Cadillac CT4-V: Who Buys The Less Exciting Successor To The ATS-V?
The Cadillac V badge means less these days, and this compact sedan doesn't fit in anywhere.
The Cadillac ATS-V was a good sport sedan, and a fantastic bargain versus its German rivals. Against the Audi RS5, BMW M3/M4 and Mercedes-AMG C43, the American sport sedan offered a ton of performance for your dollar, with a punchy twin-turbo V6 under the hood and razor-sharp steering, but the trade-off was a bit of fit and finish. Available as a coupe or four-door sedan, the smaller Cadillac package was a hit. In renaming its sedan lineup, and throwing away the much-respected brand equity around that V badge, Cadillac replaces the ATS-V with this new CT4-V.
Down on power and price, Cadillac's small sport sedan finds itself in a weird spot between the Audi S3 and S4, Mercedes-AMG A35 and C43, and BMW M235i and M340i, due to its size, price, and performance figures. Much like I experienced with the Cadillac CT5-V I recently reviewed, figuring out how well the CT4-V performs on its own is one task, but the true challenge is discovering which buyers Cadillac is trying to capture with this new sport sedan.
Covering The Specs
Built on a continuation of General Motors' Alpha platform, the CT4-V has dimensions nearly identical to the ATS-V it replaces, at 187 inches long, 71 inches wide, 56 inches tall, and offering a wheelbase of 109 inches. The CT4-V's 2.7-liter turbo inline-four produces 325 horsepower and 381 lb-ft (515 Nm) of torque, and through a 10-speed automatic transmission, Cadillac offers a choice between rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive.
EPA fuel estimates are 20/29/23 (city/highway/combined), and I got 24 MPG throughout my mostly city miles test. Tipping the scales at 3,600 pounds (1,632 kg), the smaller Caddy isn't exactly light. Base price for the CT4-V starts at $44,495. With a few options boxes ticked--which were mostly safety and tech upgrades--the Velocity Red rear-wheel drive tester I had had an MSRP of $52,165.
Refreshing Updates To The Daily Driver
Carrying the new Cadillac styling language inside and out, the new CT4-V has a tidy and sharp appearance. More upscale than other General Motors offerings, the CT4-V's interior definitely made significant improvements over the ATS, with softer leather, finer materials for the dash and door panels, and the downright awful Cue infotainment system has been replaced by GM's more intuitive and better looking next-generation setup. The Bose audio system is good for the money, although I do wish Cadillac gave the CT4-V the upgraded audio and stack of safety options to buyers as standard features. Feels like it was an underhanded way to pad margins while nudging up the MSRP.
Cruising around town, the CT4-V is a breeze to drive, with the base Tour mode offering smooth engine response, precise steering, and a not-too-firm sensation from the magnetic ride suspension. Cadillac wisely equipped reasonably-sized 18-inch wheels and tires with good sidewalls to the CT4-V, and I'm thankful for this decision when I drive around a city with less-than-wonderful pavement and plenty of potholes.
Seating position is great, every control is easy to use, and overall the CT4-V's cabin feels worth the money and then some. If you're toting a couple friends along, rear legroom is fantastic for a car this size, and the cabin feels more spacious than the CT4's exterior alludes to. Trunk space is plentiful, with a wide opening and a pair of storage pockets flanking the space. Cadillac also put a nice slot to stick your mobile phone while plugged in, just ahead of the center armrest storage pocket.
As A Proper Sport Sedan
Head to your favorite twisty stretch of road, and the average driver will be delighted by the CT4-V's performance. While the old ATS-V had 464 horsepower available from its twin-turbo V6, the CT4-V's turbocharged four-banger is quick. Boost comes on with a distinct rush, the exhaust note is a bit raspy, but once you quickly learn its behaviors, it's easy to exploit the powerplant for fun.
Should you want to tweak the engine performance, steering sharpness, and ride firmness, Cadillac has a quick switch to toggle several drive modes, while having a new customizable V mode to get your perfect settings. I like that the V mode is engaged with a simple button on the steering wheel. If you toggle the drive mode to the sportier settings, the engine's response increases dramatically, steering adds plenty of weight and precision, and the magnetic ride suspension stiffens up nicely while not compressing your spine.
Ten speeds in the gearbox is a bit of overkill, and when you're tossing the CT4-V about, you'll find the transmission skipping around often to select the ideal gear. When you pop it into manual mode, you can hold gears more effectively, but the downshift response is painfully slow. I've been spoiled by the ZF eight-speed auto in other cars I've tested.
I dialed in the V mode to go hardcore with everything except the suspension firmness, being a typical car reviewer, and turned the traction control off. You can dive into GM's Performance Traction Management system to toy with various degrees of traction and stability control, but only with a very distinctly timed double-tap of the traction control button once you're in track mode. Save that for the circuit, as the suspension settings in track mode are super stiff, and got upset when I was on fun roads that weren't perfectly smooth.
Flicking the CT4-V in the twisty stuff is fun. The steering gives great feedback, and if you load up some input while spooling up the turbo boost, it's easy to get the tail end to controllably step out. Continental Sport Contact 6 SSR tires are grippy, reasonably quiet around town, and don't get too greasy after a long drive around a good weekend route.
Braking is one shortfall of the CT4-V, as the pedal feel is a bit artificial, and the heat can go from communicating that all is fine to suddenly plunging to the floor with epic fade. I do wish Cadillac's engineers didn't dumb down the braking heat feedback with the electronic aids, as unexpectedly losing brake pressure is worrying.
A Diluted "V" Model
After I reviewed the new Cadillac CT5-V earlier this year, I was left with a similar dilemma. Why did Cadillac diminish the value of the V? With the less exciting CT4-V as the successor to a good ATS-V, Cadillac took a big gamble. The upcoming Blackwing model means there's an unknown name and trim level challenged with carrying the performance expectations of the former, more notable, V Series.
As a total package, the CT4-V is reasonably good. The trouble is that it isn't great at anything in particular. The quality is improved over the last generation ATS, but nothing about is exciting enough to make me want this car versus any of the fun offerings from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-AMG. I wonder which drivers Cadillac thought the CT4-V was going to steal from those German marques. Hopefully the Blackwing makes me believe in Cadillac's fast sedans again and sells by the boatload.