Review: 2020 Cadillac CT5-V
A smart compact sports sedan for today’s luxury driver
“Sooner or later, you’ll ride in a Cadillac.”
This is an old Cadillac joke that some may recognize. Skip ahead to today and we find that GM’s luxury car division has expanded its focus to more than just cars. It now has SUVs, first with the huge Escalade, subsequently with the smaller XT4, XT5, and XT6.
But Cadillac hasn’t completely given up on proper cars. True, names like Coupe de Ville, Eldorado and Seville are gone. So is Cimarron.
The CT5-V I tested recently can stand proudly with anything remotely in its class, things like Audi S5, BMW M340i and the Mercedes-Benz C43.
The CT5-V starts at $49,798. With full-time automatically-engaging four-wheel drive, that becomes $51,998. My 4×4 tester, with just about every option box on the order form checked, listed at $67,878. By the way, that’s “See Tee FIVE – Vee”, not “See Tee ESS – Vee”. The CTS-V was the former supercharged V8 Caddie, one of the great Cadillacs of all time.
The CT5-V is based on General Motors’ “Alpha 2” platform, also used for the CTS-V, and the current Camaro. I find it a handsome car, especially in this “V” model which eliminates much of the chrome trim. It brings an athletic stance and clean lines. It reminded me a bit of a Honda Accord – all designers have to obey the laws of aerodynamics.
No V8 like its almost-namesake. Instead you get a 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6, developing 360 hp at 5,400 r.p.m., and 405 lb-ft of torque from 2,350 to 4,000 r.p.m.
Rest to 100 km/h will take around five seconds. Not bad, but it’s how the car gets there that’s impressive. There’s a slight lag off the line until that torque kicks in, then a strong surge, a smooth upshift, and on she goes. Cool rumbly exhaust note from the four tailpipes. Yes, some of that sound is piped in via the sound system, but it still works for me.
The transmission is GM’s corporate ten-speed automatic, specifically calibrated for this high-performance model. It pretty much makes the steering wheel paddle shifters redundant. The four-wheel drive system mostly sends torque to the rear wheels, adding front-drive capability only to help you out of tricky traction-limited situations. Some testers have complained that this system dulls the cars responsiveness in track work. I didn’t have that opportunity, but on the road, it felt fine.
A “G-Force” screen provides information about how fast you really were around a track. The electronic Limited Slip Differential – playfully, I hope – referred to as “eLSD” as if it was some super recreational drug – directs drive torque to whichever rear wheel can best use it. A driving mode control provides a variety of suspension/powertrain settings, including Tour, Sport, Sport 2, Track, Snow and Ice. A “MyMode” allows you to choose from a variety of performance characteristics to your personal taste.
The most evident difference in the Sport modes is that the transmission becomes more responsive, and upshifts happen later, so the engine revs higher. Ride quality is supposed to be firmer in Sport too, but I couldn’t sense much difference. I left this in Tour most of the time.
GM’s Magnetic Ride Control dampers, now in their fourth generation, automatically change the damping force in fractions of a second to compensate for changes in the road surface. Smooth ride and confident handling are seldom better meshed than with these things. You also have the option of shutting off the traction control, but it will come back on by itself to save you if you mess up.
Open the door by touching the electric latch as in the new Corvette, duck your head (it’s a bit low), and climb in. The typically lovely BOSE sound system, carbon fibre trim bits, a big bright central screen, on-board WiFi, and high-quality leather upholstery make this a handsome and functional interior, although some of the plastic bits from GM’s corporate parts bin lower the high-class ambience a notch or two.
The multiply adjustable front seats include lumbar and lateral support. Felt great to me.
The rear seats are surprisingly capacious, and the smallish trunk can be augmented by split-folding rear seat backs which form a flat load floor.
As with all GM cars, the CT5-V fails my “smart headlights” test. All lights, front and rear, should come on automatically when you switch on, and shut off when you switch off, with a time delay to allow you to get from your garage to your front door. The CT5-V does allow you adjust the side-view mirrors correctly, making the “no such thing as a blind spot” warning system irrelevant. It is easy to switch off the HUD (Head-Up Display) if, like me, you’d rather not be distracted from looking down the road.
In this vein, Cadillac has dumped the worst features of its Cadillac User Experience (CUE) system to reduce the amount of screen touching in favour of proper knobs and buttons that you have at least half a chance of operating without taking your eyes and attention off the road.
It will take some time to find everything, but it is vastly better than it was.
GM’s corporate shift it still too needlessly complicated in my opinion. To switch from Drive to Manual mode, for example, you toggle rearwards on the lever. But the logo on the knob suggests you move it side-to-side. Sure, you quickly get used to this, but you shouldn’t have to. The parking brake is a push button on the shift lever while in most other cars it is elsewhere.
My tester had GM’s rear camera option for the rear view mirror. This gives a wider view of what’s behind you, and eliminates any blockage from rear seat riders or head rests. Much more impressive is CT5-V’s rear camera display in the centre screen. You can choose from a wide array of views – overhead, behind, in front, to the sides, or various combinations thereof – to aid in manoeuvring in tight quarters.
Like many modern cars, the CT5-V has taken a shot at sort-of-self-driving technology. Their “Super Cruise” system works better than most of its ilk.
So, if you wish to be riding in a Cadillac, and you’re in the market for a compact sports sedan, I’d suggest you make it sooner.
2020 Cadillac CT5-V
BODY STYLE: mid-size 4-door sedan, 5 seats
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, automatic on-demand four-wheel drive, ten-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 3.0L twin turbocharged V6 (360 hp @ 5,400 r.p.m.; 405 lb-ft of torque @ 2,350 – 4,000 r.p.m.)
FUEL ECONOMY: (premium recommended) 13.8 / 9.4 / 11.8 L/100 km city / highway / combined
CARGO VOLUME, litres (cu ft): 337 (11.9) rear seat up / n/a rear seat folded
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: base list: $51,998. As tested $67,878 excl. taxes and discounts