It’s no secret that I am a bit of a Cadillac fan, looking at both of the daily drivers in the household.
Unfortunately, the brand’s latest models, like first glimpse at this 2021 Cadillac CT4-V RWD, haven’t quite resonated as strongly with me. My favorite Cadillac ad line comes from the late 2000’s and is simply Life. Liberty. And The Pursuit. To me it embodied the idea of life’s stages, life’s freedoms and the long journey of making them what you will them to be. What better chariot for the ride than a Cadillac, and what better way to honour the chase of the American (or Canadian) Dream.
At the time, Cadillac’s Art and Design styling language was paying dividends, re-igniting excitement for the brand and doing things that others simply were not. You could get a Deville with a night-vision screen in the windshield, a CTS-V with over 550 horsepower, and factory order an Escalade looking like it just rolled off the set of a rap video. That’s my gripe with the current Cadillac stock. When I look at the line up, it’s hard to see anything that stands out from the competition in those same ways, and that’s a bit of a shame.
There are however, glimmers of brilliance, including the recently discontinued ATS (reviewed here). What the ATS lacked in Cadillac swagger it made up for in spades of just sheer driving enjoyment. It’s replacement, the CT4 is here, and as one of the most anticipated cars of the year, I couldn’t wait to get my seat time in. Happily, I was able to secure a week with the 2020 Cadillac CT4-V, the hottest version of the CT4, to see if I’d love it as much as the ATS.
The styling of the latest CT-series sedans is toned down a bit from the models they replaced, and frankly they all look very similar. The CT4 is the smallest in the range, but its exterior dimensions wouldn’t have you thinking that as it appears visually much larger than the outgoing ATS. In fact, the CT4 is an inch longer than the current Mercedes C-Class (reviewed here), even though by most standards the CT4 is more directly competitive with the smaller likes of the Mercedes CLA, Audi A3 and BMW 2-series.
The look is pure sports sedan, with a hunkered down aggressive stance, sharp lines, and distinctive front and rear fasciae. The rear-end does have some awkward lines, particularly around the trunk lid and taillights, but overall, it’s a pleasant looker. The CT4-V’s exterior only gives subtle hints towards its boosted performance in the way of unique 18-inch black wheels, revised front grilles, a tasteful rear spoiler, quad-exit exhaust, and blacked out trim. The car’s most distinctive feature remains Cadillac’s signature vertical lights; without those, it wouldn’t be difficult to mistake the sporting Cadillac for something of the German variety.
The interior of our CT4-V came very well appointed and filled with high quality materials and features. Plenty of jet-black leather and matte finish soft touch materials throughout, complimented by flashes of aluminum accents. The layout is very driver-centric and puts all key commands within logical arms’ reach. It’s very easy to get into the CT4 and quickly become a master of its controls. The infotainment is slick looking, quick to respond, and easy to navigate.
The main functions, such as audio, can be controlled a number of ways including the convenient rotary dials on the console, center stack mounted knobs, steering wheel controls, or using the touchscreen itself. This may seem like overkill, but it’s nice to have options, especially when you need to change the station immediately. Our tester came equipped with the upgraded leather seats with heat, ventilation and massage functions that I found to be very comfortable.
As nicely as the interior is finished, it is slightly smaller than anticipated given the exterior dimensions of the car, and comparing capacities such as leg and headroom to that of the old ATS. It doesn’t appear that the exterior gains have translated to increases in interior space. The good news is that the CT4 has been designed with plenty of practicality in mind. We found convenient spots up front for daily carry items, and the rear seats easily accommodate two adults.
Now, the exciting part, or at least it should be. The V-series Cadillacs have always been known for having some pretty wild powerplants, but that’s where the CT4-V is a bit of a letdown. It’s powered by the turbocharged 2.7-liter four cylinder which also makes an appearance in the Silverado pickup truck. Now, I am not bothered by the fact that the CT4-V shares its powerplant with a truck, but I am a little bothered that it’s down over 130 horsepower compared to the ATS-V.
The 2.7-liter puts out a healthy 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. of torque. That’s a mere 15 extra horses on the CT4 Premium Luxury with the same motor, and hardly worthy of the storied ‘V’ moniker. Cadillac has promised the new Blackwing will carry the torch of hyper-performance going forward. Objectively, the engine provides more than enough power to have a little fun, and thanks to its turbocharger and relatively large displacement, delivers torque in spades. The CT4-V’s 10-speed automatic is an exceptional dance partner, making great use of the engine’s unique torque curve with smooth, intuitive, lightning quick shifts.
Power aside, the four cylinder does lack the refinement expected in a Cadillac, most notably because of the engine not. It’s gruff sounding, especially under light acceleration, which makes it feel more laboured than it really is. Under hard acceleration the sound is more pleasing, but definitely more tuner car sounding than Cadillac.
The CT4’s best asset is its chassis, which is the very good Alpha platform carried forward from the ATS and shared with the Camaro. Dynamically the car is excellent. It’s quick to respond to driver inputs, and carves corners flat and with confidence. The car has multiple drive modes ranging from Tour to Track, which tightens up the adaptive dampers, adds weight to the steering feel and adjusts transmission mapping for optimal performance. Ride quality is a little too harsh in anything but Tour mode, but I preferred the steering feel and shifts from V-mode.
Our test CT4-V came as in rear-drive form, but all-wheel-drive is available for a small cost and is likely the way to go year-round in Canada. In Tour mode, highway cruising feels effortless and the cabin is calm, quiet and relaxing; however the car’s readily available torque makes highway passing a joy. City streets can be a little rough thanks to the low-profile tires and performance oriented suspension, but this is forgiven on twisty curves or freeway ramps where the magic of the Alpha platform can be awoken.
The refinement missing from the four cylinder would be easy to forgive if it returned stellar fuel economy. The CT4-V is rated for 10.2L/100km in mixed driving, however the best we could muster during a test week was 13.0L/100kms with a fairly even mix of open highway and city driving. Like many boosted four cylinders, it takes a very light foot to get decent fuel economy. Coincidently, my old V8 Cadillac DTS consistently returns 11.9L/100km and while it can’t boast the same output as the 2.7L in the CT4-V, it’s not far off. Progress can be confusing sometimes.
Where the CT4-V stands to pick up a lot of fans may be on pricing. Cadillac has not held back on pricing their latest lineup aggressively, hoping to make inroads with buyers as the German brands keep on creeping pricing sky high. In that regard, the base price on our 2020 CT4-V RWD came to $45,398, quite cheap really for a sports sedan with both a Cadillac crest and a ‘V’ moniker on it, even if you added the $1,000 for the AWD model.
Our tester was optioned with a few packages including upgraded leather, ventilated massaging seats ($1,845), navigation and Bose premium audio ($920), Driver Assist package ($1,425) which includes adaptive cruise control, emergency braking and reverse braking. Additionally our car got the Driver Awareness package ($925) adding lane keep assist, lane change alert, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and automatic high beams. Rounding out the set our tester got the Technology package ($1,350) which adds a heads-up-display, eight-inch color driver info center, plus an optional power sunroof (1,295).
All in all, our fairly loaded tester came to $54,053 – what I’d consider a bargain price for the performance, interior quality and feature set of the CT4-V. That said, I’d probably forego some of the electronic driver aids and navigation (Apply CarPlay and Android Auto would suffice) to keep the price under the $50,000 mark for a true bargain luxury sports sedan.
In its segment, the 2021 Cadillac CT4-V RWD is a very strong contender, especially for drivers that can appreciate the well balanced and precise chassis. It’s larger than direct competitors, the interior is exceptionally well appointed, and it can be had at bargain pricing. That said, this is not the old Cadillac ‘V’ that we know and love for wild performance. It is a balanced sports sedan with an engine that’s just a little rough around the edges. Just as Cadillac has been a part of my journey, the brand is on a journey too, and the CT4-V is a clear sign of evolving with the times, To rise to true greatness again, Cadillac needs to not just adapt to, but define the times.