The 2020 Cadillac CT5-V Is Here—but a Burlier One Is Waiting in the (Black)Wings

In a new strategy, Cadillac is splitting its V offerings into two strengths.

Alisa PriddleWriterSteven PhamPhotographer

You can kill off your sedans or you can choose to go all in on them and pile on the performance. It's clear which direction Cadillac has chosen. Meet the 2020 Cadillac CT5-V, which offers 355 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque from a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine. "Only 355 horsepower in a V!?," we hear you cry. Don't worry, an even more powerful, track-capable CT5-V is still to come, as part of Cadillac's new strategy for its V offerings, where most—if not all of them—will be available in two strengths. The closest analogue for the plan among the competition is at Mercedes-AMG, which delivers line-blurring 43/53 models that blend dynamic fortitude and cosseting comfort while leaving the 63 versions to serve as the heavy artillery.

The CT5-V is of course a higher-octane version of the all-new 2020 CT5 sedan shown earlier this year, and which fills the vacancy where the ATS and CTS resided. The CT5 is shorter than the CTS but has a longer wheelbase and uses an evolved version of GM's Alpha rear-wheel-drive architecture. The V will be available with both rear- and all-wheel drive, with the former coming standard with summer performance tires and the latter on all-seasons with the summers optional. An electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential is standard.

The regular CT5 goes on sale this fall; the CT5-V will follow in early 2020 and, after a short model year, the 2021 model will be introduced with Super Cruise, the hands-free highway driving technology. This lesser CT5-V will seek to take on the BMW M340i, Audi S4, and Mercedes-AMG C43. The new V retains the regular car's multilink front and rear suspensions but has a 0.8 increase in both front and rear track, standard Magnetic Ride Control dampers (upgraded to version 4.0, says GM, to be much faster at responding to road imperfections and vehicle motions), larger ride bushings, upgraded anti-roll bars, and more.

The CT5-V funnels its power via a standard 10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. There's no manual transmission—at least for now, according to GM president Mark Reuss, who responded to our inquiry with a smile. It's unclear if a possible manual would make its way to this car or be saved for the track-focused ultimate version of the CT5-V still to come. GM was tight-lipped with details on that one, but Reuss promised we'd hear about it soon, calling it "the hammer." The first two vehicles to adopt this strategy are the CT5-V and CT4-V that debuted at the same time, while the CT6-V will stick with its one-powertrain strategy. But it's a mighty one: the new 550-hp, 627-lb-ft twin-turbo Blackwing V-8, a Cadillac-exclusive engine (it won't be shared with other GM divisions at all, Reuss said) that we fully expect will end up in the top-spec CT5- and CT4-V models. It's likely those will carry "Blackwing" branding.

Cadillac said that its previous tweener V Sport models didn't sell; customers were far more interested in the full-fat V cars, but many were intimidated by their aggressive chassis tuning and prodigious power levels. The outgoing CTS-V, for example, has a 640-hp, 630-lb-ft 6.2-liter supercharged V-8. The move to a two-model V lineup is the company's way to serve both audiences, as the lesser models will offer more comfortable ride characteristics and approachable levels of power.

The regular CT5 base engine is the 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline-four that debuted in the refreshed 2019 CT6, and it gives the sedan 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Optional is a 335-hp, 400 lb-ft 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6. Both engines have a cylinder-deactivation feature—as does the CT5-V—and each is paired with a 10-speed automatic. Pricing for the lesser Vs is expected to come in around $6,000 to $7,000 more than the Sport versions of the basic cars, with the top-shelf models commanding even more.

The CT5-V looks the part with a long hood that serves to emphasize its rear-drive dash-to-axle proportions, wheels that are pushed to the corners, a lower beltline, and a fastback profile. Its 19-inch wheels are unique; the body hasn't been augmented by the usual big trunklid spoiler or vented hood we've come to expect from V models, but the big-bopper version is likely to rectify that. There are also Brembo front brakes, GM's Performance Traction Management (PTM) system with five drive modes, and launch control. One of the PTM modes is a V setting that will allow owners to customize their own chassis setup, including the steering, powertrain response and sound, suspension, and the brake-pedal feel. Yes, that's right, the brake pedal; the car is fitted with a by-wire pedal (with mechanical safety backup) that can deliver different levels of resistance and feel as it's used to control the hydraulic braking system.

The CT5 lineup is for now sedan-only; no coupe or wagon versions are planned at this time. Cadillac introduced the V series in 2004 with the first-generation CTS-V, and over the years the family has included V variants of the STS, XLR, ATS, and CT6.

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