A Stylish Performer and Best Value in A Luxury Sedan
Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Cadillac.
The 2021 Cadillac CT5 may be the the best value in a midsize luxury sedan. Starting at under $40,000, the CT5 comes in four trims: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, and the V-Series. Competing with the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Kia Stinger, Genesis G70, Polestar 2 and the Lexus ES, the CT5 brings credible performance with the base engine, and has an overall attractive design that grabs attention.
The 2021 Cadillac CT5 comes with two gasoline engines that run on 91 octane, both mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option. The base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 237 horsepower (hp) and 258 pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.) while the optional 3.0-liter twin turbocharged V6 puts out either 335 hp and 405 lb.-ft. of torque or, in the CT5 V-Series, those numbers increase to 360 hp and 550 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission has driver selectable drive modes of Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice, My Mode as well as Track in the V-Series. For even more fun, the V-Series Blackwing has a six-speed manual transmission option and a hand-built supercharged V8 engine.
Clean Fleet Report drove the CT5 Premium Luxury rear-wheel drive with the 3.0L engine that delivered 0 – 60 runs at 4.8 seconds. The twin turbo has a narrow torque band, coming on at a very usable 1,500 rpm and ending at 4,000 rpm, with the 10-speed automatic smoothly accelerating through the gears, while making a pleasant rumble from the twin exhaust.
Playing with the drive modes tells the story of how performance and fuel economy can be affected. On a straight, flat section of freeway at 65 mph in Tour drive mode, the tachometer was showing 1,500 rpm. Changing to Sport mode saw the tach jump up to 2,500 rpm. The feeling was not so much being pushed back into the seat, but a smooth pulling where it was obvious that an additional thousand revolutions per minute was delivering improved performance. The sacrifice will be a bit less fuel economy off the EPA rating of 19 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined (the four-cylinder engine clocks in at 23/32/26; AWD versions take off about one mpg). We feel for a short burst, or when attacking twisties, the added power is a fair trade-off.
In 248 miles driving through Southern California, we averaged 26.2 mpg, with 180 miles on an all-freeway run with the cruise control set at 65 mph and in Tour, we averaged 31.2 mpg. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
Sporty Premium Comfort
The value we noted comes from this premium sports sedan having a starting price under $40,000. This price gets you the base 2.0L single turbo four-cylinder which is packed with good performance. Opt for the V6 twin-turbo with all-wheel drive, and the price can get in the low fifty thousand range. But as is the rule, you get what you pay for. In the case of the CT5 Premium Luxury, or even the hot rod CT5 V-Series, the extra performance is well worth the investment.
The added muscle with the V6 twin-turbo returned high four-second acceleration to 60 mph. For extra fun, place the transmission in manual, select Sport mode, and use the paddle shifters. The rumbling and popping when downshifting at-speed is a kick. Stopping by the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS was solid and confident; the steering feedback delivered good feel for the road through the well-weighted electric-variable steering. There was little body roll or motion on the most demanding corners, and a firm but not stiff suspension making for a comfortable ride and direct cornering. The 245/45 all-season Michelin Primacy Tour tires, mounted on 10-spoke, 18-inch Manoogian Silver finish aluminum wheels, provided good grip for the 3,663-pound, five-seat sedan. The handling was pretty good considering that with passengers and a full tank of fuel, the weight will be over 4,000 pounds.
Cadillac Style: Exterior
Cadillac says the CT5’s “fastback profile…communicates power, presence and performance.” Cadillac was going for a recasting of American luxury with the CT5 that “exudes athleticism, sophistication and confidence.” We agree that softening the sharp angles that had become a Cadillac styling trademark to a softer but still sculpted look has taken the CT5 into a different design realm.
The front grille, with distinctive bright hot foil stamping, is framed by the signature vertical LED lighting. The long hood leads to a laid back windshield into a gently sloping roof that is only interrupted by the color-keyed shark fin antenna. The short rear deck, with a spoiler, leads to inverted L, vertical LED tail and brake lights, and the twin chrome exhaust ports. The chrome elsewhere is held to a tasteful minimum around the grille, windows and door handles, and looked great against the Dark Moon Metallic paint.
Cadillac has placed a “550T” badge on the power release trunk lid, but that does not reference a 5.0-liter engine or 550 horsepower. Cadillac has converted the torque, from foot-pounds into Newton meters (Nm), which is a metric torque measurement used in most countries around the world but not America, then rounded it up to the nearest 50, and added a “T” meaning turbocharged. If for some reason you want to learn more about Newton meters, you can go to school here.
Cadillac Style: Interior
The heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats provided good support, and were 14-way power adjustable, with memory and lumbar for the driver. The Sahara Beige and Jet Black two-toned interior had an elegant look, with the soft leather seats complemented by real wood inserts and brushed aluminum trim. The driver’s seat has a surprise for you: it vibrates as part of the lane departure and the automatic rear parking warning systems. The rear seat can comfortably accommodate two full-size adults, three in a pinch. Leg room is excellent, but headroom may be a bit tight for taller passengers. Access to the rear seat is tight due to smallish door openings, and a sloping roofline from the fastback design.
The low dash design nicely incorporates the 10-inch, high-definition 1080P color display for navigation and the optional Bose surround sound audio system. Fifteen speakers pumped-out quality sound for AM/FM HD radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora, and SiriusXM. Bluetooth for hands-free phone and audio worked well, with multiple USB power outlets completing the system. The Cadillac User Experience, or CUE System is designed to provide a complete suite of infotainment, navigation and communication tools for keeping the driver connected, including Alexa.
The controls are nicely laid-out and easy to understand, including switches to operate the dual-zone climate control with an air ionizer. The 12-inch instrument cluster is configurable for different driving themes. Convenience features include volume and channel knobs for the radio, remote keyless entry with remote start, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, wireless phone charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, a tire pressure monitoring system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless push button on/off and OnStar.
A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the initial service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.
The power release trunk reveals a small cargo area with a high lift over. When the rear 60/40 seats are folded flat, the increased storage space will accommodate all the luggage for two on a road trip. If taking a road trip with four adults is in your plans, have them pack light.
The 2021 Cadillac CT5 has front, seat-mounted side, knee and head-curtain airbags for both front and rear seat passengers. The ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane change and blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, HD rear vision camera, and a full-range adaptive cruise control with following distance indicator. The CT5 has a smooth stop/start feature where the engine shuts off when coming to a stop, and then when it is time to go, engages automatically.
The Buckle to Drive feature will prevent the shifter from leaving Park for up to 20 seconds, or until the driver’s seat belt is buckled, whichever comes first. This feature can be turned-off through the settings control.
Teen Driver monitors driving habits, keeps the driver from disabling stability control and other features, and even allows parents to set the maximum radio volume.
In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the 2021 Cadilla CT5 received its highest rating, five stars, for overall crash protection.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury had a base price, including the $995 destination charge, of $41,790. The final MSRP, including $7,665 in options, came to $49,455.
The 2021 CT5 comes with these warranties:
Bumper-To-Bumper – Four years/50,000 miles
Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
Roadside Assistance – Six years/70,000 miles
Scheduled Service/Maintenance – One year/First visit
Observations: 2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
Cadillac says the 2021 CT5 delivers unrivaled driving pleasure. The sophisticated design immediately identifies it as a Cadillac, especially the signature front and rear lighting. The rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive optional, is a strong selling point for those who love to drive.
The CT5 has a quiet interior and a comfortable ride that absorbs road imperfections. Trunk space is on the smallish side, but is more than good for two on a long road trip. Whether you get the four or six, the smooth single or twin turbocharged engines and slick shifting transmission produce enjoyable road manners.
General Motors has announced a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by the year 2025. With crossover SUVs being the hottest sales category, it stands to reason the CT5 sedan will either be discontinued or completely reborn with some sort of electrification. There will be a new make-up of models by all of the auto manufacturers by the end of the decade, including Cadillac’s sedans.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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