The Cadillac CTS certainly left a big pair of shoes to fill when it was taken out of production recently. The model originally started as a tweener model to compete with the BMW 3 and 5 Series before eventually being given more freedom to go after bigger game. Along the way, it also spawned a coupe and even a station wagon to go along with the spicier V8 powered V variants. However, it was not enough to help Cadillac snatch the sales crowd from the Germans, and sales slid. Cadillac decided to go for a full reboot with the CT5, but can the newly rechristened CT5 finally hit the sales targets that have long eluded the brand in the mid-size sedan segment? or is it still a cut below the rest.
Revamped and ready for action:
When we mentioned that Cadillac was completely rebooting the way it approached the mid-size sedan segment, it was not kidding, with no wagons or coupes to be found. Instead the CT5 will be sold as a sedan only for the foreseeable future. But that’s not a bad thing necessarily, with our Premium Luxury tester having a very distinctive canvas. While it’s yet another iteration of the brand’s long running Art & Science look, it’s far more polished than anything that we have ever seen from Cadillac. The front fascia looks aggressive, and has a ready to play persona, especially with the way that the headlights mesh with the reworked front grille. The CTS’s mug in contrast looked like it took the lyrics to Future’s Mask Off song a bit too seriously, and as a result, it lacked some of the polish seen in many of its rivals. The side profile of the CT5 is very clean, and it leads out to the rear fascia which is a welcome mixture of luxury and sport. Unlike the smaller CT4, the taillights here on the CT5 look very handsome, and lend the CT5 a dignified air. A subtle rear trunk lid mounted spoiler is also along for the ride, and our tester even featured a set of dual exhaust tips.
Premium Luxury models like our tester prefer to show off their brightwork, and focus on luxury, so buyers looking for more raw emotion will have to go for either the Sport model, or the range topping (for now) V-Series with both of these models featuring splashes of black accents, and trim exclusive wheels to help greatly improve their street presence. When compared to the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, and the Mercedes C-Class, we think that Cadillac is definitely taking a big step in the right direction, especially with BMW increasing the size of their twin-kidney grilles as of late. This results in it being a very compelling alternative to mainstream luxury names, and it makes us even more excited to see the upcoming V-Series Blackwing model in the flesh.
Lackluster interior spoils the party:
With all the strides that the exterior has made in reinventing itself, it’s a pity that Cadillac is still a step or two behind in creating a world class interior. Before we get into that though, we might as well highlight the sheer amounts of space that are on hand here, with the CT5 measuring in at 193.8 inches long. That’s on par with German rivals, and some of this added length leaves its mark in the back seat, which is very spacious for rear seat occupants, and is roomier than what you see in a current generation 3-Series. Like others of its species, the sloping rear roofline does cut into headroom somewhat for taller folks, but shorter passengers will not be bothered by this issue.
They will however be bothered by some of the odd material choices that exist in the CT5. We liked the tasteful splashes of carbon fiber trim, but there’s nothing that boldly stands out from the rest of the segment, with the cabin design being just as conservative and neutral as it was in the CTS. Some of the plastic choices here are also below what you would expect from a car that starts at just under $40,000 in Premium Luxury guise (base Luxury models start at $35,890.)
One of the few diamonds in the rough here is the revamped infotainment system which still continues to be a primary focus point in the cabin design (like it was in the CTS.) Unlike that model though, it’s a good thing this time, with the system having far less lag and delay between inputs. The pure capacitive control system has been pitched, and is replaced with physical buttons. There’s a iDrive inspired rotary controller mounted further below the screen, but it can’t move side to side or up and down like other systems, and input is limited to turning the rotary controller. However, we primarily stuck with the touchscreen due to how easy it was to navigate around the various menus during our time with the CT5.
Hitting the gym in style:
The real star of the show is what’s lurking under the hood, and in the case of our tester it was a very potent set of muscles. The bulk of CT5’s on Cadillac lots will be equipped with the wheezy base 2.0 liter four cylinder engine, but if your lucky enough to get the 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged V6, you will be rewarded with 335 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. That was enough oomph to shoot our tester to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, which is better than the BMW M440i xDrive and allows the CT5 to dogfight other German rivals.
A 10-speed automatic is the sole transmission available, and while it does a good job of rowing through the gears, we wish that it had a more aggressive default tune with the unit displaying occasional hiccups and gear hunting when left to its own devices. Choosing Sport mode does help solve the problem in noticeable fashion, but we wish that there was more vigor in the unaltered transmission tune. Choosing Sport also alters the throttle, steering, and how much the engine sound is enhanced through the sound system. While we would scoff at such electronic trickery, here, it actually works well since the engine has a naturally composed soundtrack to begin with, and the artificially added decibels actually help enrich this trait even further. There’s a price to be paid for all of this fun though, and it appears when you go to your local gas station, with our tester achieving a mere 19 mpg on premium fuel only. That’s noticeably less mileage than the base four cylinder engine, and is also lower than a few rivals.
Handling in our tester proved to be very poised and secure with our car having a fixed firmness passive shock absorber package. Buyers looking to have the legendary and iconic Magnetic Ride Control system will have to upgrade to the CTS-V which is the only CT5 model to be equipped with the system. As for the base suspension, it has a very balanced nature, and does a good job of muting out bumps while also allowing the car to snake through corners when placed in Sport mode. While it’s not as formal of a sport suspension as MRC, it does allow the CT5 to replicate some of the good handling traits that once defined the old ATS and CTS models. Feedback from the steering is competent, but it lacks some of the on center bite and feel that were figurative aces in the hole for the ATS and CTS.
Pricing for the 2020 Cadillac CT5 starts at $35,890 which will reward you with a base Luxury model. with the range topping V-Series model starting at $46,690. Our Premium Luxury grade example had a base price of $44,540, with a laundry list of options helping to push the final sticker to an eye watering $59,395 which includes the $995 destination charge. That’s on target for the segment, but it also actually undercuts similarly equipped BMW and Mercedes offerings. The 3.0 liter in particular is a very potent performance bargain, and while it will be rare in many Cadillac showrooms, it is by default the true star in this story. As for whether it hits the bullseye or not? It’s certainly much closer, but is a few refinements short of truly hitting that mark (even in V-Series trim.) but with the Blackwing model on the horizon, all eyes will be on it to see if it can finally hit that small slice of perfection that has eluded Cadillac for so long.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.