2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury AWD Review

Is it a true replacement for the great CTS?


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Twin-turbo V6 feels smooth and powerful, a nice balance between sporty and luxurious, improved infotainment and controls, solid standard safety features.
Negatives: Not as sporty or as attractive as the CTS, some cheap interior materials don't seem luxurious at all.
Bottom Line: The CT5 is a good sports sedan but not a great one. It gets outshined by BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Genesis. The driving experience isn't as engaging, the cabin lacks panache, and the styling is a bit too vanilla for the segment.
A few years back, we were blown away by the CTS V-Sport and the CTS-V. While both lacked good in-car tech due to the frustrating CUE system, they were both superb sports sedans at differing power levels. Now, the CT5 aims to take up that mantle. It has better technology, great safety features, and a new design language that also descends down to the smaller CT4 sedan. We tested the CT5 in Premium Luxury trim and optional AWD, which is a nice setup. Read our full impressions of this new sports sedan in our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

7.6

 

The CT5 tries to keep the flame of the Caddy sports sedan alive, and with the optional twin-turbo V6, it makes a respectable attempt. While it's quick and smooth, the driving experience isn't as rewarding as most of the competition. While the CTS once stood near the top of the heap, the CT5 that replaces it is more of an also-ran.

Ride Quality: The ride is what we would call comfortably firm given its sporty leanings. It doesn't strike as good of a balance as BMW or Audi, but it's still very good.

Acceleration: The 360-hp V6 is powerful and launches the CT5 to 60 in a mere 4.9 seconds. It's not the quickest sedan in the segment, but it's still pretty good.

Braking: We found no issues with the brakes in the CT5. They're easy to modulate and control with no mushy or dead spots in the pedal.

Steering: The steering could benefit from more effort and feedback. It's not up there with the likes of the Audi A6 and the BMW 5-Series.

Handling: Unfortunately, it doesn' have the reflexes or body control we had hoped for, and it's definitely not as good as the CTS which it replaces.

Technology

8.1

 

What a difference the in-car technology set is compared to the old CUE system, which easily qualified as one of the worst in the industry just a few short years ago. The look, operation, and controls are much improved. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hotspot round out the set nicely. We hated the wireless phone charging tray, which does a poor job of holding your phone in place. It's very finicky.

Infotainment System: The 10-inch screen is clear and easy to read. Accessing Apple CarPlay wirelessly is a cinch, but the car's own menu is easy enough to navigate.

Controls: The stupid, small silver chrome buttons from the old CUE system are long gone, replaced by a rotary controller and buttons between the seats. They're easy to use while driving. Audio knobs are moved close to the driver on the center stack, which is the way all cars should locate them. Climate controls are linear and easy.

Styling

8.1

 

We loved the clean styling of the last CTS. The CT5 strives for a more original, more distinct look, but it sometimes seems like it's trying to hard. At least the interior style is better than before, with the exception of some cheap interior materials.

Front: We love the front end of the CT5 since it's aggressive but not overstyled. The wide shield-shaped grille has a great mesh pattern, and the wraparound headlights are bold and artistic. Perhaps our favorite aspect of the front end is the lower fascia and lower grille. It's especially menacing without being overdone.

Rear: The ducktail spoiler that's integrated into the trunklid looks great. We're not totally sold on the oddly shaped taillights, but at least they're not copies of anything else out there.

Profile: This is the CT5's worst angle. While nothing about it is especially unattractive, there's also nothing distinct about it, except Caddy's attempt at its own BMW Hofmeister kink at the side rear window. Needless to say, it did not pull it off well.

Cabin: We were wowed by the now gone CT6's cabin, but the CT5 lacks the style and quality of the German and Korean brands. There's just too much hard, dark plastic for a premium sports sedan.

Comfort

8.3

 

One thing the CT5 does very well is interior comfort. Although some of the hard plastic bits bring the score down a bit, the space and seat comfort ranks high for the midsize premium sedan segment.

Front Seats: The seats were very comfortable with the right amount of cushioning and seat length. We would've preferred a little bit more bolstering for those sportier drives.

Rear Seats: The rear seats, especially the outboard positions, are very good. The middle seat sits a bit higher, and the seatback is forward a bit... better for shorter trips. At least the 37.9 inches of legroom is at the top of the segment, better than the BMW 5-Series and the Audi A6. The new Genesis G80, however, beats it by a smidge.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The CT5 is quiet at highway speeds and over bumps. We didn't experience any creaks, rattles, or high-speed wind noise.

Visibility: The seating position is good, allowing good sightlines over the hood. Visibility all around is excellent with no major obstructions.

Climate: We had no issues with the climate system, and it worked very well with good airflow. The heated steering wheel and heated/ventilated front seats were quick to get to temperature.

Safety

9

 

The CT5 hasn't been crash tested by both testing bodies, but it did rank high for the one that did put it through the ropes. Our tester came with a great set of standard safety features and some important optional features, as well.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: The CT5 earned the top 5-star rating from the federal goverment.

Standard Tech: Standard equipment included an HD Rear Vision Camera, Rear Park Assist, Teen Driver Safety Seat Alert, Buckle-to-Drive, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.

Optional Tech: Our Premium Luxury tester came with the $500 Driver Awareness package that came with Intellibeam Auto High Beam and Lane Keep Assist w/ Lane Departure Warning.

Storage/Cargo

6.2

 

The CT5 gets hampered by a small-ish trunk for the segment and poor interior storage features that make gear stowage a bit of a challenge.

Storage Space: The center tray where the phone charger is can accommodate a good amount of small items (like a phone) and keys. The armrest is almost useless due to its shallow bin. Only the concealed cupholder and door pockets are better than average.

Cargo Room: 11.9 cubes isn't huge. It gets eclisped by the G80's 13.1 cubes and the Audi A6's 13.7.

Fuel Economy

6.5

 

The twin turbo mill and AWD, combined with driving in Sport mode do not equate to good mpgs numbers. We also drove mostly on local roads, which diminished our average.

Observed: 16.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 98 miles.

Audio

8.4

 

The Bose premium audio system in our tester cost an extra $1,350, but it was worth the price. Sound is clear, loud, and distortion-free. It's a very good system that makes for a valuable upgrade.



Final Thoughts

There are too many great competitors in this field for the CT5 to be a standout. It's above average in many ways, but that's not good enough when you're paying $50K+. It drives well but could be more engaging. It's comfortable, but the interior needs to go upmarket a bit. The exterior styling is a bit too generic for our tastes. If it's the engine you care about, the CT5 is very satisfying. If its an all-arounder you're looking for, the Audi A7 and the Mercedes E-Class fit the bill better, albeit more expensively.
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