevrolet Cavalier, it was. The second attempt, something called the Catera, wasn’t much better; it was essentially an Opel put together for North America in a hurry, and suffered from being underpowered and poorly dressed.
It was with the CTS in 2002 that Cadillac began to be taken seriously. The quality of the finishing was still some ways from matching from the German rivals it purported to compete against, but there was a certain seriousness in the approach. The overall quality improved year after year, though never as fast as Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, which were consistently upgrading their own products, so the gap continued to widen.
Now we have the successor to the CTS. Ford our test drive, we had the opportunity to drive the CT5-V model. Now, the word V in Cadillac-speak means the ultimate in performance. The old CTS-V offered a V8 taken from the Corvette with 556 hp that outpaced the competition. Later, Cadillac introduced the V-Sport, an intermediate version between a CTS with its basic 4-cylinder and the true V version.
The problem now is that’s Cadillac’s current strategy and branding for the sedan is confusing. The new CT5-V is the equivalent of the old V-Sport (intermediate, remember); it comes with a 3.0L turbocharged V6 generating 360 hp and 405 lb-ft. Cadillac is also preparing a Blackwing V version that will become the new V version with a V8 that will undoubtedly deliver close to 600 hp. Confused? You should be. Why has Cadillac changed its way of doing things? The automotive world is already complicated enough without deliberately sowing confusion.
The right ingredients
To have any hope of winning an argument with an Audi S4, a BMW 340i or a Mercedes C43 AMG, you need solid sales pitches on your side. To that end, GM has slipped its 10-speed automatic transmission with 360 hp under the right foot. Torque arrives early and allows you to reach 100 km/h in 5 seconds.
Cadillac could work a little on the mechanical melody, which is more akin to an outboard boat accelerating, mainly because of the turbo that slightly chokes the V6. That's a disadvantage compared to the German competition, which offers more expressive mechanics. Still, the 10-speed transmission does a good job of shifting through the gears quickly and offers energetic accelerations. Buyers have the choice of standard rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.
Built on the Alpha platform that also serves as the basis for the Camaro, the CT5-V is very solid and its rigidity is never in question, regardless of the engine speed imposed. Cadillac also drew inspiration from German sedans to configure a suspension that's at once supple, comfortable and sporty thanks to a calibration that promotes comfort, based on a structure that’s solid but still delivers deft handling. For the first time that we know of, a Cadillac sedan is able to ably combine handling and comfort.
Nice atmosphere on board
When you get inside, the cabin sends your senses the right signals. The finish is neat and the controls don't look like they come from a Chevrolet Cruze, plus the cabin is very quiet. You've got a 10-inch screen that manages functions with intuitive controls and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the full technological suite found in GM's high-end models. The front seats are heated and ventilated and come equipped with lumbar massage with 18-way adjustments.
Optional Super Cruise Driver Assistance, which provides hands-free driving with LiDAR map data and GPS, is available. Also available is an optional Driver Attention System that helps keep the driver alert by detecting and signalling the need to pay more attention to the road ahead, stopping just short of slapping you in the face. The Hands-Free Trunk Lid uses a motion sensor with a targeted projection of the Cadillac badge that allows you to activate the trunk release with your foot for easy access.
Impressive ride quality
Cadillac has spared no expense to deliver a ride that rivals the best sedans in the segment. You get standard Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 suspension specially calibrated for V models, and drive modes that include a new V-mode option. Brembo front brakes with eBoost electronic assist and an electronic limited-slip differential further help ensure a high level of ride quality. The icing on the cake? The P245/40R19 Michelin Pilot 4S tires that equipped our test model, as sticky as you could hope for. Then there’s the very neutral handling, precise steering and good road grip. This CT5-V is more agile than its size suggests.
The BMW 340i starts at $55,000, the Audi S4 sits at $65,000 and the Mercedes C43 AMG costs at least $61,000; compare that to the CT5-V in full version, priced $52,000. This is a more-than-competitive price, all the more so when you consider the equipment included, and the levels of power and handling. Might Cadillac finally have found the right formula?
Nicely balanced drive
We like less
Powertrain not expressive enough
Marketing approach that’s to follow