While the New York Auto Show has largely been home to new crossover debuts, Cadillac brought the heat with a brand-new sedan. It's the 2020 CT5 -- the replacement for the CTS -- and it's better positioned to take on the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
"They're part of our Cadillac DNA," he said at a preview event in Detroit last week. "There are a lot of customers who do look for sedans."
The CT5, as well as the smaller CT4 sedan due later this year, is supposed to be better aligned with luxury-sedan market segments. Where previously the ATS and CTS didn't necessarily match up with rivals directly -- and the, CTS and XTS overlapped quite a lot -- Cadillac hopes its new sedan lineup will fit into neater boxes. The CT5 will rival cars like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, while the CT4 will be a bit smaller and compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
The 2020 CT5 is shorter in length than the CTS but has a wheelbase nearly 1.5 inches longer. That gives the car fantastic proportions with very short overhangs at each end. It's quite the looker in person, whether in Premium Luxury guise (shown in burgundy) or the Sport trim (pictured in gray).
"Frankly, this is one of the vehicles that I've been waiting to show you," said Cadillac executive director for global design Andrew Smith. "I really wanted this vehicle to feel light, agile."
Compared to the creased ATS, the CT5 has a somewhat tamer look, with few ridges on the sheet metal; Smith describes the look as "big, clean surfaces with punctuated details." The wide and low nose features a huge interpretation of Cadillac's usual grille design, while LED daytime running lights extend from the lower bumper, into the headlights, and onto the front fender. The door handles are electrically actuated by touching a button on the inside of the fixed handle.
With quite a sloping roofline that plunges toward the trunklid, the CT5 almost has a fastback look in profile. One odd detail is the piece on the C-pillar that's meant to look like a quarter window but is actually a black trim panel. Still, it helps round out the car's daylight opening nicely.
Out back, look for Y-shaped signature elements in the taillights and a trunklid that has an integrated spoiler. You'll also spot, for instance "550T." Sport models are distinguished by a unique grille treatment, blacked-out exterior trim and different interior pieces like Magnesium paddle shifters, alloy pedals, carbon fiber and available two-tone leather seats.
It's inside the cabin that the CT5 represents the biggest step forward from the ATS and CTS, with a fresher design packed with genuine, great-feeling wood, leather and metal. "If it looks like it, it should be it," Smith said of the interior materials.
There's a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment display atop the dash, which can also be controlled by a rotary controller on the center console or a tiny knob below the screen, next to the volume knob. Available connectivity tech includes two USB Type C ports and one Type A port, wireless phone charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot. An angled holder in the console called the "Phone Shrine" has a pass-through for a cable so you can plug in your phone for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The back seat has a good amount of leg- and kneeroom, but the sloped roofline means my head touches the headliner when I sit up straight. The lower seat cushion is quite short, and the outboard seat bolsters are angled, which will likely be uncomfortable for broader passengers. Trunk cargo capacity rings in at 11.9 cubic feet.
Available features include a huge suite of active-safety features, a 360-degree camera system, standard remote start, heated and cooled seats, Bose audio systems and a sunroof. Active noise cancellation and acoustic glass are standard to keep noise out, while a system called "engine sound enhancement" pumps in extra noises to give drivers a sense of the car's engines at work.
The headlining technology is, of course,. Cadillac's partially automated driver-assist feature can handle steering, accelerating and braking in certain situations on premapped highways; it debuted on the CT6 but Cadillac says Super Cruise will be offered on some CT5 trim levels from calendar-year 2020.
Beneath the sheet metal, the Cadillac CT5 rides on a version of General Motors' Alpha platform, which endowed the ATS, CTS and Chevrolet Camaro with great driving dynamics. Cadillac name-checks high-end parts in the car's chassis: ZF Modular Valve System dampers, a Bosch rack-mounted electric-power steering system and optional Brembo brakes. Aluminum is used for the front doors, hood and some chassis components to help achieve a 50:50 weight balance. An electric brake booster allows for varied levels of brake-pedal effort depending on driving mode.
Powertrain choices comprise a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 boasting 335 hp and 400 lb-ft. Both engines are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and feature cylinder deactivation tech to save fuel. Both rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations are available. The 2.0-liter is the first GM four-cylinder with cylinder deactivation, and it uses a sliding camshaft that physically moves side-to-side to swap between high-lift, low-lift and cylinder-off lobes.
The CT5's Sport trim levels will not have significantly different suspension tuning compared to the Luxury models, representatives said, and no summer-tire options are offered. But Cadillac hints that future V Series performance models could be on the way down the road.
The 2020 Cadillac CT5 looks appealing both inside and out, with fresher design and a better feature set than the ATS and CTS. Experience with those cars, as well as the current Camaro, also suggests that any car riding on the Alpha platform should be quite good to drive, too. With all that in mind, we're looking forward to getting behind the wheel at some point before the CT5 goes on sale this fall.
Originally published April 16.