There is still a core group of driving enthusiasts out there that doesn’t want to own a luxury vehicle that has an “X” in its name. They don’t want something that sits high and feels tippy; they don’t need to carry seven passengers; they don’t want to tow a boat. They want something luxurious; something smaller and quick; something that is actually as entertaining to look at as it is to drive. It’s an ever-shrinking group, but you can’t fault Cadillac for going after them with the new 2020 CT5, debuting at the 2019 New York International Auto Show and the latest model to appear in the GM luxury brand’s realignment of its sedan lineup. The CTS, ATS and XTS are being discontinued, replaced by the CT6, this CT5 and the yet-to-be-unveiled CT4.
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The look is definitely slick, Honda Accord C-pillar resemblance notwithstanding. There are obvious elements that were first presented in the Escala show car that, while not as striking or original as Cadillac’s prior show cars like the Ciel or the Elmiraj, still look attractive and distinctive.
The vertical headlight and taillight elements make this car what it is. They’re not looking tired or boring yet at all. They’re distinctly Cadillac in a time when everyone else seems to be going to horizontal lighting elements — and I hope Cadillac keeps this uniqueness and keeps it fresh for the foreseeable future.
Inside, this is one of Cadillac’s better recent efforts. Unlike the XT6, which felt decidedly uncompetitive in its class and still used Cadillac’s awful touch-sensitive controls, the new CT5 gets the buttons we saw debut in the XT4, classy materials on the upscale trim levels, comfortable seats covered in quality leather and excellent front-seat ergonomics. The new Cadillac User Experience multimedia system is easy to use, and there are myriad ways to access it: via the touchscreen, through dedicated buttons, steering wheel controls, voice commands and even a rotary controller on the lower console. The rotary controller is odd, however — it looks identical to the one in the XT6 but doesn’t feature the sideways tap feature for some reason.
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The front seat is comfortable, with plenty of room for two, but the backseat is definitely compact-sedan-sized. Headroom is the biggest issue; people around 6 feet tall are going to find their heads hard up into the headliner, victims of the CT5’s panoramic moonroof. It’s not uncompetitive in the segment, however, so it isn’t likely to be an issue for buyers.
One area we haven’t had any complaints with the new Caddys is in the way they drive. The sedans especially tend to be athletic, taut and entertaining, taking over the fun-to-drive mantle from BMW in many instances. The Alpha platform on which the new CT5 is built is an excellent starting point, as the ATS, CTS and Chevrolet Camaro all have outstanding handling characteristics and potent powertrains. This is one new Cadillac we’re looking forward to driving as it seems quite promising on paper.
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