2020 Cadillac CT4-V first drive review: More of the same

Cadillac's V-Series ain't what it used to be, and in some ways, that's OK.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
6 min read

How could the 2020 Cadillac CT4-V ever fill the beloved ATS-V's shoes? Instead of a 464-horsepower V6, it only comes with a four-cylinder engine. In lieu of an available six-speed stick, Caddy's latest and greatest is automatic-only. In many ways -- at least, on paper -- this car is a big step back from its forbear.

The family was a delight to drive -- nimble, crisp and responsive. But building on that excellent foundation, the rides on an updated version of the ATS's underlying architecture. Accordingly, it's also light on its feet and plenty engaging. Aside from the annoying name change (I keep typing ATS instead of CT4), the car should be a softer, friendlier version of the V-Series and it still leaves plenty of room for the upcoming Blackwing model to really blow us all away.

2020 Cadillac CT4-V: Fast and engaging but not too luxurious

See all photos

It's got a truck engine

The CT4-V is powered by a truck engine. That sentence sounds ominous, but don't worry. This is nowhere near as bad as you think.

Mounted neatly between this high-performance Cadillac's front fenders is a 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a powerplant that debuted in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 a year or two ago. Serving CT4-V duty, it delivers 325hp and a stout 380 pound-feet of torque. If you're keeping track, that's 139 fewer horses than the ATS-V brandished. 

In this application, the engine's sole dance partner is a 10-speed automatic transmission that is beautifully dialled in. It can slur gear changes with the best of 'em so you never feel a thing, or it can hammer off upshifts with machine-gun speed. It's a superb setup, though I do still miss the ATS-V's available six-speed manual gearbox. Slightly detuned, this drivetrain combination is also standard on the CT4 Premium Luxury model, which is a step below the CT4-V.

2020 Cadillac CT4-V

This furious four-cylinder is both potent and refined.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

These days, 2.7 liters is a huge four-cylinder, especially one that's boosted. But thanks to loads of technology and a sound basic design, this engine is incredibly smooth and very responsive. Not only is it nearly free of nasty vibrations, it comes on strong just off idle and pulls like a bulldozer throughout the remaining rev-range, its enthusiasm only waning as it nears redline.

The CT4-V is offered with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. My tester has the latter and it really helps, particularly when the rear tires momentarily break loose on wet pavement.

Thanks to features like automatic stop/start, cylinder deactivation and an electric water pump, this high-performance Cadillac is surprisingly efficient. With all-wheel drive onboard, it's rated at 20 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. I've had no trouble getting around 26.5 mpg in mixed driving, which includes plenty of wide-open-throttle blasts.

Dynamic excellence

Building on the ATS' dynamic excellence, the CT4-V also drives like a thoroughbred. Its steering wheel feels great in your hands and is meatier than the deli counter at your local grocer, with a thick, nicely contoured rim. The smattering of secondary controls mounted on the spokes is logically laid out and easy to use. The CT4-V's steering itself is nicely weighted and particularly hefty when you put the car in Sport or Track modes. Unlike so many modern vehicles, this Cadillac actually provides a bit of road feel, with some pavement textures being detectable through the wheel.

2020 Cadillac CT4-V

The CT4-V's steering wheel it thicc with two C's.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

In spite of its sporting intentions, the CT4-V's ride quality is superb, far better than what the ATS-V provided. Yes, it's firm, but it's also incredibly well controlled and refined with no grittiness or harshness. Suspension inputs are dealt with almost instantly thanks, in part, to the ZF MVS passive dampers that are standard equipment on all-wheel-drive models. CT4-Vs without this traction-enhancing feature are fitted with GM's fantastic Magnetic Ride Control system, which alters damper firmness in fractions of a second to cope with varying road conditions. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Keeping vehicle speed in check, the CT4-V is fitted with Brembo front brakes. For an extra $595, the calipers can be painted either red or blue. With electronic assist, I was worried these binders would be grabbier than a 2-year-old that missed naptime, but while firm and extremely responsive, they're not jumpy.

This Cadillac's braking performance is excellent, though its pedal placement is far from perfect. As in other GM products, the brake pedal itself is on a plane that's far above the accelerator, which means you can't easily rotate your foot from one to the other. Instead, you practically have to lift and reposition with each application of the brakes, which is super annoying.

2020 Cadillac CT4-V

There's not much to get excited about here.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Old habits die hard

The CT4-V can easily plant a smile on its driver's face, but some of its interior elements might have the opposite effect. This car's cabin is nicely designed and laid out, but the details knock it down a few rungs. Old habits die hard at GM. 

Despite having no shortage of cut-and-sewn materials with plenty of contrast stitching, many of the textures used in this Caddy's cabin aren't any nicer than what you get in a Honda Civic. The leather seating surfaces feel scarcely better than vinyl. There's a weird rubbery plastic near the outboard air vents and a similar striated material randomly flanking the infotainment screen. A strip of sparkly charcoal trim underneath that display is not obviously used elsewhere in the vehicle. The pair of asymmetrically mounted control knobs on the dashboard, while easy for the driver to reach, are just plain weird. 

Beyond all that, the CT4-V's gauges look nice and are far better than any instruments fitted to an ATS, but like the infotainment screen in a Chevy Camaro, the whole assembly is tipped at an odd angle. Why are they tilted away from the driver at the bottom? This does nothing to improve legibility -- quite the opposite, in fact. GM's familiar control stalks have been dressed up for Cadillac duty, but they still feel cheap, like if you flash the highbeams or adjust the windshield wipers with a bit too much enthusiasm they could divorce themselves from the steering column.

2020 Cadillac CT4-V

GM's latest crop of infotainment systems is absolutely stellar.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Lower-end versions of the Genesis G70 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class have nicer interiors than this Caddy. Even the BMW 3 Series, which doesn't feel particularly premium, is still a step above.

The car's back bench is a tight squeeze for taller folks, but it's manageable. At 10.7 cubic feet, the trunk is likewise quite small, far less spacious than the 3 Series' 17-cubic-foot cargo hold.

But it's not entirely doom and gloom in the CT4-V. At first, its front seats don't seem very comfortable, but they do prove to be supportive and cushy on long drives. The manually extendable lower cushion is a godsend. Unlike those stalks, the climate controls are Mercedes-Benz-esque and feel super nice.

GM's latest infotainment systems are some of the best available today. Crisp and colorful, easy to use and incredibly responsive, they deserve heaps of praise. The so-called Cadillac User Experience (CUE) is standard across the CT4 portfolio and includes an 8-inch touchscreen plus features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and in-vehicle Wi-Fi. Embedded navigation is optional across the range, bundled on the V-Series model with a 14-speaker Bose sound system and a wireless-charging pad for an extra $800.

It's not available right now, but Cadillac's acclaimed Super Cruise driver aid is coming to this sedan in the 2021 model year. Unfortunately, my CT4-V review unit does not even have adaptive cruise control. That is included with some other safety features in the $1,100 driver-assist package. If you want a head-up display, you have to spend an additional $1,150 to get the technology package. Even things like automatic high beams and rear cross-traffic alert are part of an options group, one that will set you back $800. Not to bring up the Civic again, but much of this equipment is standard on that much more affordable Honda .

2020 Cadillac CT4-V

Surprisingly quick and delightfully poised, the CT4-V is still a driver's car.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

It's fun but somewhat flawed

So, what's this Cadillac cost? Well, an entry-level CT4 will set you back right around $34,000, a price that includes $995 in destination charges. My all-wheel-drive V-Series model checks out for a claimed $52,010, a not-unreasonable sum, at least based on what new vehicles go for these days.

The 2020 Cadillac CT4-V will easily entertain driving enthusiasts, yet it's still comfortable and efficient enough to live with on a daily basis. In terms of outright performance, it may be a big step back from the ATS-V, but it's plenty powerful and enjoyable, plus it still leaves room on the table for an even more potent Blackwing variant. Yes, the dearth of standard equipment and some head-scratching interior components are this car's biggest drawbacks, but hey, at least GM nailed the fundamentals.