2021 Cadillac CT5 Review

2021 Cadillac CT5 - Cadillac inches toward the competition with a refined and revised CT5.


Now Cadillac's largest sedan, the CT5 arrived last year as a replacement for the CTS. Like the CTS, the CT5 is a 5-passenger midsize sedan that's offered with rear- and all-wheel drive. Compared to the outgoing model, the CT5 rides a 116-inch wheelbase (2 inches longer) and is 194 inches long (2 inches shorter). It also sees new engines and gets additional safety features. For 2021, top models get a new 12-inch digital gauge cluster. Most recently, Cadillac announced a premium sports model called the CT5-V Blackwing. Competitors include the Acura TLX, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF, Lexus ES, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90.

Trim levels include Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport and CT5-V. Standard engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 237 horsepower. Optional is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 335 horsepower in most models and 360-horsepower in the CT5-V.  The limited-edition Blackwing gets a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 668 horsepower. Most engines pair with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Optional on the Blackwing is a 6-speed manual. All models are offered with rear- or all-wheel drive except for the Blackwing, which comes only with rear-wheel drive.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control, simulated leather upholstery, 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system with support for wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto and forward-collision warning with brake mitigation. Options include blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist, leather upholstery, wireless charging pad, digital instrument cluster, head-up display, heated-ventilated-massaging front seats and Cadillac' Super Cruise semi-automated driver assistance system. Prices range from $42,000 to $63,000. The limited-edition Blackwing starts at $85,000.

CT5's base engine is a little underpowered for the car's size and weight. It trails competitors in overall power ratings as well. Truth be told, with a 0 to 60 MPH time of about 6.6 seconds, acceleration is acceptable. Those wanting more power can jump up to the turbocharged V6. It's provides ample acceleration and great passing punch. Plus, it is smoother and emits a nice growl in hard acceleration.

The 10-speed automatic is buttery smooth and perhaps one of the best transmissions in the class. Downshift times are a bit slow because it is a conventional automatic rather than a dual-clutch unit, but the upside are nearly imperceptible shifts and smooth operation. Like all competitors in the class, the all-wheel-drive system is aimed at providing attritional traction rather than off-road performance.

EPA ratings are good for the 4-cylinder and unimpressive for the V6. The four gets about 21 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. The V6 models get 18/26 MPG ratings. To be fair most vehicles in this class see similar ratings. All engines run on premium-grade fuel. In routine suburban commuting you might see as high as 26 MPG overall. The 17-gallon fuel capacity isn't overwhelming but it can theoretically provide about 450 miles of highway range.

Dynamically, Cadillac had a different mission in mind for CT5. Where the CTS was designed to be overtly sporty and athletic in every trim, the CT5 provides a range of handling experiences. Luxury and Premium Luxury are tuned to ride and drive more like a traditional American luxury car. There's ample bump absorption, and a fairly soft suspension. In turn, those models aren't quite as athletic as competitors, but certainly more agile than Cadillac's of yore.

Those wanting a more engaging experience should opt for the Sport or CT5-V. Those models get a firmer suspension, brake upgrades and firmer steering. The V even gets an active suspension and electronic limited-slip differential out back. For most coming from the CTS or a European competitor, this is the model they will be most interested in. Thankfully, the suspension isn't so firm as to disrupt the overall ride quality.

Interior noise levels are impressively low, especially on the highway where the CT5 cruises nearly silently. The base engine tends to groan a bit under load, but the V6 has a nice throaty sound that's both price and performance appropriate.

Cadillac took pains to correct some of the ergonomic flaws of the CTS to create a more user-friendly interior in the CT5 and mostly succeeded. Unfortunately, materials and ambiance took a slight step back, putting the CT5 behind some of its competitors in terms of overall luxury appeal. This is most evident in some of the door panel switchgear and a few of the steering-wheel levers.

The new 12-inch digital instrument cluster on the Premium Luxury, Sport and V is a huge improvement over the hodge-podge display in lesser models. It's customizable, quite user-friendly and dresses up the interior. The center-stack-mounted touch screen offers an excellent interface to Cadillac's infotainment system, which is both easy-to-use and quite functional. The addition of wireless support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play and wireless charge dock are great tech upgrades as well.

The front seats are nicely contoured and provide ample support. They aren't as firm or sporty as those found in European models, but they are quite comfortable. Head and leg room are adequate, but not as roomy as you'd expect given the vehicles overall dimensions. Entry/exit isn't bad, but there's a low stoop and the door opening is fairly narrow. Compared to the CTS, the CT5 offers a very roomy rear seat. Though a few competitors offer more room, most are similar or smaller.

The trunk holds a scant 12 cubic feet of cargo. That's near the bottom of the class. In addition, the opening is fairly small. At least the rear seats fold to increase cargo space. Interior storage is tight with just a few open and covered bins throughout.

Bottom Line -- CT5 was a new direction for Cadillac. It built upon the CTS' impressive chassis, but added a more user-friendly interior and more back seat space in a more widely appealing package. Most might want to skip the base model and go right to the Premium Luxury. Those looking for performance will be more than happy with the V and don't need to break the bank for the limited-edition Blackwing. Sure, some competitors offer more overall refinement or better handling, but the CT5 fills an important role for Cadillac as it trys to bridge away from its existing customer base to a new, younger audience.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.