The 2020 Cadillac CT5 Sedan Is a Big Step Forward

The new sport sedan just might have what it takes to succeed where the ATS and CTS failed.

Todd LassaWriterSteven PhamPhotographer

We promise: The all-new 2020 Cadillac CT5 sport sedan is much better looking than it seemed in the teaser photo sent out a couple of weeks ago. Viewed from our vantage point inside a photo studio, the new midsize four-door looks long and low with good rear-drive proportions and an exceptionally short front overhang. The small rear-quarter windows and C-pillar detailing  remain controversial design aspects, although to pen a proper six-window sedan instead would have required pulling the cutlines for the rear doors forward, making for less commodious apertures, says Cadillac design chief Andrew Smith.

The new luxury car for now replaces both the Cadillac ATS and CTS, models that were both tweeners. The ATS was smaller than the compact luxury cars in its competitive set, like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-class, while the CTS was sized between the 3 and 5 Series, as well as the C- and E-classes. Later this year, Cadillac will unveil a smaller CT4 to serve as the proper ATS replacement.

The new CT5 is 1.7 inches shorter overall than the outgoing CTS, though its wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer than that car's and was given "all to the rear seat," says global product manager Ken Kornas. The height is the same, at 57.2 inches. The CTS, which ends production with the end of the 2019 model year, and the ATS, which was discontinued after 2018, both suffered from tight rear seats compared with those of competitors, so Cadillac's designers spent a lot of time getting the CT5's rear seat right. It's properly capacious, and the car's greenhouse has been opened up for better outward vision from all perches. The beltline appears arrow-straight, with none of the upward slant many cars have between the B- and C-pillars to deliver a "faster-looking" terminus. Instead, the CT5 relies on the kinked sail panel, which explains the unique, hatchback-like rear-window design that the teaser photo did so little justice.

The interior received a lot of attention at our preview, as this is the area where Cadillac still falls short. Quality, fit, and finish of modern Caddy interiors seems more geared to satisfying General Motors' investors and profit margins than on making a serious attempt to take on Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, or even Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, and Genesis. The front seats of the two Cadillac CT5s presented look and feel more competitive than that of past models. The new standard 10.0-inch, high-definition center screen is nicely integrated into the dash, with separate audio volume and tuning controls and premium-looking switchgear and jewelry. Cadillac notes that drivers can operate most infotainment and data functions via their choice of the center-console dial, the dashboard and touchscreen, or the steering-wheel controls. There's a massaging-seat option for the driver and front passenger, and to Cadillac's credit, the two main gauges on the dash—the speedometer and tachometer—are real dials. The space between them is reserved for a configurable digital readout.

The insides of the front door pockets are flocked, and the perforated leather seats are reasonably supple, if not the richest-feeling you'd find in this segment. The seats in the CT5 Sport on display wore handsome two-tone upholstery, while the Premium Luxury model in its Maple Sugar exterior paint had a warm Elm leather interior with nice, tactile wood trim. As with other recent Cadillac models, the exteriors of the Sport and Premium are distinguished by their grilles and window trim, which are black on the former and chrome on the latter.

The rear seat has ample leg and shoulder space, although headroom matches competitors' in being only marginal. The back seat also lacks heating and cooling functions, as well as dual climate control. The insides of the rear door pockets are not flocked, and feel like hard, cheap plastic, while the two rear-facing vents are small and not at all expensive-looking; the plastic panel below them—so, the back of the center console—is rendered from dull black plastic, although the cars we saw were pre-production examples. And to be fair, we drove an Alfa Romeo Giulia to the CT5 preview and after double-checking its back seat, found no more or better amenities, although its execution is more luxurious and handsome.

It should be noted that while the '20 CT5 is actually the same overall length as a Mercedes-Benz E-class, Cadillac says it will be priced lower than the '18 CTS. Along with moving out of its Manhattan headquarters and purging former brand president Johan de Nysschen, it appears Cadillac is backing off its strategy of pricing its cars and SUVs nearly as high as the German competition.

The new sedan rides on an update of the GM Alpha platform that underpinned the ATS and CTS, and continues with the Chevrolet Camaro, so it doesn't have any of the mixed-material construction of the CT6 and its Omega platform. Building on those bones, the CT5 gets upgraded bushings, springs, and dampers, Kornas says. The front suspension is an enhanced multilink setup, with a five-link rear, and CT5 chief engineer Mike Bride says his team worked to "step up the game in ride," with better isolation and impact control. The chassis also features ZF dampers, increased suspension travel, fixed Brembo front brake calipers, and self-sealing tires. A drive-mode control standard on all iterations offers a choice of Sport, Touring, Snow and Ice, or customizable settings, plus "enhanced" exhaust sounds (read: the more aggressive sound is artificial). The CT5 also features active noise cancellation, as well as acoustic underbody and glass treatments. The door chimes and other warning sounds are exclusive to Cadillac.

Engine choices will be a 237-hp 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline four or a 335-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, both featuring cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and automatic stop-start. Either can be paired with rear- or all-wheel-drive, with a 10-speed automatic serving as the only transmission. (Your last chance for a stick-shift Caddy is to see if there's still an '18 ATS left somewhere.) Which engine is aboard will be denoted by Cadillac's new torque-based badging.

Safety and convenience features will be a mix of standard and extra-cost options. Remote start and keyless entry, forward collision alert, four radar sensors, and six cameras that can provide a 360-degree view will be standard, and a nifty cord pass-through allows your phone to be placed upright in a specific holder. Adaptive cruise control, massaging seats, an air-purifier, and a hands-free trunk opener (with a Cadillac crest light to help you aim beneath the bumper) will be options. Magnetorheological adaptive dampers and Super Cruise Level 2 semi-autonomous functionality won't be available until after launch, with the latter coming in calendar 2020. Cadillac says the next generation of Super Cruise will upgrade the system available so far only on the CT6, though the company won't say whether that includes any enhanced functions. And of course, Cadillac is hinting at a future performance CT5-V, albeit with no comment on if it might use the Blackwing V-8 or a beefed-up version of the V-6.

As to that opening promise we made, we think you'll be presently surprised when you see a CT5 in the metal. As to whether the car can make inroads in a tough segment, well, the buying public will make that call.

2020 Cadillac CT5 Sedan Specifications

ON SALE Fall
BASE PRICE $45,000 (est)
ENGINES 2.0L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged inline-4, 237 hp @ 5000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm (est); 3.0L DOHC 24-valve twin-turbocharged V-6, 335 hp @ 5600 rpm, 400 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm (est)
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD or AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE
TBD
L x W x H 193.8 x 74.1 x 57.2 in
WHEELBASE 116.0 in
WEIGHT 3,660 lb (Luxury RWD)
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