The new 2020 Cadillac CT5 has its work cut out for it. It’s no secret that Cadillac’s sedan sales have been off in recent years, and with the CT5 the marque is hoping to flip that script with a car that it says has class-leading features and a dramatically improved package. We recently had a chance to chat with Andrew Smith, executive director of global Cadillac design, and Brandon Vivian, Cadillac executive chief engineer, about the new CT5 for a download on what they were hoping to achieve with the new model.
The replacement for the CTS—a CT4 arrives later this year to take over for the ATS—the CT5 is available with two engines, a 2.0-liter turbo four with a GM-estimated 237 horsepower and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with an estimated 335 horses and a healthy 400 lb-ft of torque. , Vivian says the use of smaller, more efficient turbos helped to achieve the six’s output. Both engines are available with all-wheel drive and come with a 10-speed automatic as standard.
It’s an Alpha dog. According to Smith, using GM’s Alpha platform rather than the Omega bones of the CT6 allowed the team to keep the CT5 from looking too big on the outside (witness the short front and rear overhangs), while maximizing space on the inside. The Alpha architecture also helps keep the CT5 as svelte as possible; it weighs an estimated 3,660 pounds. “What we’ve ended up with is a vehicle with a compact wheelbase and great interior space,” Smith said.
Faster back, hold the hatch. “We wanted to reinterpret the sedan by giving it more of a fastback profile” Smith said. “People have asked me why didn’t we make it a hatchback. The point I’ve made is the sedan is actually more of an efficient package; we didn’t put any hinges overhead, so we didn’t have to raise the roof.”
One car, two personalities. “Something we started with the XT4 is we wanted to make sure people know it’s a Cadillac, but also know which Cadillac it is,” Smith said. “Each vehicle has its own character and we really wanted this vehicle to be expressive and athletic, but this also continues our philosophy of giving Cadillacs both luxury and sporty characters. The front ends [of the CT5’s luxury and sport trims] are actually quite different graphically but also in texture. There’s the Escala-inspired front end and a more V-series inspired one with the mesh.
About the CT5’s controversial rear pillar design. “What we wanted to do was have an element that gave you a really fast upper while still maintaining good headroom,” Smith said. “The Interesting thing there is we could have gone and put in a sixth window in, but to me it’s less efficient and it’s a nice solution for the rear occupant as well. Graphically I like where it sits on the car and the whole stance of the vehicle.”
The approach to its insides. “We wanted to do a couple of things [with the interior],” Smith said. “We think the rear is class-leading, and we’ve done a lot of work at the architectural level with foot room and entry to make it a great place to sit. But ultimately a luxury vehicle is about the person who owns the car so wanted to give it a driver focus. We also wanted to make sure that everything was intuitive and easy to use and within reach of the driver.” At the top of the center stack is a 1080p full-HD, 10.0-inch touchscreen.
One car, two personalities, part deux. “We kind of curate different experiences using materials,” Smith said. “There’s one with open-pore elm wood trim [on the Luxury]. The [Sport] has a high-contrast interior with red stitching that makes it feel really sporty. The red stitch is matched with a red wire weave that’s in the carbon fiber as well. It has a different character.”
Beyond CUE. “We’re working to improve the user interface over time and I think we’ve ended up with the easiest to use in the industry, at least that’s our intent,” said Smith. “The idea is you can use it any way you like with the touchscreen, the rotary control, the steering-wheel controls, and voice as well. The rotary dial is a really nice fit with Super Cruise as you have a tendency to sit back and relax a bit.”
The hardest part? “Stamping that rear quarter was the most challenging piece,” Vivian said. “The goal was a rear-seat package that was the best in the segment. That’s driven some of the styling.”
Fin camera. The CT5 augments its conventional license-plate-located rearview camera with one in the shark fin on the roof. “It’s a more natural position, with an enhanced 120-degree angle digital image, and improved night vision,” Vivian said.
Some CT5 firsts. “From a hardware standpoint we have a new ZF-brand modular valve system in our first application of a twin-tube damper system,” Vivian said. “Michelin’s soft-seal tire is our first use of that tech as well.”
Updating on the fly. Vivian said Cadillac now has the ability to do over-the-air updates for every major module in the car. Previously these updates were limited to the Super Cruise software.
The CT5 is cybersecure. “Our next-generation electrical architecture has encryption tech that will really set us apart,” said Vivian. “We will have some upgrades and enhancements in the future that you’re going to hear about shortly.”
Mild or wild (fake) noises. “Both cars have Cadillac-curated sounds to them,” Vivian said. “The CT5 will be very quiet using active noise canceling but if you want to drive in a more sporting fashion, engine sound enhancement is applied to both engines.”
Dialing it up to 10. “The 10-speed was designed from the get-go to deliver a world-class experience and drive quality,” Vivian said. “Personally, it pairs really well with the 3.0-liter.”