Cadillac has steadily been in the spotlight for the past several weeks and months. Not only because the brand is making an assertive push towards electrification with a series of concepts that embrace the letter Q (Lyriq, Symboliq, Optiq etc.), but also because the brand’s new Escalade is now roaming the streets with its ostentatious richness and a curved infotainment screen, which is bigger and brighter than any screen in the history of curved infotainment screens.
In the midst of the aforementioned novelties, GM’s luxury pendant is waging another fight: one that aims to secure the company’s spot in the sport sedan market. On that front, Cadillac gave us a taste of the long-awaited Blackwing sauce that now coats their CT4 and CT5 sedans.
Like the “Ze Germans” do for Audi A4’s S4 and the M340i does for the BMW 3 Series, the CT4-V is a “middle” model that embeds the V brand into a more accessible package that comes with almost all of the glitter, but not the pavement-ripping horsepower of the Blackwing treatment.
Let’s take a look at the specs
The 2020 Cadillac CT4-V uses a four-cylinder, 2.7 L turbocharged powerplant that feeds 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque to a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Summer driving enthusiasts can stick with the lighter, standard rear-wheel drive configuration, while year-rounders can opt for optional AWD for more safety and confidence in the snow.
My tester was exclusively rear wheel propelled, but was given a selection of equipment that aims to control its tail-happy spirit, such as the Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 adaptive suspension and a set of temper-taming 4-piston Brembo brake calipers in the front.
A pick-up truck engine? Yes! So what?
Upon hearing the news that Cadillac had adapted a 2.3 L turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the Chevrolet Silverado into the CT4-V (if you didn’t know, now you know), a number of specialists and enthusiasts passionately expressed their displeasure, as if using such an engine was sacrilege.
Not only is sharing powerplants a common practice throughout the industry, but adapting such a powerplant to a smaller vehicle is a more complicated process than a simple “swap”. Throttle position inputs vs. ECU calibrations, transmission/engine pairing, and boost curve tuning are only a few of the makeovers that such an engine receives when crossing from one platform to another.
Without confirming with Cadillac to what extent these adaptations were carried out (trade secrets still exist in this industry after all), I can say that, after testing the CT4-V for just a few launches and acceleration pick-ups (no pun intended) on the highway, the powerplant’s response pleasantly surprised me.
On paper, the turbocharger helps the engine deliver its full torque rating at just 1,500 rpm, as the 10-speed automatic transmission follows suit by ravaging through the gears one after another. Is it the smoothest experience in the business? Maybe not. But it sure is a riot to drive, especially when V-Mode is activated.
The Cadillac CT4-V handles itself with beautiful precision
The V-Sport menu allows you to curate your recipe with ingredients like throttle, suspension, and steering settings, as well as brake responsiveness. It’s almost so much that you can get lost in the variety of options at first sight. However, after a week in the car, you’ll only have to do this once.
From there, my reasonably light RWD CT4-V provided a nimble ride that controlled the roll like a champ. Topped with a precise and satisfyingly feedback drizzled steering, this caddy gave me a sport-like experience that I never thought it could.
The interior is where things get hairy, for some
Even if, in my book, German compact luxury sedan interiors have gone downhill in the last two decades in terms of finish, feel, and refinement, the Cadillac CT4-V’s insides are still missing the pizazz to compete in this field. While this didn’t faze me or interfere with my overall driving experience, some buyers would expect smoother surfaces and fancier switches in a vehicle of this price.
You know when they say that the base of good cuisine is good produce? The CT4-V seems to throw as much good produce as possible in the pot. Most compact luxury sedan buyers look for comfort, interior and exterior style, power, and handling—all within a reasonable budget. And the CT4-V comfortably checks most of those boxes.
Yet, what we’re waiting for here is that precious je ne sais quoi—that sporty appeal that German sedans have been honing since time immemorial. This precise “vibe” can’t be bought, bolted on or spec’d. It can only be attributed by car culture. But if Cadillac manages to make it happen, its position in the segment will be solidified.