Cadillac CT5 — A luxury alternative to the SUV

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(August 1, 2021) We know that sedans no longer seem important to a vast majority of vehicle buyers, but we still very much like them including two new sedans in Cadillac’s lineup. Lincoln, the other domestic builder of luxury vehicles, has completely abandoned the segment for a small fleet of four SUVs.


We have found Cadillac's new compact and midsized sedans, the CT4 and CT5, to be very attractive cars with above-average driving dynamics.

The CT5, about the same size as the out-going CTS, carries current Cadillac styling cues with horizontal, conservative lines, a wide Cadillac grille, and vertical Cadillac-like taillights. From behind there's no mistaking the car in front as a Cadillac. The CT5's well-proportioned angular exterior design works well for a mid-sized car stretching out nearly 194 inches with a 116-inch wheelbase. Cadillac also builds a smaller compact-sized version called the CT4, which carries almost identical styling cues, but is nearly seven inches shorter.

One of our biggest complaints of the CT4 we drove last year was its tight rear-seat legroom for adults. The CT5 effectively solves that problem with 4 1/2 more inches measuring 37.9 inches for adult legs.

The CT-5 comes in four trim levels and with three engine sizes Premium, Premium Luxury, Sport and V-Series. All trim levels except the V-Series come standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder making 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 335 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. The V-Series gets the same engine, but with horsepower bumped up to 360.

Although the four-cylinder is reasonably powerful with 0-to-60 coming at about 7 seconds, to get a true luxury feel and to put the rear-wheel-drive CT5 more competitive with the same-sized and more expensive BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class and Lexus ES, we recommend the V-6. It adds the kind of performance you would expect from the largest sedan that Cadillac now makes. The 335-horsepower engine has been measured at 4.9 seconds, which puts on equal footing with the aforementioned luxury offerings from Germany and Japan. The most powerful V-Series engine has been rated at 4.3 seconds.

Both engines pair with a 10-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.

Handling was one of the best features of our CT5. Steering was sharp and predictable, twists and turns on our favorite stretch of rural road "test track" returned excellent performance, confident handling, reliable brakes and a suspension that absorbed road imperfections with aplomb. But if you are looking for a true sports sedan then you will have to explore offerings from the Germans. On the other hand, the CT5 cabin is more spacious than many of its rivals, making it easier to use as a family car.

The seats up front are comfortable with supportive cushions and a four-way lumbar adjustment. Operating controls are good, especially with the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) audio and infotainment system whose touch screen responds quickly to inputs. The interface is intuitive and we like the manual audio and channel selection knobs. However climate control buttons are situated in a row low on the instrument panel with tiny markings, making them difficult to read and nearly impossibly when driving. All models come with touchscreen infotainment, basic driver-assistance technologies, and plenty of convenience features.

Overall, we thought the interior left room for improvement. The design styling is certainly acceptable, but some of the head-scratching material quality was marginal and certainly not luxury, and below what you would find in rival German and Japanese luxury sports sedans — a definite drawback.

Standard features in the CT5 include dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, nine-speaker sound system, satellite radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, simulated leather upholstery, and 18-inch wheels.

Our Premium Luxury test car came with such additional standard features as ambient interior lighting, leather upholstery, blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and a wireless charging pad. It also came a large amount of options including navigation, a 14-speaker Bose premium audio package; three-zone climate control, HD surround vision, night vision, and adaptive cruise control. Upgrading from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four to the V-6 cost $1,000.

Where the Cadillac CT5 has a clear advantage over much of its direct competition is in price. The base Premium model starts at $41,595. The Premium Luxury with the V-6 engine begins at $51,210, and the CT5-V with the 360-horsepower engine starts at $62,680. Our Premium Luxury carried a base price of $50,210 and with numerous options showed a bottom line of $65,765 including destination charge.

If you like the CT5, but desire more performance, Cadillac has the answer. It will soon introduce the CT4 and CT5 Blackwing editions with 472 and around 650 horsepower respectively. Both cars will get an optional manual transmission.

2021 Cadillac CT5


Base price: $41,595; as driven, $65,765
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6
Horsepower: 335 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque: 405 pound-feet @ 2,350 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 116 inches
Length: 193.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,974 pounds
Turning circle: 39 feet
Luggage capacity: 11.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 19 city, 26 highway, 21 combined
0-60: 4.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6

The Good
• Latest technology
• Excellent exterior styling
• User-friendly controls

The Bad
• Lacks German luxury feel

The Ugly
• Options can send price skyward