By on April 15, 2021

2020 Cadillac CT5

2020 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury AWD Fast Facts

3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (335 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 400 lb-ft @ 2,400-4,400 rpm)

Ten-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

18 city / 25 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

13.3 city, 9.3 highway, 11.5 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $40,695 (U.S) / $42,798 (Canada)

As Tested: $52,155 (U.S.) / $55,593 (Canada)

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,200 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

The automotive press, ourselves included, has been hard on Cadillac in recent years. But the brand is making strides back to respectability.

Unfortunately, the journey is long and incomplete.

For evidence, I submit the CT5. There’s a lot to like about it. But every day I spent with it revealed more and more flaws.

Mostly minor flaws, to be sure. But the kind of flaws that most of the other luxury brands – especially Genesis and the Germans (good band name) and Acura and Lexus – generally manage to avoid.

For example, the dashboard materials above the beltline look and feel luxurious. Below? Decidedly downmarket. And hard, in places that should be soft (giggity). Just ask my right knee – it’s been quite some time since the car passed through and yet I can still feel the hard plastic under the dash. The plastic that slapped my knee whenever I took a left-hand turn aggressively.

Of course, maybe my knee wouldn’t slap the center-stack if the car better controlled its body roll.

2020 Cadillac CT5

To be fair, the CT5 present in this guise is more luxury sedan than sports sedan, and the body roll was well controlled until I pushed it. But it’s one thing to expect body roll. It’s another to get banged up because the bean counters decided that hard plastics could be used where they couldn’t be seen.

That sums up my overall experience with the CT5 – it felt like a pretty good luxury car that answered a lot of Cadillac’s critics, until examined more closely. Dig a bit, metaphorically speaking, and you’d find materials that weren’t quite on par with the competition, but always in places that only car reviewers and the most diligent owners would look or touch.

It wasn’t just materials. As I said, the car’s behavior in hard cornering seemed pretty good at first. But push just a wee bit harder, and the experience would be a letdown compared to the competition.

2020 Cadillac CT5

It’s true that the competitive set includes the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4, and those taut Teutonic sedans set a sporting bar that can be hard to clear. And it’s perhaps true Caddy buyers won’t care that the CT5 doesn’t get there. But if the 3-Series, A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class can strike a nice balance between sport and luxury, why can’t Cadillac? Especially considering what it managed with the ATS and the CTS, which preceded the CT5. Sure, a brand could choose to prioritize comfort over sport – and perhaps Cadillac did – but if you can successfully combine both, why not do it?

2020 Cadillac CT5

At least the ride is acceptably compliant, if not best in class. Furthermore, the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 provides power a plenty, at 335 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. It’s got guts enough for your commute, even with the extra curb weight that all-wheel-drive adds.

Steering feel is similarly a positive – GM got it mostly right in this application.

Another positive is the shift away from the Cadillac User Experience of yore. While CUE remains the nomenclature for the infotainment system, all the weird sliders and haptic touch controls are gone, replaced by conventional knobs and buttons, including a large control knob aft of the shifter. It’s a much more user-friendly, well, experience.

I’m not sure I can say the same about the cabin’s aesthetics – it’s just not quite visually appealing. Not ugly, necessarily, though the tacked-on infotainment screen doesn’t look classy. The colors and shapes seem a bit thrown together.

2020 Cadillac CT5

The CT5 bases at a reasonable $40K and change, including standard features such as 18-inch wheels, split-fold rear seat, leather seats, LED head- and taillights, LED ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and starting, remote start, Bluetooth, wireless phone charger, CUE, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio capability, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision alert, automatic emergency braking, front pedestrian braking, and lane-change alert with blind-spot alert.

Start checking options boxes and the price adds up. The turbo V6 is $3,500 and AWD is $2,000. Navigation and Bose audio add $1,500. A package including lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning and head-up display is another $1,300. Heated seats and steering wheel plus cooled seats add $1,090 while the Garnet metallic paint added $625. Cornering lights and sill lighting added 600 more bucks. Grand total, with fees? $52,155.

What is notable is that there are popular features that one would need to keep ticking even more boxes to get.

2020 Cadillac CT5

The CT5 is one of those cars that is pretty good in a vacuum. But as always, that’s not good enough. Cadillac needs to present a compelling case for the CT5. Why should buyers look away from the imports, or even Lincoln, which technically speaking still offers sedans for the moment? Not to mention Chrysler’s 300, which offers AWD and a fair amount of the same features for less money.

Thing is, Caddy had been doing that in recent years with the ATS and CTS. The CT5 needed to take a leap forward, or at least maintain that baseline, and it hasn’t. It’s still likable. But that isn’t enough.

The sooner Cadillac and GM get that, the sooner the brand will back in the conversation.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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52 Comments on “2020 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury AWD Review – Close, Yet Far...”

  • avatar

    Sure, the car is interesting but the big question is, has Cadillac announced which sexual preferences it supports and celebrates?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The rear view is definitely awkward. What’s the base motor? A turbo 4? I continue to be disappointed that the motoring public’s continued insistence on AWD. It just adds weight, cost and complexity . . . and is so rarely needed. Admittedly, in a car like this, with this amount of somewhat uncontrollable torque (see: turbo) on hand, AWD is probably needed for optimum 0-60 times and full throttle launches if you want to save the tires.

    The real question this car begs is: what is the demand for a car these days, as opposed to some sort of crossover/SUV? Who wants them and what characteristics do they want in them? The default seems to be a “sport sedan,” a concept now at least 30 years old . . . more if you define the BMW 2002 as the original “sport sedan” (as opposed to the contemporaneous “muscle cars” introduced by US automakers at about the same time). Or is there a market for a sedan that is more comfortable and doesn’t suffer the consequences of insane amounts of horsepower and 1G cornering?

    I know that answer I would give — that there’s a market for a comfortable car that doesn’t try to be extreme — but I’m too old to have an opinion that matters any more.

    George: bring my Buick out front, will ya . . . and make sure the golf clubs are in the trunk.

    • 0 avatar

      “doesn’t suffer the consequences of insane amounts of horsepower and 1G cornering?”

      “but I’m too old”

      Perhaps. I can listen to an argument about the cornering ability but a Cadillac should be powerful and to me “insane” doesn’t begin until over 700.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Yup, base motor is 2.0 turbo

    • 0 avatar

      just serviced the trans on my 2017 Lacrosse and new rear brakes after 90,000 miles! you couldn’t give me a new CT5 on even trade. the styling isn’t as good as Malibu, the brand is basically dead after years of inept management.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’m with you on the AWD, but the demand for it is easily explainable: People want security – or the sense of it – at any price. Subaru has capitalized on this emotion for years.

      AWD isn’t just for snow traction for emergency vehicles any more, now it’s for everybody because you know, ‘anything could happen’. Today, the *absence* of AWD is considered a liability in resale value.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to poo-pooh people for wanting AWD until I bought a car that had it. I’d say it’s less important in a FWD car, but if you have a powerful, RWD car, and live in a snowy place, it sure makes life a LOT easier.

        • 0 avatar

          …and live in a snowy place…

          Yet most end up in places with little or no snow. I hear all the BS from family/friends about how it saved their bacon three times and they sure would have crashed without it. Yet, they all had FWD or RWD cars for the last 30 years and never had a crash….

      • 0 avatar

        I need awd to get out of my driveway in winter

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @DCBruce: Sorry for responding to your posting so late. It is funny because it is true. Just a great post on your part.

  • avatar

    This doesn’t make me feel the want, but neither does anything else in the class. The last car in this class that could possibly have gotten me to sign loan paperwork would have been the previous-generation S4 with the supercharged V6 and a manual. I drove sport sedans for much of my life and my aspirational cars were always sport sedans, but somehow today I’ve lost interest. For this money, I’d rather have a used Model S than any of the new sport sedans available.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m very into the sports sedan class, which wasn’t the case a few years ago or earlier in my life.
      Maybe they are doing a better job catering to my generational demographic at the expense of what the GenX types liked?

      • 0 avatar

        Perhaps. For my tastes, the newest entries all seem too focused on raw engine power and tech features, and usually look ugly. We’ve lost manual transmissions, a degree of involvement in turns, and cohesive designs both inside and out.

        Honestly the apotheosis of this class seems to me like a manual E90 335i with the sport options, or maybe even the early E90 330i with 255 hp way up at a glorious-sounding 6600 rpm. Both supercharged and V8 S4s with manuals get honorable mention. From a sport sedan, I want usable speed, satisfying handling, a nice noise, and driver involvement.

    • 0 avatar

      The last thing that I wanted in this class I bought, still have, and plan to be buried in – my TTAC-famous ’11 BMW 328! wagon. Mit 6spd stick and RWD. Still lives at my place in Maine, still as reliable as death and taxes, and still makes me giggle like a schoolgirl every time I drive it. Which no Cadillac has ever done.

      10 years old this summer. Might actually hit 50K this summer too.

  • avatar

    I am old enough to have read the original reviews of the new Euro focused Cadillac STS, with it’s front wheel drive and 4.9L V8. The reviews of each new generation of Cadillacs in the subsequent 30 YEARS have all been the same: close but not quite. Hyundai has accomplished in 10 years what GM hasn’t been able to do in 30 years.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, GM can do it. When they give the Corvette people enough money and leave them alone, the results are top-notch.

      The problem is top management doesn’t know any better and still doesn’t give the engineers enough leeway. Even worse, they let bean counters get in the way, like it’s a mass market product and every penny counts.

      Well, Cadillac IS a mass market vehicle, or at least the top brass wants it to be, but the segment is luxury AND performance, and management wants to do it on the cheap. The result is just what this review uncovers: hidden cheapness and not quite cooked performance.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    One could buy a 556HP V2 manual for far less than that kinda money. Or several modded V1s.

  • avatar

    They have to change the name of division. Cadillac is too Americana. Come up with something with more European.

  • avatar

    Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my dad and his friends had an endless parade of Cadillac and Lincoln sedans and coupes. None of them were great cars but they all had a element of style, sometimes Baroque, sometimes crisp and clean. They were comfortable, cruisers meant to get the operator and their passengers where there were going in comfort and with minimum fuss or racket. Somewhere along the way, mid to late ’80s I believe, Cadillac and Lincoln believed they needed to ape Mercedes and BMW, but failed to understand the commitment to sweating the details those brands had as part of their DNA. 30 years later, they still don’t. Last year I dumped my ’16 XTS with under 30k as it was both problematic, not real comfortable and of course not an inspiring car to drive. The dealer experience was a disappointment as well. Lincoln seems to have decided who they really want to be and are focusing on comfort and ease of operation, leaving performance to the experts. Cadillac however still hasn’t cracked the code on who they want to be, straddling the line between close to a BMW and slightly better than a Buick. Neither is a very compelling place to live. Hope they figure out a direction soon, the US motoring world would be a better place with a modern day Eldorado, Seville or Sedan deVille instead of a 90% effort to ape a Audi, BMW or Benz.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agree. Believe that there is still a market for ‘large’, quiet, sedate, highway cruisers with lots of torque, copious shoulder/hip room up front, and a trunk big enough to fit a couple of ……….. golf bags.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with that Arthur, however the vast majority of those customers are driving crew cab pickup trucks. :-) So many crew cabs with toneau covers on them so that they can just be giant trunks.

  • avatar

    Inside Looking Out – I assume you are joking, but Antoine de Lamothe-Cadillac was actually French.

  • avatar

    Anyone that gets the CT5-V with the stick won’t care about any of these criticisms…And they shouldn’t.

  • avatar

    I just spent the past three weeks looking closely at the CT5 Premium Luxury (2.0L 4 cyl), the Acura TLX, and the BMW 3-Series. CT5 kept rising to the top of my list, especially with its compatible seat comfort and “just right” interior controls. Of the three cars, the Cadillac was the easiest to jump into, get comfy, and DRIVE. Controls, menus, and displays are straightforward and satisfying to use. There is no learning curve or trickery when browsing music libraries, or when quickly tagging police/pothole/construction while using Waze. What finally steered me away from the CT5 was subtle engine noises: “ticky and raspy” sounds funnel through the firewall when gently accelerating from stop sign to stop sign, in neighborhoods. This noise is invisible with music playing, but it caught my attention during a thorough test drive, and I could not get past it.

  • avatar

    You know, “heading back toward respectable” has been thrown at Cadillac since circa 1992, and I’m not sure they ever made it.

    How long is it supposed to take?

  • avatar

    The CT4 & CT5 don’t make sense unless their CPO, you’re getting a great deal, and couldn’t give 2 $hits what the badge is.

    My biggest issue is with Cadillac having both noise cancellation and piped in engine noise in these cars. (Even the low trims) Can’t everything that’s not a V or Blackwing be dead silent inside?

    Go Fast with Class.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re also too close in size to the point that the CT4 doesn’t make sense at its price point. Buy the CT5 10/10 times in that situation.

      • 0 avatar

        The most positive thing I can say about the CT4/CT5 is that it’s not too difficult to option a LSD in the RWD models even the mid range 2.7T. Kia isn’t allowing a LSD on the 4 cyl Stinger which given the power increases I believe is a mistake.

        If I had to buy new I’d rather have a G70 or a Stinger vs a CT4/CT5.

  • avatar

    “hard plastics” Oh, that universal critique bantered about by the press. It isn’t so much a case of “hard plastics” but poor design. If one’s body flops into contact with hard edges and corners then that’s poor design. I grew up in an era when most of a car or truck’s interior was made of metal. I don’t recall anyone complaining about “hard metal”.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s cause you all were high on lead paint and asbestos!

      • 0 avatar

        Corey’s Reader Disengagement Campaign has escaped the boundaries of his own articles and leaked out all over the website.

        Corey, I predict a high level of engagement from readers on your latest (1985 Gurgel) writeup – 300 comments minimum. Surely such a vehicle will resonate with readers – or perhaps you will drive them away with vacuous insults.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s cause you all were high on lead paint and asbestos!”

        I didn’t paint cars and my IQ is sufficiently high enough to keep me from chewing upon or licking car interiors.


        My dad taught me to be smooth on the brakes but asbestos causes lung disease not IQ loss. Mesothelioma is a common asbestos industrial disease.

        • 0 avatar

          “My dad taught me to be smooth on the brakes but asbestos causes lung disease not IQ loss. Mesothelioma is a common asbestos industrial disease.”

          In fairness, you’re a lot dumber after you’re dead.

    • 0 avatar

      The interior that has held up the best in all my vehicles is my ’02 Dodge Dakota. That thing is renown for having the most incredibly cheap, rock hard plastics possible, but you can’t damage that stuff. The worse interior I’ve experienced? a VW Passat that was covered in “soft touch” plastic. It was some fancy rubberized coating that peeled like a bad sunburn after about 4 years. I had to clean and repaint or recover both doors and center console to make it even sellable.

      The only things that need to be soft are touch points (arm rest, seats, steering wheel, carpet). Everything else should be some kind of textured matte finish to cut down on visibility of scratches, smudges and reflections.

      Alcantara (micro-suede) may be popular but it doesn’t wear or really look good to me. My C7’s 3LT interior is covered with it.

  • avatar

    Lincoln is still technically offering sedans for the moment.

    Not really as 2020 was last year and production ceased quite some time ago so you would be lucky to find anything save the odd stray fully loaded Continental Black Label for 80K sitting out back. I checked all 3 of my dealers and not one had a single new sedan available just crossovers and Suv’s. Note that the XT5 is fully offered in 3 versions including the beastly Blackwing model for 2021.

    Having driven several Continental’s over the past 3 years much of what was written here about the CT5 could easily apply to this defunct Lincoln sedan made worse by the fact it costs 10-20K more than this as tested Caddy! One test driven car even had it’s electric door closer fail after the test drive which was very discouraging!

  • avatar
    Keith Tomas

    These comments about gender are offensive. This is The Truth About Cars, not The Opinion About Gender.

    That being said, is anyone surprised? Cadillac has been playing this record over and over – great ideas tempered by bean counting. I wouldn’t waste my money on their crappy cars.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I think GM made the unforgiveable sin of overpricing the ATS, CTS gen of this car. Johan said he was aiming for the DTM 3 but ended up hitting the Acura, Infiniti tier. Never mind actual transaction prices were much lower than the car rags quoted in their road tests. The sports sedan driving fans would’ve forgiven gen 1 CUE, some cheap plastics ( not really that bad in the CTS/ATS’s I’ve driven ), but thinking they could just show up with a new sedan and pick up where they left off in the 70s with respect to brand equity was and still is, unthinkable.
    They should’ve priced themselves w/ Genesis and touted the RWD archictecture vs Acura, Lexus, etc. and then built up the equity. Then raise prices. Like what Genesis is doing now.

  • avatar

    As long as GM keeps trying to feed multiple brands while “turning electronic”, most of their products will be a “swing and a miss”.

    That being said, it’s clear that the Cadillac design them has gone from “Art and Science” to “Butterface”

    • 0 avatar

      “As long as GM keeps trying to feed multiple brands while “turning electronic”, most of their products will be a “swing and a miss”.”

      This is nothing new.

  • avatar

    Cadillac was in much better shape 5 to 10 years ago. For the money, they produced the best performance sedans in the world. In those days the press even gave several Cadillac’s the prestigious North American Car of the year award. Now it seems the press has turned on Cadillac.

    The downfall probably started with the introduction of the castrated Cadillac sedan lineup of 2019. The final nail on the coffin was the cancellation of the Black-wing V8.

    Nobody is going to buy Cadillac’s upcoming electric vehicles so they might as well continue to improve their sedans. There is some good potential here for Cadillac.

  • avatar
    DOHC 106

    I think the exterior is nice from every angle, but the interior doesn’t look like a $60K car. The performance numbers seem good, otherwise you are paying for the powertrain…thats it.

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