2020 Cadillac CT5-V: Sport Sedan With An Identity Crisis
The replacement to the CTS-V comes with a new name, updated looks inside and out, but has much less performance on tap.
Cadillac spent over a decade building up its V-Series reputation to contend with BMW M and Mercedes-AMG, showing that GM could distinguish itself with a premium performance lineup. As the previous generation CTS-V went further up market, and carried as big of a price tag as it did performance figures, Cadillac's sales figures dipped. Having a six-figure sedan competing with the BMW M5 and AMG E 63 was a challenge, and Cadillac made a shift. Succeeding the CTS is the new 2020 CT5, which now competes against the more mild offerings from Audi, BMW, and AMG, but finds itself in a weird spot with a diluted performance package.
In a wave of redesigning and rebranding its entire lineup, Cadillac has changed naming conventions, segments to pursue, and overall design language. There has been a focus on launching several crossovers, but the sport sedans offered under GM's premium brand have been restyled and slotted into more attainable market segments. Moving down in class with the CT5-V also means there's a confusion about whether or not Cadillac's new CT4-V better competes against the German competition. With a downgrade of power, handling, and price, the new V-Series Cadillac badge isn't the same as it once was, but the new car should still be good, right?
Crunching The Numbers
Cadillac will have its top performing models carry a new "Blackwing" designation later this year, and the new V models are more in tune with the V-Sport trim levels of previous years. Built on GM's good yet aging Alpha platform--which has been around since the 2013 ATS--the CT5-V shares its underpinnings with the new CT4. Base price starts at $47,695, and the Velocity Red tester I had rang up an MSRP of $56,305.
With dimensions slightly smaller than the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes E Class, but just bigger than the Audi S4, Mercedes-AMG C43, and BMW M340i Cadillac positions this car against, the CT5-V has good overall proportions, but weighs in at a hefty 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg). Cadillac considers the CT5-V to be well-positioned against the competition but those cars are a bit more nimble and offer more power for the money.
Rather than carrying over its predecessor's monster 640-horsepower 6.2-liter supercharged V8--which was shared with the C7 Corvette Z06--the CT5-V now has a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 under the hood, producing 360 horsepower and 405 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque. Through a ten-speed automatic, Cadillac offers the CT5-V with either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and my tester stuck with the rear-drive setup, mated to an electronic limited-slip differential. Performance figures hit 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, a 1/4 mile run in the low 13-second range, and sports a top track speed of 168 MPH. Those acceleration figures are just slower than the previous generation CTS V-Sport model though.
An Improved Cabin
Cadillac stepped up interior quality, and while a quick glance may give you the impression of a spartan cabin, a deeper look reveals an environment that's clean and functional, with reasonably good materials. There's still a bit of plastic inside, something GM is notorious for, but the dash and door panels get nice touches of leather and carbon fiber.
Cadillac's designers did a great job giving you plenty of spots to store things inside, and I appreciate how well-placed the cup holders, accessory outlets, and (optional) wireless mobile phone charging point all are. If you're toting your kids in the back seat, you'll be happy they've got plenty of legroom to avoid kicking the back of your seat, and the standard 4G LTE wireless hotspot will allow them to play on their iPads for hours.
Rear legroom is massive, allowing more space to stretch out than you get in the back of an S4, 3 Series, or C Class. Nothing is overly styled inside, and the soft leather seats feel nice while having heated and ventilated functions available as options. There's even a massage feature. What I quickly notice is how quiet the CT5-V's cabin is, and am shocked how silent the window operations are.
I don't love that Cadillac makes you pay extra for navigation, Bose audio, a reasonably sized gauge cluster setup, and a comprehensive safety suite, but even ticking these boxes keeps the CT5-V less expensive than its rivals. Gauges, buttons, and controls are simple and intuitive enough, and while Cadillac finally ditched the awful Cue infotainment system, the "Next Gen" setup is improved, but not fantastic. Fortunately the CT5 has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on-board, which I utilized throughout the majority of my test week.
Audio controls could be better thought out. The steering wheel buttons are strangely selected and placed, with none of them operating as you'd expect. There's also a pair of redundant knobs just below the main infotainment screen, for volume control and menu selections. Neither are needed, as there's a well-placed touchscreen in addition to another volume knob and infotainment control puck and button setup near the shifter.
For Daily Duty
Cadillac did a great job making the CT5-V more comfortable than the CTS-V it replaces, and you'll be satisfied doing plenty of commuting. The Magnetic Ride Control system is responsive and compliant in the normal Tour mode, and sharpens up nicely when you go into the Sport and Track modes. New to the CT5-V is a steering wheel button to engage the V Mode that offers a customizable setup for engine, suspension, transmission, and exhaust settings, which is confusing as there's also a My Mode configuration available.
There's not much excitement from the engine and exhaust tone, and I would expect more from a V-badged Cadillac. Overall the powerplant feels a little uninspired. As a daily driver, I'm not complaining about only having 360 horsepower on tap, as the response is smooth enough, the turbos have a reasonable punch when you get your foot into it. If you're a responsible adult with throttle management, you'll see the high end of the 18/26/21 (city/highway/combined) EPA fuel estimates. My tester didn't have Cadillac's Super Cruise system optioned, but if you're doing longer drives on a regular basis, you'll want to tick that option box to employ hands-free driving assistance. One strange gripe I have is about the small size of the side mirrors. They're not only compact, but are only a couple inches tall, making checking before a lane change a bit of a guessing game.
With 19-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires equipped, the ride isn't too harsh, the tire noise is low, and grip is good in any condition. Electric-assisted steering inputs are light and communicative when you're in the normal mode, and get up to a heavier feel when you go into the track setup. I made the My Mode setup keep the suspension in Tour, but firmed up everything else as a good daily driving configuration. If you aren't utilizing the more hardcore modes available, the CT5-V isn't going to provide the sensations of a proper sport sedan.
Playing On Exciting Roads
When you plunge into the Sport and Track modes, and you enable the CT5-V to open up its performance parts and settings. Engine response improves, handling sharpens, and steering feel gets much more positive. The trouble is that it's not a big jump in the overall experience. There's a trick in the Track mode to access GM's Performance Traction Management system, which lets you tweak the handling and stability control settings for optimal performance, and they're a must if you want to flog the CT5-V.
Planting your right foot should be rewarding, but the underpowered twin-turbo V6 doesn't have enough flexible power to excite me. At 4,000 pounds, the CT5-V needs another 50 horsepower and 1,500 RPM higher redline (currently 6,200) to really shine. The ten-speed automatic gearbox also inhibits the CT5-V's abilities. There's a strange sensation of wildly short ratios, and you'll feel unnecessary gear changes when you're shooting from corner to corner. I understand the desire of adding a ton of gears for fuel economy, but ten is far too many. Definitely utilize the steering wheel-mounted paddles, as you'll find that you won't need to shift nearly as often to have fun. There's a lap timer and performance meter setup in the CT5-V, but this car didn't come with the stellar Performance Data Recorder system in previous V models.
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber is the best all-around tire available, and gives plenty of grip when you're tossing the CT5-V on winding roads. I'm surprised that Cadillac only opted for 245mm wide rubber, as a bit more contact patch would allow the CT5-V to carve with greater confidence. The skinnier tires do let you drift more easily, which I liked when I'd make short work of the U-turn over the freeway by my home. Brembo supplies sturdy 4-piston calipers and beefier rotors, but when you're trying to slow down the heavy sedan, they do fade if you're thrashing about. If you're not completely hooning, the brakes are definitely up to the task.
Weight transfer is clean when you're making big sweepers, and I attribute much of that to the 116-inch long wheelbase, magnetic ride suspension, and electronic LSD putting in a strong effort. As you push the steering angle harder in a fast corner, there's a bit of disconnect through the steering wheel, as the electric power steering numbs more feel than I'd prefer. Even in the heavier track mode, I want more response and feedback, and think Cadillac's engineers could have borrowed some research time in an AMG or BMW rival. As a sport sedan, I think Cadillac left a lot on the table.
No Longer A Proper "V" Car
Cadillac missed the mark with the CT5-V, and should have given it much more power. Even if it's not intended to be the full-fat super sedan in the lineup, the sensations are tame, the exhilaration is gone, and the engine has a big disadvantage against the German rivals Cadillac moved down market to compete against.
The CT5-V should have been given the V-Sport designation, but instead wipes out the good work Cadillac did establishing the V-Series over the years. Good news is that there's the Blackwing model--a name with zero notoriety--coming as a more suitable successor to the CTS-V. With the potent 640-horsepower supercharged V8 making its return, I hope the Blackwing brings performance sedan glory back to Cadillac.