2021 Cadillac CT5 aims to take Cadillac back to its heyday

2021 Cadillac CT5. Metro Creative Services photo
2021 Cadillac CT5. Metro Creative Services photo

Cadillac is a legendary name in American automotive history. It’s been around since 1902. Like many companies/brands, it’s had highs and lows. For Gen Xers like me, one of my favorite Cadillac eras was in the early 2000s when they made one of my all-time favorite sedans, the CTS. Then they vaulted it further by adding the CTS-V option and it was aggressive, sexy and luxurious. The CTS-V is a car I miss and still stands as one of my top 10 favorite cars I’ve driven (and I’ve driven a lot).

But after this heyday, Cadillac sort of strayed away and lost itself. They discontinued the CTS and the smaller but just as enjoyable ATS. My tester this week made me feel nostalgic and reminiscent of the CTS era.

The 2021 Cadillac CT5 is GM’s luxury brand’s replacement for the CTS. But can it really be replaced?

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On looks alone, the answer is no. The overall aesthetics of the CT5 are a little too refined and conservative for my taste. I loved the big, beaky, aggressive grille of the CTS and unfortunately the grille of the CT5 feels uninspired. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an attractive, modern-looking sedan, but it just lacks the personality of the CTS. It also just doesn’t scream luxury in its appearance and looks a little too “boring midsize sedan” to me.

The dual grille opening has distinction and personality, it just doesn’t put off either an aggressive posture or a luxury vibe. Sadly, for looks, the CT5 was a letdown.

But the performance of my tester is where I started to reminisce fondly. The CT5 has what looks to be a tame (and lame) base 2.0-liter four cylinder engine. I’m so glad I didn’t have that engine in my tester, instead I had the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 engine which makes 335 horses and 400 lb./ft. of torque. This type of performance fell a little short of the CTS-V version, but certainly was spunky, sporty and aggressive enough to win me over. Off the line it was quick.

The 10-speed automatic transmission is good, but does have a slight bit of turbo lag but is otherwise smooth with the shifts. There is a CT5-V that I would love to drive and compare to the CTS-V. For me, that’s probably where the sweet spot resides for this car.

With AWD, the overall performance, road grip and handling is all tremendous and offers an exhilarating experience.

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Inside, the CT5 hits the mark, just barely. It’s not quite a bullseye, but the quality touchpoints and overall luxurious vibe is present. It doesn’t scream out luxury like other Cadillacs have in the past. But it’s also not as pricey as other Cadillacs have been. The trunk space is very tiny and that’s one of the biggest negatives for the CT5. There’s 11.9 cubic feet in the trunk, which for a vehicle this size is poor.

Otherwise, internal space is good with room for three passengers in the back seat. Both legroom and headroom are adequate. Cadillac’s infotainment system is good as it features a 12-inch digital cluster. For an upgrade there’s a Bose Performance System which includes 15 speakers. I was satisfied with the technology and overall cabin quality of the CT5.

Heated and cooled seats and heated steering wheel are nice, but something I’d expect for a luxury brand and those come at an additional cost.

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Standard vehicle price of the CT5 Premium trim is $40,795, which makes it competitively priced for this segment. As tested, my CT5 had several additional costs, including the (better) 3.0-liter engine, all-wheel drive, Bose advanced sound system and the aforementioned climate package. As such, the final MSRP of my tester was $51,455.

Fuel economy for the AWD CT5 is 18 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway, which feels low. For any sedan today, even one with the bigger engine, to be below 20 mpg and barely average 21 mpg is below industry expectations. I’m never one for being a fan of fuel sippers, so I can look past the 21 mpg average for the better and faster engine.

The 2021 Cadillac CT5 did remind of the CTS somewhat but fell short of those lofty expectations in some ways too. It’s nice to see Cadillac trying to rekindle that spirit and I see a positive path ahead for GM’s luxury brand.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at jimmydinsmore73@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $40,795/$51,455
  • Mileage.......................................... 18 mpg/city; 26 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 3.0-liter V6
  • Horsepower................................. 335 hp/400 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. 10-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Lansing, Michigan