Review: 2020 Cadillac CT5-V

Review: 2020 Cadillac CT5-V

In an age where most every manufacturer is either severely reducing or completely killing their sedan and hatchback line-up in favour of SUVs and CUVs in North America, Cadillac has bucked the trend and come out with not one but two all-new sedans: the CT-4 compact and the CT-5 mid-size. They both display edgy styling, they both come with turbocharged engines and the choice of either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive and, crucially for the driving enthusiasts out there, they both have “V” performance versions.

That comes with a bit of a caveat, though; historically, “V” Cadillacs have been the bee’s knees when it comes to a specific model’s performance zenith. There were also “V-Sport” versions of many Cadillac models, but these were kind of more “performance-lite” models. That’s still the case today…only it isn’t.

Today, the “V” models are much-less hardcore than the “V” models of old, as Cadillac is preparing for the arrival of the “Blackwing” line of vehicles, and those are more in the vein of the older “V” cars. Today’s “V” cars – like the CT5-V you see here – are more in-line with the V-Sport models when it comes to the amount of power they offer over other trims, the amount of performance tech and, crucially, the amount of dollars. With me so far? Good.

Take this CT5-V, for example. It represents a $7,000 price hike over the “Premium Luxury” model that sits just below it in the range and which starts at $44,798 with AWD and V6 power to the V’s $51,998. Back when we had the CTS and CTS-V model, the latter started at about $15,000 more than did the top-spec non-V model of the car. So you can see, then, that this CT5-V is much more a trim package than it may have been a couple of years back.

Or is it? Well, power-wise, the CT5-V makes 360 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque from its twin-turbo V6 to the CT5 Premium Luxury’s 335 hp and 400 lb-ft, though you can also get the latter with a less-powerful turbo four. So not a huge power difference.

What about chassis dynamics? Well, this is where it starts to get interesting as the CT5-V comes standard with magnetic ride suspension, electronic limited-slip differential and performance traction control settings which allow for more slip and a little more driver involvement. It also comes with a nifty button on the steering wheel marked with a “V”, which allows you quick access to your own customized drive mode; you can modify throttle response, steering, suspension and more individually, to tailor the drive just so.
It looks the part, too, with awesome ultra-dark 19-inch gunmetal wheels – that, I admit, could be a little bigger as they are dwarfed by the broad panels around them – blacked-out grille and lower splitter, smoked taillamps, quad tailpipes and trunklid spoiler. That last detail’s nice to have, but I do wish that, like the wheels, they’d actually made it a little bigger for more presence; as it stands right now, that spoiler is something that I think would look just as at home on a Ford Fusion as it does here.

Other than that, though, this is a well-styled car that uses just enough sharp angles and edges mixed with more traditional shapes to create a distinctive look. I like it – even in the somewhat tame “Shadow Metallic” exterior colour you see here – though I think if I were to be going with the whole-hog performance model (until the Blackwing arrives, anyway), I’d want something a little brighter. Luckily, Cadillac is more than happy to oblige as they offer much more sparkly (and sparkly-named) stuff such as Velocity Red, Royal Spice Metallic (a red-orange of sorts) and Wave Metallic – that’s a bright blue.
Inside, it’s more “tuxedo” than “that gold-sequined blazer you wore on New Year’s Eve once” – and that’s no bad thing.

While I like a slightly brighter exterior, I don’t necessarily feel the same way about interiors. Too much flash and dash can be distracting, it can reflect sunlight in annoying ways and it gets dirty. With the black-with-hints-of-brushed-steel-and-carbon seen here, you really get the feeling that you’re sat in something classy – as the black leather suggests – but that can let its hair down when the time’s right – like what the carbon inserts on the dash, doors and atop the transmission tunnel and suede steering wheel suggest. And thank you, Cadillac, for going easy on the dust-magnet piano black surfaces; there’s a bit just below the infotainment screen, and that’s about it. I’m less thankful for the wheel; though sueded, it’s on the large side and I prefer a smaller wheel as I find it provides better control.

The materials used could be of a slightly higher quality, too; the leather feels a bit like too little butter spread over too much bread, and some of the touch points are just a little harder than I expected from a luxury car like this.

Speaking of Infotainment: Cadillac has upped the game here as the CT5’s system has a great, responsive touchscreen with good haptic feedback and responsiveness. That was always a sore spot for many who tested Caddy’s older CUE system, so they’ve done well to tighten it up. I guess the on-screen graphics could be a little brighter, but I know that I tend to mainly use Apple CarPlay so this is less of an issue for me, and I imagine it would be for many owners as well. There’s also wireless charging, WiFi hotspot and Android Auto support.

My tester was the AWD model; good because that’s likely what they’re going to sell the most of, so this review will likely be speaking to more readers, but not-so-good in that it does add weight and there’s just something so old-school and pure about a RWD system. A system I have sampled in the CT5-V’s CT4-V little sibling and that had me coming away thoroughly impressed.

So I approached the CT5-V thinking that it would undoubtedly feel fast, but perhaps a little too planted and sure of itself to really spark the fizz, as it were. As expected, the CT5-V is brisk off the line and acceleration comes accompanied with a great growl from the quad exhausts – this sounds like a proper sports sedan, that’s for darn sure. If you’re in manual mode and have selected either Sport mode or the hardest-of-core Track mode, you have to be quick with the shift paddles as you will bang that limiter if you’re not careful. It will not wring your neck off the line, but 405 hp is 405 hp and AWD is AWD and you will want to keep an eye on the speedo as you continue to surge forward. Not to mention that you’ve got ten closely-spaced ratios to bang through as you accelerate, so you’ll be flipping those paddles. A lot.

So while the acceleration isn’t necessarily ground-breaking, the CT5-V shines in the twisties, just as its specs suggest it would. The steering through that big wheel is responsive and surprisingly hefty – again, this is something that changes as you change drive modes – and the front end is properly responsive even tough it does have the added weight of a front differential. It is remarkably planted, this car, and while getting the rear end to step out is tough to do, the forward progress made as the AWD combined with that powertrain is hard not to like.

Also: while you may think that all this chassis responsiveness would lead to a harsh ride, you’d be wrong. Those magnetic dampers are adept at metering out road imperfections big and small, while the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport rubber gets the power down to the road with precious little drama. Even the brakes, which feature modest 13.6-inch rotors at the front and 12.4-inch items at the rear, are properly effective and remained fade-free during our energetic mountain drive, though they could use a little more feel; that’s likely a product of the drive-by-wire brake pedal.

That is a bit of a microcosm of the CT5-V experience, though, isn’t it? The parts are all in place for this car – it’s a great feature set and there’s some real performance know-how on display here. It’s just that they really didn’t take it all the way; there’s a more powerful version coming – likely for the 2022 model year – and you know that they just weren’t ready to give this particular performance CT5 the performance carte blanche for fear of it stepping on the toes of the upcoming Blackwing halo model.

However; with the CT5-V, the pricing is right, the performance is more than adequate for most applications and it looks right on the money. Want more power? Want a more comprehensive performance conversion? Wait for the Blackwing. If you want just that much more pizazz, then the CT5-V is worth a look.