For Cadillac, their attempts at reclaiming their status as “The Standard of the World” remains a work in progress.
And while the Escalade may define the essence of Cadillac for modern consumers, its spirit isn’t always apparent in the rest of the lineup. After all, the Escalade’s unsurpassed swagger, size, style, power and comfort make it a modern-day Fleetwood Brougham, albeit one with all-wheel drive, 22-inch wheels and nine inches of ground clearance. Yet these same virtues seem absent in Cadillac’s other offerings.
That said, the new 2020 CT4-V makes a compelling argument that many of the qualities that make for a great automobile are present.
The CT4 is built on Cadillac’s rear-wheel-drive sedan platform and is offered in Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport and V-Series trim. All-wheel drive is optional. Most CT4s are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 237 horsepower and matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Standard on the V-Series and optional on the Premium Luxury is a 2.7-liter turbocharged engine that generates 309 horsepower in the Premium Luxury, and 325 horsepower in the V series. Both mate to a 10-speed automatic transmission. That’s a significant decrease from the ATS-V’s 464-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, but Cadillac has an even sportier CT4 coming – the CT4-V Blackwing – although details have not been released.
From the first few miles, it’s evident that Cadillac engineers did their homework. Handling is very impressive, as there’s a surprising amount of road feel, and the steering is quick and nicely weighted. So too are the throttle and brakes, with a nice, progressive feel. Emergency braking proved short and straight, with a modest amount of nose dive. As you might expect in a new-age Cadillac, the ride is firm, but the suspension soaks up the rough pavement without feeling punishing. Road and tire noise are minimal; wind noise is absent, as is body lean. This is a very agile athlete, one that makes the cut and thrust of commuting a joy to experience.
The powerful, responsive engine makes wonderful noise when pushed, and the transmission is well-behaved most of the time, although it can be a touch slow to downshift when requesting a brief shot of power. The solution is to shift into manual mode. That’s when this car comes alive brilliantly and brutally as you extract every drop of torque.
Front seats firmly hold you in place during abrupt maneuvers, and the seat bottoms extend for those with longer legs. The seats are covered in buttery-soft leather and are heated, but not ventilated.
Legroom is generous. The same can’t be said of the rear seat where, just as in the ATS that it replaces, there’s minimal rear leg room. The trunk is adequately sized, but poorly trimmed.
The same charge could be made of the interior, and it’s truly this car’s Achilles heel. Sadly, Cadillac interiors continue to suffer from miserly, penny-pinching accountants. The interior functions well enough and is easy to use. But it just doesn’t seem commensurate with the price, something true of most Cadillacs, and something that can be seen in the dreadfully cut-rate lower door panels and map pockets, and the power lock switches. The center console lacks padding on the sides, so that your legs rest against hard plastic. And it would be nice if the automatic headlights came on when the automatic wipers go on, as in competitors’ cars.
On the flip side, the tech package is seamless, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Qi wireless charging. The Cadillac User Experience infotainment system responded quickly and its interface proved easy and quick to use. The audio system furnishes good sound, although the controls for it on the steering wheel take getting used to.