2020 Cadillac CT5 2.0T Review
The Cadillac CT5 sedan replaces both the CTS and ATS—the former our 2014 Car of the Year winner and still a sport sedan we hold in high regard. So this new Caddy has some big shoes to fill. Unfortunately for Cadillac, the CT5 comes up a few sizes too small.
Although the Cadillac is handsome in front, most judges couldn't get behind the side profile, especially its bizarre C-pillar graphic.
"It looks like it was stuck on at the last minute after a design review in GM's Shanghai studio," international bureau chief Angus MacKenzie said. Guest judge Chris Theodore had similar thoughts, calling it a "skin blotch." There are not a lot of ways to spin that positively.
GM's Alpha platform made its debut with the ATS and appeared later in stretched form with the CTS. Those capable bones gave Cadillac's cars an unexpected dynamic advantage over their competitors. The CT5's Alpha 2 platform is still tossable, but the new model doesn't have the same handling lead its predecessors once enjoyed. A big part of the problem is the way the CT5's suspension is tuned; it pushes at the limit instead of letting you hang the tail out. It is possible to have some fun with a bit of coaxing, but that's a tall order for the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 rated at 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque—low for the segment.
"After the CTS and ATS, the chassis is a disappointment," MacKenzie said. "The CT5 doesn't feel as powerful or as alert, and the default handling mode is mild understeer. You can get it to rotate, but it takes a lot of provocation. The Cadillac is not as fluid or as adjustable as the 3 Series."
Whereas nearly every judge agreed that the new turbo-four engine felt underpowered, its 10-speed automatic transmission earned some praise for its smart gear selection and willingness to downshift using the paddle shifters. But even so, the CT5 is not a great choice for driving enthusiasts. The car's seats don't have the lateral support needed for spirited driving.
"Sometimes the acorn does roll farther from the tree," technical director Frank Markus said. "This car fails to impress on a level that its CTS and Chevrolet Camaro forebears did when they each won Car of the Year."
A real pet peeve: The automatic seat belt tensioning system is far too eager to tug violently on your chest and lap.
"Handling was OK, but it did not inspire me to go faster," Detroit editor Alisa Priddle said, noting that at the first hint of g-forces, "the seat belt cinches and does not let up for what seems like an eternity. It is very tight and uncomfortable, especially for a female."
The interior is a mixed bag. Some aspects, such as the carbon-fiber trim with red accents to match the stitching, are well executed. The Bose stereo is dynamic and avoids the traditional midrange speaker mush. But other switchgear and plastics are pulled from the familiar GM parts bin and detract from any sort of premium feel. Most judges agreed that the responsive haptic touchscreen improves Cadillac's once-balky CUE infotainment system. The rear seat offers excellent legroom but is tight on headroom.
MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina sums up the CT5 best: "This is one of those cars that I can't recommend to people shopping in this class. I just don't see anything special or attractive here. The design is nice, but I'd prefer a 3 Series or A4 over the CT5. It's a shame because the platform is nice, but everything else doesn't really line up well."