Expert Reviews

2021 Cadillac CT5 Review

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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Back in 2003, the CTS drew a bold line in the sand for Cadillac.

It showed that the brand was willing to take risks and do something different to separate itself from other luxury manufacturers. Adding the high-performance chops of the CTS-V model provided an element of credibility. Coupe and wagon variants were added to the lineup, but neither proved popular enough to last.

All these years – and a name change – later, the 2021 Cadillac CT5 (née CTS) is available a variety of ways ranging from basic to Blackwing, the latter on its way with a supercharged V8 and a manual transmission. Needless to say, you’ve got options.

Styling: 7.5/10

Designers took a bit of a detour with the styling of the CT5, particularly with its C-pillar that looks an awful lot like it was borrowed from the current Honda Accord that beat this Cadillac to production by two years.

The front end features a variety of elements that vary in shape, angle, and materials that come together to look a bit disjointed. The large side windows don’t do much to provide a sleek, couple-like shape, as is commonly the case for luxury sedans these days, but they do provide excellent visibility.

All of the styling is tight and buttoned up around back, including the integrated dual exhaust-pipe enclosures. The all-black interior of this tester did little to make the variety of shapes and materials stand out on their own, but both design and ergonomics are well thought out. Other than very few exceptions where plastic is used, surfaces look and feel high in quality. 18-inch wheels are standard, with optional finishes available in both 19- and 20-inch sizes.

Safety: 8.5/10

A host of both passive and active safety features are provided, with the ability to add others as you move up through the trim levels. The CT5 offers forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking as standard equipment across all models. The Super Cruise driver-assistance feature that acts as an advanced adaptive cruise control system is on its way, while the top two trims also include blind-spot monitoring.

This tester featured a driver awareness package that includes lane-keep assist, a follow-distance indicator, and automatic high-beams, while a separate package that wasn’t optioned features a more basic version of adaptive cruise than the Super Cruise system.

The aptly named “Buckle to Drive” feature prevents the car from being shifted out of park until the driver has fastened their seatbelt, while a customizable feature called Teen Driver lets you configure vehicle settings to promote safer, less distracted driving. Driving behaviour can also be monitored to promote improved habits.

The CT5 will also feature front and rear parking sensors, as well as HD surround-view monitoring, once Super Cruise is available later in 2021. Membership-based connected services and OnStar are also offered.

Features: 9/10

The CT5 offers many creature comforts, but they can require ticking pricey options boxes to get the highest-quality experience. The Platinum package (not included on this vehicle) adds leather seating, driver seat memory function, auto-dimming mirrors, wireless phone charging, and upgraded wheels, as well as ambient interior and exterior LED lighting. It also opens up the option of adding the $9,995 Platinum package that includes GPS navigation and upgraded audio, climate, lighting, and parking packages, upgraded leather seating and steering wheel, more interior colour and accent options, upgraded power seats, alloy pedals, and the massive dual-pane sunroof.

Thankfully, many of the options can be parcelled off into smaller packages to avoid paying for items you don’t want or need, however, navigation and the 15-speaker audio system are a package deal. The CT5 offers wireless charging, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 4G LTE connection with in-car Wi-Fi, which can be used to wirelessly connect to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through the vehicle’s infotainment system.

User Friendliness: 9.5/10

Unlike some competitors in the segment that feel unnecessarily complicated, the Cadillac CT5 offers an intuitive driving experience. The switchgear is conveniently located comfortably within reach on the centre console and is easy to operate. Driving modes, infotainment, and settings are all easy to navigate through a rotating dial or steering wheel-mounted controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are easy to set up and navigate between, while Bluetooth connectivity allows for hands-free calls and voice commands just like those interfaces, though it doesn’t mirror your device on the screen. The large centre screen presents the back-up camera and overlays parking aids and alerts.

Practicality: 7/10

Buyers continue to gravitate towards crossovers and SUVs for their higher ride height, which improves the view of traffic but also the ease of entry and exit. The CT5’s rear passenger area is likely ample for a large portion of children and adults, however, it involves some gymnastics to access due to the sloping shape of the rear door. At six feet tall, your author wasn’t able to sit straight up in the back seat. The 337-L trunk is adequate for a sedan, and the 60/40-split rear seats can be folded to accommodate large or long items. The trunk opening itself is large and low for easy loading and unloading. Optional on all trims, all-wheel drive will no doubt prove a popular choice at $2,200.

Comfort: 7.5/10

Suspension, handling, and road manners in general provide a comfortable and well-balanced driving experience. Road noise in the cabin is minimal, even when driving on poor roads or at highway speeds on winter tires. The leather-wrapped power steering wheel also features an automatic heating function. It’s easy to find your proper seating position through the power-adjustable front seats that are supportive, heated, and ventilated. Rear-seat passengers get a 12-volt outlet and USB-C charging port, but that’s about it.

Driving Feel: 8/10

Based on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Chevrolet Camaro, the CT5 provides a more relaxed and stately driving experience than the smaller and more stiffly sprung CT4. All-wheel drive adds a more planted, balanced handling experience – not that the rear-wheel-drive version is lively enough to be tail-happy. Steering is light and somewhat vague at times, but relatively direct with a tendency to return to centre. The turbocharged V6 offers lots of torque across the rev range and pulls effortlessly in any of its 10 gears.

The higher trimmed CT5-V raises the bar, getting 360 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque from the same 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6. It can also be had with magneto-rheological dampers and an electronic limited-slip rear differential. There are many options to choose from depending on your budget and performance preference.

Power: 8/10

The standard engine offering is a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, delivering 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the CT4, which offers the option of a 2.7L four-cylinder (for an added $2,875), the upgraded engine in the CT5 is a twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 making 335 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. This upgrade results in a price bump of $4,025, but drops the zero-to-100km/h acceleration time from 6.6 seconds to 4.9. The CT4-V uses a high-output version of the same engine that produces 360 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque at as low as 2,350 rpm. The CT5’s V6 is a torquey motor that emits a very subtle sound. Shifts from the 10-speed automatic are smooth and almost seamless. Engage sport mode and utilize the shifter’s manual function to hold gears longer for improved acceleration.

Fuel Economy: 7.5/10

Fuel economy and annual fuel cost will vary depending on many factors, such as temperature and weather, road conditions, and driving behaviour. Choice of powertrain will also come into play since the CT5 is available with two engine options, as well as rear- and all-wheel drive.

The rear-wheel-drive 2.0L four-cylinder is rated at 10.4 L/100 km in the city, 7.3 on the highway, and 9.0 combined. This all-wheel-drive V6 tester is rated at 12.7 city, 9.1 highway, and 11.1 combined. Both engines require premium fuel. Over the course of a week of driving in the city, on the highway, and extensively on secondary roads, observed consumption was 13.8 L/100 km.

Value: 8.5/10

The CT5 starts at a very attractive price point, but if you want to pile on amenities befitting a luxury sedan the cost jumps towards the competition quickly, so choose wisely. The entry-level Luxury trim starts at $40,098. For that amount, you get a turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and a rear-wheel-drive powertrain.

All-wheel drive can be added as an option on any trim level which brings pricing more in line with the competition but is still substantially less than the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, both of which are only available to Canadians in all-wheel drive (excluding their high-performance models, of course).

Stepping up to Premier Luxury trim with all-wheel drive like this tester starts at $45,298 and adds more content, along with the option of upgrading to the twin-turbocharged V6 engine (at a cost of $4,025). This test unit was also outfitted with a dual-pane sunroof, upgraded paint, lighting, and wheels, plus a few others, adding up to $9,300 in options. Ringing the register at $54,698 before destination and delivery, it’s competitively priced while offering a lot of value for the money.

The Verdict

The level of quality has unquestionably improved since the days of the CTS, but the 2021 Cadillac CT5 retains much of the DNA of that original model. Its styling isn’t as bold or ground-breaking as that inaugural effort, but that’s not a bad quality if you’re looking for something less extreme.

Some luxury manufacturers limit the way packages and features can be combined, but the CT5’s drivetrain, trim levels, and options list can be cherrypicked to outfit it the way you want. Its driving manners and ease of operation match its tasteful exterior. The luxury sedan segment is jam packed with options, but the CT5 manages to hold its own.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 335 hp
Peak Torque 405 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 12.7 / 9.1 / 11.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 337 L
Model Tested 2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury AWD
Base Price $45,298
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,200
Price as Tested $56,898
Optional Equipment
$9,300 – 3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 engine, $4,025; Power Dual-Pane Sunroof, $1,685; Shadow Metallic Paint, $900; Lighting Package, $690; 18-inch Alloy wheels, $690; Driver Awareness Plus Package (w/o Super Cruise), $575; Front and Rear Body Colour Splash Guards, $510; All-Weather Floor Mats, $225