The Cadillac ATS and CTS didn't sell well. They had great handling and a large selection of engines, but they were hampered by interiors that were cramped for the class and infotainment systems that could confound people. Sedans are dying, Cadillac gets that too. That's why they are consolidating the ATS and CTS onto a single car called the CT5, released last week at the New York International Auto Show. Rumors have it that the CT5 will start in the mid-30s and Cadillac is insisting that, despite its size, the CT5 is aligned against the 3-series and C-Class. But in doing so, where does that leave the car? Could Cadillac be realigning their cars so they become the largest cars in a particular price class? It would be a very traditionally Cadillac thing to do. There was a time when Cadillac would brag about having the longest production cars in its class. Even the original CTS was sized like a 5-series but priced like a 3-series. More on that later.
I'm a lifelong fan of Cadillac. I want to be excited about the CT5. While I do think the car looks handsome, it doesn't excite me like the CT6 does. There is no one thing I can put my finger on, not even the black plastic triangle playing the part of a third window. The car just doesn't command a presence as the CT6 does. And though the overall look of the front is handsome, I get flashbacks of Impala from certain angles. It does look far better in person than Cadillac's or my own photography show.
Inside, Cadillac has upped their game on the quality of the materials, but they phoned the styling in. As some readers have pointed out, it even appears as if some trim pieces have been repurposed from the CTS. There is a large tablet stuck to the dash for the infotainment system, which is thankfully no longer the old CUE system. It looks to be similar in function and layout to those found in GMC's trucks. I have found that system to work well, so I don't see any problem there. A large dial in the center console can control the unit as well, useful if you're wearing gloves. Capacitive touch buttons have been replaced by real physical buttons. They are well weighted and feel substantial, indeed even Mercedes-like for the HVAC controls. Cadillac took to heart all of the criticism over their gauges in the previous cars and produced a good looking set of round dials for tach and speedometer with a driver information screen between. The seats are firm and supportive, getting into position is quick and easy, but they don't match the 24+ way seats that Lincoln is offering these days. Rear seat room has improved dramatically over the ATS, though feels about the same as a CTS. Cadillac's Precision Control Shift is there. I've found it annoying to use, but it has a similar operation to the BMW gear control that many people like, so maybe it is just me. I think Cadillac (and everyone else) should chuck the shifter knob on their cars and go to something more digital. One piece of technology in the CT5 that I really love is Cadillac's SuperCruise. I've used SuperCruise to drive from Pittsburgh to New York, roughly 350 miles, and I was only actively piloting the car for about 10% of the time.
Engines in the CT5 seem to be introductory offers, but there is also room to grow. The base engine is a 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbo producing 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That's a bit light for the class. The optional engine is a 3.0 liter twin-turbo making 335 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a 10-speed automatic with all-wheel drive optional. Both engines also have displacement on demand and can shut down cylinders to conserve fuel in light-load situations. Cadillac has plenty of room to maneuver here with engines though. For future versions like V-Sport and V-Series, they have the 400hp version of the 3.0TT, or the 420hp 3.6TT, or the new 4.2 liter Blackwing when more performance is called for.
Overall, this could be a very compelling car starting at $34,995 and being as long as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. That's where the size issue comes in. Cadillac would have a hard time moving this CT5 if they price it alongside the same size German models. If this is going to be Cadillac's strategy, offer the biggest car for the price, then they need to drum that mindset into the heads of consumers. That takes advertising dollars. Otherwise, they are just going to be repeatedly compared to vehicles outside of their price class and lose in every comparison test. The CT6 being priced just $1,000 more than an E-Class leads me to believe this is what they are intending to do.
Read other First Impressions from the New York International Auto Show below: