In the world of luxury automobiles, Cadillac was once considered a pioneer in America. While many things have changed and the automotive market as adopted the mantra of crossover utility vehicles and SUVs alike, luxury sedans still have a place but must work hard to win over the growing population of CUV/SUV consumers. Cadillac is attempting to make new sparks in the luxury sports sedan area with the new CT4, which essentially replaces the outgoing ATS.
The new 2020 Cadillac CT4 is a welcoming entry and fits well to live up to what the ATS was all about. As a compact luxury sedan, the CT4 plays to mimic the new look of the Cadillac brand from its larger stablemates and does so with the fitting luxury appeal. However, after spending a week with the new CT4 in the mid-level Premium Luxury trim, the jury is still out on if it’s enough to take away from those who are sold on compact luxury crossovers, like the lovely XT4.
Powered by an engine first introduced in the Chevrolet Silverado as an attempt to offer an affordable and efficient package with a 4-cylinder, the CT4 offers a well-engineered powertrain over its standard 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The new optional 2.7-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in the new CT4 is a surprising powermill that provides a good amount of mid-range grunt, to the tune of 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The robust torque does well to get the CT4 moving with authority while the horsepower is filling for a run to 60 mph in just 5 seconds flat. If you’re wondering, that’s pretty quick for a vehicle without the proper performance badging as the CT4-V has, which happens to have the same engine only tuned with a bit more power making 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. The V-series of the CT4 is a rather confusing proposition considering how the outgoing ATS-V was a monster with its 464-horsepower twin-turbo V6. Cadillac implies that there will be a more potent variation of the CT4 outside of the CT4-V that’s currently offered with its 325 horsepower. Let’s hope so!
The CT4 gets a 10-speed automatic transmission when you opt for the 2.7-liter turbocharged engine, which provides smooth shifts and often lands in the proper gear without unwanted hunting. Power comes on strong without much turbo lag, and the braking is ultra-sensitive with a pedal that feels rather unnatural with a very short travel and immediate action upon the smallest touch. There’s a new “My Mode” drive mode that allows setting the engine sound with three different levels, along with a braking setting and steering feel. While there are no adaptive dampers unless you opt for the CT4-V, the CT4 does well to keep a composed body and provides a nice driving feel with its near-perfect front/rear weight balance. In all, the performance is mostly nimble and it feels if the chassis, the second generation of GM’s highly-praised rear-wheel-drive-based Alpha platform, is capable of a LOT more power without issue on twisty back roads at speed.
Moving to the interior of the new Cadillac CT4, it looks as if designers wanted to do more with the compact proportions of the least expensive vehicle in the lineup. While the fit and finish appears to be good, most of the cabin isn’t on par with luxury competition where others pull off amazing acts to mimic their larger and more expensive brethren within their brand. The Cadillac CT4 doesn’t do much to make the interior unique enough or plush enough for most luxury buyers in my assessment. Despite the lower tier of overall luxury perception, the cabin is nicely laid out with plenty of available amenities to appease discerning consumers. Items such as 12-way power-adjustable automatic heated and ventilated front seats, available color heads-up display, a good-sounding 14-speaker Bose audio system, a plethora of active safety and adaptive cruise control features, and the welcomed robust power from the unique turbocharged 4-cylinder engine all come into play for making the CT4 an attractive buy. My mid-level CT4 Premium Luxury trimmed test vehicle was missing many available features, which brings me to part of my qualm with the CT4 in that it has so many available features instead of many that come standard. Part of such allows the base price to start low at just $32,900 for the base Luxury trim. From there, things start to climb quickly with my test vehicle coming to $45,915, including a $995 destination charge but is still missing a few desirable luxury features, such as the color heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, and possibly the optional massaging front seats.
My final issue with the CT4 remains to be the rear seats, which are very small and nearly unusable in the case that the driver and front passenger have long legs and are required to adjust their seats far to the back. I will say, I do like and enjoy the ample space made possible by long-traveling front seats along with the good comfort and driving position up front. Cargo capacity is decent for a compact luxury sedan.
At the end of the day, I think Cadillac still has a little homework to do in justifying to the public that the CT4 is a good choice over compact luxury crossovers. Pricing comes close for both, for one. However, I give credit to the CT4 for being a shocking performer and possibly offers up better overall performance than any other 4-cylinder-powered compact luxury sedan out there apart from those that wear performance trim badging. Moreover, the fuel economy is a benefit of the 4-cylinder engine getting the EPA-estimated figures of 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway yet still delivering over 300 horsepower.