I’m not going to shake anybody’s tree if I point out that the 2020 Cadillac CT5-V is in no way, shape, or form a proper replacement for the CTS-V. I drove the latter several years back and was flummoxed by its versatile brilliance. A four-door Corvette, you say? Why, yes, I’ll take at least one!
In lieu of the CTS-V’s supercharged V8, the CT5-V has a twin-turbocharged V6. And a near six-figure price tag has been replaced by one that’s solid in the mid-fives. So, what we’re really dealing with here isn’t a V but what Cadillac used to call a VSport — and could just as easily have called the JV version.
I was recently disappointed by the CT5-V’s little brother, the CT4-V, but I was prepared to give the CT5-V the benefit of the doubt. Still, I knew what I was getting into: less power, less power, less power.
And yes, you notice the lack of oomph from the CT5-V almost immediately. Depression, accordingly, sets in. But in a few minutes, you’re driving the peppy four-door, at which point, your mood lifts. This car sneaks up on you! And while it isn’t a Caddy V like those of old — a rude, angry, luxury beast — it is the closest thing to a BMW-grade sport sedan Cadillac has yet built.
My tester cost $46,695 before a decent list of options took the price to $56,305.
The Velocity Red paint job on the fastback was luminous and bold, and it got me an enthusiastic thumbs up from a BMW M3 driver on the Long Island Expressway, as I was on the outbound leg of a 200-mile round trip. The 19-inch alloy wheels were also pretty slick.
The overall styling of the CT5-V is attractive, though a little more on the svelte side than I might have liked; I was a fan of the more angular design of the previous generation of Caddy sedans.
I couldn’t approach the CT5-V without lingering memories of the CTS-V, the Cadillac super sedan that stole my heart a few years back.
“Cadillac has been working on taking it to BMW’s M cars for some time now, and with the CTS-V … well, it may have taken it past the M’s,” I wrote at the time. “The CTS-V bears no resemblance to the Caddys of the Carter and Reagan administrations, and it has grabbed the sports-sedan concept and pushed it into new territory. You can now have your midlife crisis without embarrassing yourself.”
The CTS-V was a genuine V car, while the CT5-V leans toward the V Sport tradition of jazzed-up, yet not stonking, sedans. I’d only driven one of these, the XTS V-Sport, and I rather liked it. I was especially impressed by the engine, which served up some sneaky speed.
“We’re definitely not talking about a modern sedan here,” I wrote. “The XTS V-Sport isn’t crisp-handling, nor is it breathtakingly quick, although with a 0-60 mph time of around 5.5 seconds, it isn’t at all slow. Its mission in life is to tool along the highway in a steady state of speed.”
The twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 made 410 horsepower, giving me a taste of what I could expect from the CT5-V’s engine.
Cadillac, of course, has V’d up the CT5, with a badge at the rear and a badge on the flank. The upshot here is that you have to think through what’s actually going on with the car and its position not just in the Caddy hierarchy, but in the sports-sedan realm.
Unspoken in the pondering of runes is that the entire sedan market, sport and otherwise, has come under stress as consumers increasingly favor SUVs. Cadillac has three crossovers — XT4, XT5, and XT6 — in the portfolio, along with the mighty Escalade. So no slouch there, but let’s face facts: the Caddy sedans are having an identity crisis, and while the company has renewed the four-doors’ lease on life, it isn’t clear that the CTs can alleviate that.
We’ll see. I’ve long been a fan of Caddy’s sedans, so I’m counseling patience. And with other automakers giving up on sedans, Cadillac might have its best shot at competing directly with BMW, Mercedes, and Audi (not to mention Lexus) in a market with fewer sedan choices.
Overall, the CT5-V presents a simplified, less-aggressive interpretation of what a Cadillac sedan with medium-impressive performance can deliver. The car isn’t aiming so much for a visceral thrill as it is to make potential buyers think about the complete package: accessible design, good-enough driving dynamics from a rear-wheel-drive platform, adequate fuel economy (18 mpg city/26 highway/21 city), and perhaps most importantly, compelling technology.
Under the hood is a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6, making 360 horsepower with 405 pound-feet of torque, with the power sent to the rear wheels through a snappy 10-speed automatic transmission.
The CT5-V has drive modes that range from Touring (for highway cruises and puttering around town) to Sport and Track for spirited motoring, to a personalized setting. I used primarily Touring and Sport, but enjoyed Touring on a long weekend jaunt. I used paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to peel off some of the mild turbo lag that I experienced even in Track mode. It isn’t discouraging lag, and in regular automatic mode, you can tip the throttle in a tad and manage it just fine.
The 640-horsepower V8 in the CTS-V was absolutely lagless. But then again, 640 horsepower is a lot of dang horsepower, and if I’m being honest with myself, it’s both too much for normal human driving and rather terrifying when you do allow yourself to explore it.
The 3.0-liter V6 in the CT5-V looks underpowered on paper, but in practice, it’s plenty. I had to watch it on the freeway to make sure I was sticking to something near the posted speed limits. Tempting me north of the numbers on the white signs was the audio-augmented exhaust note, piped into the cabin using the Bose premium system (part of a $4,200 “V Premium” package).
If that sounds like engineering fakery … it is. But it’s superb engineering fakery. It creates a presence that’s exciting and enhances engagement with the driving experience, which is crisp and light. I was reminded of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, another sedan that feels feathery in the hands. The CT5-V has, like the CT4-V, some nice, sharp steering, a suspension that’s firm but not bone-jarringly stiff, and brakes that are so grabby they take some getting used to.
Cadillac isn’t trying to catch Mercedes with interiors, and probably for the best — the Mercs I’ve reviewed have set a standard that’s tough to match. So if you’re Caddy, why bother? My tester’s “Whisper Beige/Jet Black” treatment was pleasing, the seats were comfy yet well-bolstered, and the fronts were both heated and cooled.
My review car lacked a moonroof, and there was no Alcantara on the pillars or the roof. But the vehicle had some carbon fiber trim adding a sporty vibe. My takeaway was that Cadillac wasn’t trying to hit anybody over the head with any single aspect of the CT5-V — but when you add it all up, the package comes together nicely.
Except with the trunk space, an ungenerous 12 cubic feet. That’s fine for a long weekend’s worth of luggage or a run to the grocery store, but anything more would stress the CT5-V’S capacity.
Technology is what truly sets Cadillac apart from its German competition. The current infotainment setup is second only to Audi, and I’m not sure the German system is still the top dog. The Audi “Virtual Cockpit” is cool, but the more you use the Caddy’s infotainment suite, the more you appreciate it.
The 10-inch touchscreen display is responsive, and the Caddy has 4G LTE WiFi connectivity as well as OnStar. The GPS navigation was faultless in my testing, Bluetooth pairing was blissfully straightforward, USB device ports complemented wireless charging, and the Bose premium audio system sounded stupendous.
When I bowed down before the CTS-V several years ago, I did so with the understanding that the privilege of ownership would demand $85,000. So the CT5-V, at a mere $56,000 and change, raises an interesting question: Am I getting enough car the new V to make me forget about the old V?
Well, no. To get CTS-V numbers in the revamped Caddy lineup, you have to move up to the CT6-V, with its 550-horsepower, twin-turbo “Blackwing” V8, its larger form factor, and its $95,000 starting price. Even then, you’re still down nearly 100 ponies from the CTS-V’s supercharged mega mill (really, the full 100, if you consider that the CTS-V’s V8 was the same powerplant that propelled the Corvette Z06, but detuned by 10 hp).
A Blackwing V8 is coming to the CT5-V. But until it arrives, I’m dealing with what’s in front of me, a 360-hp, non-Blackwinged speed-chariot that notches the 0-60 mph run in a startling five seconds by my timing (and probably a bit less than that, given that my timing is based on the “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” method).
Weird car! With my prior exposure to the now-defunct V Sport limited to the sort of boaty XTS, grabbing hold of the darty, middleweight demeanor of the XT5-V initially left me wanting, until suddenly, it didn’t. For all the trouble I had getting used to the car, once I settled in, I almost couldn’t get enough of it.
No, it didn’t erase memories of the CTS-V. And no, I didn’t get mad because the CT5-V lacked Super Cruise, Caddy’s fully hands-free highway self-driving tech — I was having much too much fun driving the car myself.
Again and again, I used the term “sneaky good” to define the CT5-V. At times, I churlishly remarked that the Caddy came off as a terrific American interpretation of a BMW 3 Series — something that Caddy has been trying to achieve for years. Of course, I swiftly noted that the CT5-V lacked that V-car muscularity I had come to adore.
The CT5-V didn’t really need it. The car might not be mind-boggling in power. But it was a joy to drive, and that’s what a sports sedan is supposed to be. With the 2020 Cadillac CT5-V, ask not for what you don’t need.