My Car Quest

May 22, 2024

Cadillac CT5 – A Super Sleeper

America’s Answer to Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

by Wallace Wyss –

The Cadillac CT5 arrived last year as a replacement for Cadillac’s previous midsize luxury sedan, the CTS. You could say this 5-seater car is aimed at German car buyers – those who usually opt for Mercedes, BMW and Audi.

You could jump in this car and drive it without a training session but there’s a lot to learn–especially if you want to use it right–for instance, knowing how to instantaneously switch it over to “V” mode where you can dial in how firm you want the suspension, ditto for brake application and so forth.

Cadillac CT5

Cadillac CT5

For 2021, the CT5 boasts wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, without needing a USB cord. Our test car, because it had Sports trim, did not have Cadillac’s Super Cruise, which is said to be the top advanced driver aid offered on any car today. It allows hands-free highway driving in certain situations, though you still have to keep your eyes on the road. One road tester with a CT5 so equipped drove 500 miles and only had to touch the wheel three times.

When I attempted to downshift the automatic in M (manual) mode, it didn’t downshift but then I discovered the paddles almost hidden by the steering wheel. Once you learned to tug the paddles you can modulate the acceleration and deceleration very fluidly, without relying on the 10-speed automatic to figure out what you would like. I would say “learning” this car will take a week but, after you do, you won’t want to go back to a car without all this car’s ability to adapt to various driving preference modes.

Cadillac CT5

Cadillac CT5

The CT5 is squared off against the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Maybe not as refined as the German cars but it has plenty to be competitive.

The base Luxury trim level comes well equipped, but if you want stellar performance, step up to the Premium Luxury trim, which gets you more standard features and the turbocharged V6 engine.

The 2021 Cadillac CT5 offers four levels: Premium, Premium Luxury, Sport and V-Series
all powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (237 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque) mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Optional for the Premium Luxury trim and standard on the V-Series is a twin turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. It makes 335 hp and 405 lb-ft in the Premium Luxury; the final step above that, the ultimate level right now, is 360 hp. Normally the CT5 is rear wheel drive but all-wheel drive is optional on all trims.

The V-Performance Package including a performance suspension with Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 and mechanical limited-slip rear differential (available on Sport model, not available with AWD)

Our test car had the Sport trim similar to the Premium Luxury trim, although with the Sport, that Super Cruise option is unavailable. The Sport is designed to look aggressive, or as aggressive as a luxury four door can be (think of a middleweight boxer coming to a cocktail party clad in a tuxedo)

It comes with equipped with:

– Brembo front brakes

– Black exterior trim

– Rear spoiler

– Gray-tinted taillights

– Simulated leather upholstery

– Sport steering wheel with magnesium shift paddles

But you’re not buying a V-Series just for looks. Once you press that V-bar on the steering wheel, it delivers satisfying performance equal with that of many of the German luxury sedans. It is a car that has two personalities–it can be refined around town and then, when you press the V button, it becomes a car fit for taking on the sports cars. The electronically controlled shock absorber system is invented by GM and even licensed by Ferrari! (I enjoy pointing that out because, for decades, European luxury carmakers downplayed Detroit automakers for their lack of sophistication, now here comes a premium European sports car maker, hat in hand, to buy some GM sophistication).

Cadillac CT5

Cadillac CT5

The not-so-good part is, the longer you choose to spend in “V” mode the more gas you use–we even got below 17 mpg. But you could get up to 27 mpg highway. But then you don’t buy high performance cars for mileage.

The price tag is heady: The CT5-V starts at $48,790 but with all the extras in our test car, it was $65,000 for the test car as equipped, but then you can justify it by saying, in this model level, it’s an around-town car for the wife, or a daily commuter in traffic, but still a secret sporty car for the husband, so it’s like two cars in one.

My general opinion is that it is a good looking car but feels like a four door Pontiac of the ’60s, but not a distinctive enough shape like the first Buick Riviera. Selling a performance car in a luxury guise is an opportunity to make a really significant car that will influence a generation of cars but the body shape of the CT5 is merely continuing the former trend. For instance having the grille be blacked out is to me too “boy racer,” a feature that an executive or lawyer and doctor would be embarrassed to be seen in, I’d like it to be more subtle, that’s the whole idea of secret performance, the steel fist in the velvet glove, like the Lexus LC500.

Overall the styling is pleasant but not going to start an International styling trend. I can in one way compare it to the $72,000 Genesis 90 which was roomier, more comfortable but not fun to drive in a sports car sense. A fun-to-drive factor is hard to find in a four door sedan but at last with the V-series Cadillacs Americans have one they can call their own.

I am going to try the CT4, one size smaller, also available with a high-output version of the 2.7L Dual-Volute Turbo engine rated at 325 hp and see if that’s equally satisfying and then, when it becomes available, the Blackwing, which has a V8–and which should be the ultimate Cadillac in this genre of “Secret Sleeper.”

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car books and the co-host of Autotalk, a show broadcast each week from KUCR FM Riverside. He is presently completing an anthology of 30 of his car fantasy stories. He can be reached at

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Cadillac CT5 - A Super Sleeper
Article Name
Cadillac CT5 - A Super Sleeper
A fun-to-drive factor is hard to find in a four door sedan but at last with the V-series Cadillacs Americans have one they can call their own.


  1. Russ Baird says

    Cadillac needs to quit being a “wannabe” ! The brand was established based on style, luxury, and “The Standard of the World”! Get back to your BRAND ! What happened to the Sixteen shown at auto shows 20 years ago???

  2. Wes Stewart says

    Looks a lot like my 2009, 360 hp V8, rear-wheel drive Pontiac G8 GT, except for nearly 200K miles of road rash.

  3. Rob Krantz says

    Cadillac styling has evolved and gotten better looking IMO over the past few years as I initially was not a fan of their “creased edge” look. For $65,000 I would expect something other than “simulated” leather upholstery! If Cadillac wants to compete with BMW, Audi and Mercedes, they need to up their game and content in their cars for a more competitive price point.

  4. wallace wyss says

    I couldn’t picture the G8 so i looked it up. Looks good except for the Pontiac grille. I was shocked what a dud it was on the market. And it’s sad that it helped GM slide into bankruptcy not to mention Australia no longer being a carmaker country.
    Here’s some Wikipedia on it: “The Pontiac G8 is a rear-wheel drive sedan that was produced by Holden in Australia, and then exported to the United States, where it was sold by Pontiac. The G8, a rebadged Holden Commodore, was released in early 2008 for the 2008 model year in the United States, and in 2008 for the 2009 model year in Canada. Production stopped in mid-2009, following the GM decision to suspend the Pontiac brand. While available, the G8 took the place in the Pontiac lineup of both the Pontiac Bonneville, which ceased production after the 2005 model year, and the Pontiac Grand Prix, which ceased production after the 2008 model year. The G8 was Pontiac’s first full-size car since the Bonneville.

    By December 2008, the rear wheel drive G8 had not become the expected sales replacement for the previous front-drive models, with 11,000 unsold G8s in the inventory and just 13,000 sold. “

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