Ah, a Cadillac! Never mind the old ad copy about something not being your father’s Oldsmobile, neither this nor any other current Cadillac really has anything whatsoever in common with what your father drove. Even the badge is different, having lost the wreath and some detail work in the crest, for the better in my opinion. There’s also nothing badging-related rendered in any kind of script font. Minimal brightwork. Nothing wallowy. No gold plating, no buttoning or tufting. Frankly, so far, so good, no brand can survive forever only selling yesterday’s memories to today’s buyers, let alone tomorrow’s.
Of course Cadillac is somewhat caught in an existentialist dilemma, sort of damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. After several decades of trying to change course from the days of yore by chasing the autobahn-burners of Germany, it’s paradoxically the case that their most recognized and profitable model is at its basic root a badge-engineered Chevy Tahoe/Suburban, something as different as can be. The next big shift seems to be a pending electrification of the model line. However, at present there are still several sedans in the line-up and this one, the CT4, is one of the newest.
The CT4 is the replacement for the ATS, and still sits on the “Alpha” platform, also shared with the Camaro. Wheelbase is the same as the ATS although the body of the CT4 is several inches longer, giving it more substance visually as compared with its competition now, the Mercedes A-Class and BMW 2-Series, while the old (and shorter) ATS seemed to somehow target the 3-series and C-Class; those duties have been assigned to the slightly larger CT5. While the styling is in the current Cadillac idiom and some love it while others dislike it, it certainly looks long if perhaps a bit narrow, and is quite distinctive, nobody is going to confuse this for a Kia or a Honda.
However I don’t think it’s a particularly timeless piece of styling either, of course that sort of viewpoint is very subjective. All that needs to happen is that enough people like the looks to get them into the showroom, and then it’s the sales staff’s job to convince them of its further merits.
Sedan sales are, as has been repeated ad nauseam, not exactly where the bulk of future sales volume lies for most makers currently, and Cadillac has recently cancelled its largest one, making it more curious to continue with the smallest one. Nevertheless, several surprises presented themselves during my week with this one.
Cadillac offers the CT4 in various trim levels named Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, and V-Series. There is also a CT4-V Blackwing which is a completely different engined performance model analogous to BMW’s M and Mercedes’ AMG versions. The normal four versions are all powered by either the 2.0T or the 2.7T depending on level or optional choice. The Premium Luxury version includes lots of upgrades as compared the Luxury (Base) version which seems to exist mainly in order to meet a price point below $35,000.
The first surprise was noticed just when looking at it, rare is the test car that doesn’t come draped in something metallic or a special color or whatever, this one was just white. Plain white. Summit White in fact, which is the same shade used on GM’s fleet trucks and vans. At least it doesn’t carry a price premium and most of the competition does also have a plain non-metallic white color on offer which the ATS did not.
The second and more notable surprise was the interior. In this case the Cinnamon (pretty much pumpkin colored, and I mean that in a good way) with Jet Black color scheme is fairly striking with a hue not seen too often in car interiors and does a lot to make things appear bright, modern and engaging. The dashboard has a goodly number of actual knobs and buttons while still sporting the obvious touchscreen front and center, but seemingly better integrated than many others, although I find most to be fairly usable and the generally high placement of them is always better than the often too-low placement of controls as in yesteryear. Touch-sensitive buttons and flat black panels with small symbols and text seem to be a thing of the past again (good).
The seats are comfortable, with a wide range of adjustment, heating as well as cooling, but marred by a center console that instead of having a smooth wall where your right leg would rest against it featured a protruding lip or bulge at its top that sort of digs into the side of your leg. Sometime during the week I unconsciously adjusted my seating position and angled my leg and foot completely differently than I normally do which in the end worked but left less room for further occasional adjustment.
One strange item of note is the floor, it dipped down noticeably in the footwell toward the pedal box with a humped section ahead of the seats, reminding me somewhat of the passenger floor in the early/mid ’90’s F-Body (Camaro/Firebird). I’m not sure of the purpose of this and got used to it, however did find it odd and a little off-putting initially. No sunroof at all in this one, which I appreciated, so it left me with plenty of headroom in front.
Most everything easily touchable is soft, but not Nerf-ball soft, rather similar to the material Mercedes uses extensively in its upper level vehicles wherein a semi-hard subsurface material is bonded to a surface vinyl/leather-look material so that it becomes a firm yet somewhat yielding surface to the touch that also seems to wear extremely well over the long term. It doesn’t look, feel, or impress in any way as cheap and in fact feels a station above the price level of the car.
The black dashboard itself presents well without coming across as overpowering and the metal-looking buttons and trim are in fact actual metal pieces. Everything is easily understood, located logically, and operates well. The bottom of the center console features a wireless charging pad that held my phone just fine, there are two cupholders and there are some storage areas scattered about with a fairly large center console bin between the seats with a well-padded lid.
I did have to break out the manual to figure out that the rear child locks are engaged with a button on the driver window/door control panel that I must have inadvertently depressed after he couldn’t get out of the back seat on the first day of in-session school. I suppose that’s a safety feature that can be more easily accessed/adjusted that way than the more common physical peg in the door-jamb. Stitching on the upper door panels as well as dashboard is contrasted in Pumpkin Spice thread (my words), ’tis the season, which gives a rich touch without looking cheesy at all.
Switchgear feels solid and responds with appropriate heft and precision, gauges are crisp and clear, and the 8″ screen in the middle is the current standard GM item and software that I have come to like quite a bit. The graphics are high resolution, the font of the text is very crisp/readable and the interface is very simple to understand and use even for a slightly technophobic person such as myself. Switching between modes (Nav, Phone, Audio, Settings, etc) is simple and intuitive and then the rendered information is easy to comprehend without visual clutter.
The Navigation aspect in particular is presented in soothing pastel shades with easy to read text and graphics and there is minimal lag time between functions of the system overall. In this particular screen size it is easily on par with what Ford and FCA offer at this time with much less of a learning curve than what Europe and much of Asia offers. There is an “i-Drive”-like controller on the console aft of the shifter but I usually just touched the screen or used the steering wheel buttons to control the functions. Voice activation is also offered, in the end I think they pretty much cover anyone’s preferred method of interaction in one form or another.
The back seat is similarly well equipped, however space (as in the Mercedes and BMW) is at a premium, at the end of the day this is still a smaller car even if dimensionally larger on the outside. Carpet and headliner look and feel premium, and there’s no skimping on seat back pockets etc.
In- and egress is not difficult but at my 6’1″ height with 32″ inseam I found myself just about jammed in behind my driver’s seat as far as knees and head were concerned. It wouldn’t be painful but not particularly enjoyable for long distances either. However not everyone is my size, hence the reason I detail that for individual comparison’s sake.
Trunk space though is very large and deep, the length of the body helps here. Rear seatbacks fold down and the hinges disappear into pockets on the sides, so no danger of damaging luggage or anything else with them. While there is a remote power trunk release (and on the key fob as well), closing it is purely a manual affair on the one I had, I recall Cadillac being a pioneer of the “soft-close” trunk back in the day. At least there is a small handle on the interior of the trunk lid by which to pull it down and let it slam without having to touch the exterior.
The engine was a further surprise, and quite a large one at that. While a ubiquitous 2.0l turbo-four is standard, this one had the optional 2.7l turbo-four. Wait a minute, you’re thinking now, there’s another 2.7 turbo-four at GM, surely there can’t be two? And no, this is essentially the same engine offered as the base engine in the Chevy Silverado!
Interestingly, the turbo here utilizes a “dual volute” design, which when compared to a more conventional twin-scroll turbo enables quicker and more power at lower rpm by utilizing two completely separate passages that each take the exhaust pulses from a pair of cylinders and feed them to opposite sides of the turbine wheel while keeping them completely segregated. Yes, it is different than a twin scroll setup, but don’t confuse either term with a twin turbo setup, that’s completely different again, there is one turbo here.
Generating 310hp at 5500rpm and 350lb-ft of torque between 1500 and 4000 rpm, this is certainly a stout output for a four cylinder engine. The numbers are even somewhat higher in the CTS-V (trim) version with the same basic engine (the V-Blackwing version is completely different and really shouldn’t be considered as related to this review).
There’s a little rear badge that reads 450T, the T is for the turbo and the 450 is apparently the torque output in newton meters (Nm). This is a curious affectation that seems to be Cadillac aping Audi and some other Europeans that are starting to badge their cars (not necessarily over here though) with numbers representing the metric torque figure so people following them can see where the car places comparatively in the engine power output range.
I don’t see many over here understanding the point or terminology especially as Cadillac doesn’t use the Nm terminology in its own materials the way that the Europeans do in their home-market documentation. Still, the conversion factor results in a larger number than if they pasted the lb-ft number on the trunklid and bigger is always better, so there.
The engine is mounted longitudinally in the chassis and while rear wheel drive is the standard CT4 setup, this one was all wheel drive. The torque split varies depending on the selected drive mode and power is routed through a 10-speed transmission with manual shift option via paddles. The gear selector is a monostatic design with enough buttons on it to require concentration and different actions when considering shifting out of Park to Drive or Reverse.
That’s alright when this is the primary vehicle for a given driver and thus able to get used to, if an owner switches between this and another vehicle regularly it could be annoying to not be intuitive. Shifting between Drive and Manual modes requires just another pull back on the lever within the same plane as all other shifts, which worked well and is among the easier actions among makers.
When tootling around town, the engine is perfectly docile and well-mannered with virtually imperceptible shifts when accelerating at a normal pace and a pleasant demeanor, quiet, smooth, yet agile. When pressed a bit it doesn’t seem quite as powerful as on paper and really not very different than the BMW or Mercedes, however the engine does get a bit loud and doesn’t have a particularly pleasant tone.
Leaving it in Tour mode it’s perfectly acceptable if not class-leading, in Sport mode however it also amps up the engine noise and not to good effect, it’s just more noise, some of which is artificial and piped in. Better to leave it in Tour for most occasions or the “My Mode” mode where different performance settings can be mixed and matched.
On the open or twisty road the power can be better appreciated, the power band is deep and wide and the car is quite fast. However it still feels a little heavy and not overly fun. Heading up a twisty-ish canyon road nearby and putting it in Sport mode stiffens the suspension and shows off the transmission to very good effect, while normally there seems to be a bit of rev-hang when leaving a light even moderately quickly in Tour mode (as opposed to literally just touring around town), in Sport mode the transmission does a very good job of shifting for you.
Trying out the manual shift paddles proves frustrating as with ten gears it’s all too often that the selected gear is not the best one, and the computer does seem to know best or at least can juggle them better/faster. When giving it the beans in Sport mode it seems to recognize what’s going on and a little gear icon illuminates. Then it starts to shift later, holds gears through corners, will blip and downshift when braking, and basically behaves as you might when presented with a good road with nobody nearby or watching.
Wheels are 18″ with Continental ProContact RX run-flat tires in 235/40-18 size. These are sized well for the car and while offering a fairly shallow sidewall, rode surprisingly well overall while also being quite quiet on most surfaces. While 18’s are standard, this particular wheel design is an option in the same size. They also did pretty good in the snow, especially once I switched the car to Snow/Ice mode.
We received a snowfall measuring about a foot toward the end of the car’s stay which was handy as it put a serious damper on the record wildfires we’ve been having. The AWD system and tires did well to keep the car going with the biggest hindrance being the depth of the snow on the roads, especially around the immediate neighborhood and up near my ersatz Alpine Lake Handling Course where it was scraping the top layer off with the bottom of the car.
The traction and stability control systems were not overly intrusive and actually allowed some lateral (fun) slip around corners while still being of course ultimately in charge of curtailing obvious impending issues.
The chassis is decently balanced but lacks feel in my opinion, it will corner quite fast and the tires grip well, ultimately though it does seem to understeer with the all-seasons when nearing the limit and there isn’t much communication from either end of the car. Being rear-wheel drive based doesn’t imbue it with any magical qualities but the all wheel drive does ultimately haul it through corners at a faster rate of speed than might seem necessarily prudent, just without much of a thrill. Fast at times, yes, just not really a huge amount of fun or overly engaging somehow, it seems to prefer 6/10’s driving rather than 9/10’s.
This engine is equipped with stop/start, I had a passenger with me for a whole day and he remarked on it being noticeable without being prompted. I sort of got used to it, but it was always there when turning back on with a bit of a shake, him asking about it confirmed that it was a little more intrusive than it could be.
There is a switch to turn it off upon every start but I’m way too lazy to do that. I’m fairly ambivalent about this technology now in that I appreciate what it does and absolutely hate wasting gas on idling, but note that some cars are better than others at minimizing it, the larger and fewer cylinders here perhaps make it more noticeable.
From a fuel economy perspective it performed fairly well. Only traveling 253 miles this week with the majority of it around town (maybe 80 or so on freeways or highways), it returned 20.9mpg as compared to the official ratings of 20City, 28Highway, and 23Average. My driving did include some fairly hard stints and some idling periods during many of the picture taking opportunities along with some slow speed back and forth for that aspect which is of course relatively wasteful. In other words, the ratings seem entirely achievable. I didn’t need to get gas before returning it so no gas station picture this time. You’re crushed, I know.
There were (surprisingly) some fit and finish aspects that I did not expect to see on a Cadillac, let alone one in the media car pool. The front fender simply did not align well at the base of the A-pillar at that admittedly tricky intersection of pillar, fender, door, and hood with it obviously standing proud when viewed from the driver’s seat by at least an eighth of an inch, made more noticeable just by the angle when seated and looking at it (Passenger side was perfect though). Some trim at the tops of the doors didn’t match up from front to back doors across the gap, and there was a ragged piece of rubber trim on the C-pillar.
I suppose I should start to make a point of this in my reviews, usually fit and finish is quite good overall and I’ll usually forgive at least one odd bit here and there, but these three were noted in quick succession without breaking out any kind of fine tooth comb or overtly looking for issues. Panel gaps were very tight though and paint quality seemed excellent. Inside was similarly excellent from a fit/finish/materials viewpoint, no issues whatsoever there that I noted.
This Cadillac was built in Lansing, Michigan. The engine and transmission also hail from the United States and contribute towards a total US/Canadian parts content of 65%. China is listed as contributing a further 19% and the source of the remaining 16% is not something that we are privy to on the Monroney sticker.
But I know you all love to read about the costs involved so I shan’t disappoint, here goes: The CT4 in Premium Luxury guise starts at $37,495. This includes RWD with a 2.0T engine and 8-speed transmission, OnStar, the 8″ screen with Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto, Remote Start, Automatic Climate Control, HD Radio/Sirius, Leather Seats, Memory Settings, Power pretty much everything, Automatic lights and wipers, and the common Automated Safety Systems.
The upgrade to the 2.7liter Turbo engine and 10-Speed Transmission (which adds 73hp and 92lb-ft of torque, significant by any measure) costs $2,500, the All-Wheel Drive is a further $2,000, and the Navigation bundled with Bose Premium Audio is another $1,700. This bundle also includes the wireless phone charger.
The Driver Assist Package is an expanded set of safety features encompassing Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control, Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking, and Reverse Automatic Braking. With the somewhat compromised passenger side rear three-quarter visibility even with the back up camera this should perhaps be standard on a “Premium” car, but costs $1,200. Another $1,200 covers the Climate Package (heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and 4-way power lumbar for both front seats).
There’s a Technology Package for $1,150 that includes an Air Purification Ionizer, 8″ Digital Gauge Cluster (between the main gauges), and Head-Up Display. For a comparatively miniscule $800 there is also the Driver Awareness Plus Package that includes a Following Distance Indicator, Intellibeam Headlights, Lane Change Alert w/Side Blind Zone Assist, Lane Keep Assist with Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
And lastly the optional 18″ wheels with Diamond Cut Finish and Midnight Silver Painted Pockets for another $800. Add the obligatory $995 Destination Charge and the grand total comes out to $49,640 which puts it pretty much on par with the recently tested Mercedes A220 4MATIC and BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe (4-door).
As a point of quick comparison that are my own opinions only and thus completely subjective (if interested you should really check it out for yourself), I found the Cadillac’s interior to be the best of the three in this class that I’ve driven recently, but curiously found the Mercedes to be the best everyday driving and handling car as well as the most fun to drive along with the most pleasing engine. I can take and leave various aspects of each car’s exterior design, however the Cadillac makes the strongest “statement” and is the largest car here, visually it almost plays in the next class up.
Cadillac has built a fairly competitive car here, however I’m not sure that they’ve built a market for it over the years that will appreciate it. The ATS was generally well-reviewed but didn’t light the sales charts on fire, so it’s curious that Cadillac doubled down with a pretty thorough revamp along with the slightly larger also-new CT5 while discontinuing the larger CT6. Traditional Cadillac customers likely won’t embrace it, and I don’t really see the German-car crowd crossing over either, they haven’t before and are unlikely to start now.
However, if it has to be an American-built and branded car, and needs to sport a luxury badge as well as being a sedan, then there really isn’t anything else out there that would fit the bill since Lincoln gave up on sedans (except the larger CT5 and maybe but not really the Chrysler 300. And of course the elephant in the room, Tesla’s Model 3). The Cadillac won’t be ubiquitous, will turn some heads, and presents a decent value for money, at least when compared to the segment competition and especially if using some restraint with the options list.
Thank You to Cadillac for gracing us with this car and a tank of gas in order to evaluate it.