2020 Cadillac CT5-V review: The new meaning of V
For enthusiasts, the arrival of the 2020 Cadillac CT5-V requires some brain recalibration. It's natural to think it's a replacement for the 640-horsepower CTS-V, but you'd be wrong. In 2020, V no longer signifies the performance pinnacle in the Caddy stable. That now falls to the new forthcoming V Blackwing designation and relegates V to represent the middle-ground performers, what we previously knew as V-Sports. Got it? Good.
But don't pooh-pooh the CT5-V. With its sharp looks, gaggle of cabin and safety tech, lively turbo V6 and good driving manners, this Caddy has a lot going for it.
The CT5-V is one of the better-looking Cadillacs in recent history. It's got a long hood line and fastback silhouette that's particularly more aggressive with my test car's standout Velocity Red paint job and contrasting black trim. Nineteen-inch, split-spoke wheels, a tasteful rear spoiler and quad exhaust tips finish off this sedan with exterior dimensions that put it close to the likes of the Audi A6/S6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class .
Surprisingly, the tale of the tape for the CT5-V's interior shows sizing more comparable to the Audi A4/S4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class , despite its longer 116-inch wheelbase, which is roughly 4 to 5 inches wider than the German trio. Space up front is serviceable with plenty of head- and legroom, while rear legroom is generous. Second-row headroom, however, is tighter thanks to the sleeker roofline.
Unfortunately, things inside of the Cadillac aren't as fashionable as the outside. It's not ugly, but on the blander side of the styling spectrum. The layout is straightforward with a center stack consisting of traditional, clearly marked buttons to adjust climate settings as well as the three-stage heated and cooled front seats. And there are some elements that spice things up a touch, like the light brown stitched leather, carbon fiber trim, matte silver elements, and metal paddle shifters.
The seating position is comfortable in the supportive seats strike the right balance of squishiness and firmness. Cubbies to store items are sufficient including a nifty phone compartment on the center console. Materials throughout the cabin, including the hard-plastic portions, look alright, but there are still some cheap-feeling elements such as the clunky shifter that looks like the top of old Biff's cane from Back to the Future Part II, not to mention the lousy plastic trim surrounding the center infotainment screen.
Strong tech game
Speaking of infotainment, it's one of the CT5's strong suits. The latest iteration of the Cadillac User Experience is a far cry from the trainwreck it was when it first debuted. CUE loads quickly, the 10-inch touchscreen is responsive to commands and straightforward to use with crisp graphics. CUE is chock-full of features, too, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar's 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, navigation and a lovely-sounding Bose audio system. And no matter where someone is sitting in the CT5, there's some sort of power point within arm's reach, be it a wireless charge pad, USB-A, USB-C or 12-volt outlet to keep devices from going dead.
On the safety front, the CT5-V has forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert as standard issue equipment. It's also got adaptive cruise control and reverse automatic braking that are part of an optional $1,950 Driver Assist and Advanced Security Package. Lane-keep assist and a head-up display are here, as well, but again are options piled into a $1,300 Driver Awareness Plus Package. Anyone looking for Cadillac's Super Cruise will have to wait until the 2021 model year.
What exactly does Cadillac's V stand for now? In the CT5 it means a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 sits under the hood churning out 360 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque on 18 pounds of boost pressure. It works with a 10-speed automatic transmission that together returns an EPA-estimated 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
On the road, this feels like the right amount of punch for a quick and entertaining daily driver with a low exhaust grumble. There are zero boost lag issues and thrust is available almost everywhere throughout the rev range. Caddy claims the CT5-V will hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds putting it behind the Audi S4 (4.4 seconds), BMW M340i (4.1 seconds) and Mercedes-AMG C43 (4.5 seconds).
The gearbox's manual mode is passable with slightly muted response to up- and downshifts, but kudos to the super-smooth rev-matching when going down gears. It'll hold onto gears and bounce off the rev limiter, which I encounter frequently considering the engine's disappointingly low 6,000rpm redline. That, combined with the shift delays in manual mode, causes me to leave the transmission in full auto most of the time. With Track mode activated, cog swaps are brisk and well-timed.
To improve matters in the handling department, the V gets a Magnetic Ride Control suspension, GM's Performance Traction Management system, an electronic limited-slip differential and four-piston front Brembo brakes. With everything in the Track setting and a little bit of heat in the 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, it hangs on tight through corners. The steering is heavily weighted and communicative, letting you know when the front tires are nearing their limits.
For normal driving, the suspension's Track mode is firm, yet tolerable, but Sport is a nice middle ground between sharp handling and ride comfort. If you just want to cruise home, the Tour setting is the ticket for a comfy ride and lighter steering behavior. What does need work are the brakes. They get matters slowed, but a more aggressive bite will instill way more confidence in me to dive deeper into braking zones.
How I'd spec it
At $63,045, including $995 for destination, my full-zoot CT5-V Platinum is optioned to the max with infotainment and active safety technology equipment. And it shows because its price tag represents a substantial leap from this Caddy's $48,690 base price. All-wheel drive is available for an additional $2,000.
When building my CT5-V, I'd spring for the more budget-friendly $4,190 Premium Package, mostly for the heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel. Optioning the Premium Package also requires getting the $1,300 Driver Awareness Plus Package. Tack on $625 for the Wave Metallic blue paint job and $1,500 for leather seats instead of leatherette results in a $56,305 vehicle.
The new middle
With direct competitors like the S4 beginning at $50,895, M340i at $57,690 and C43 at $56,945, the CT5-V is without question the bargain hunter's pick in the midgrade performance sedan category. While its interior design lags behind the others, the Caddy's dynamic chops are comparable to the BMW except for the brakes and its tech hand is certainly comparable, though it lacks the outright cool factor of Audi's Virtual Cockpit or the luxury of Mercedes' C-Class. If it was my money, the Audi is still the most well-rounded and champion of the bunch, but even so, the CT5-V is still worth your consideration.