Seemingly forever Cadillac was THE American luxury car, its image built on being big, luxurious, powerful, pricey, and stylish, often to a gaudy extreme!
All that changed when Japan’s luxury makes invaded and when coupled with growing sales of German luxury makes, Cadillac’s slice of the U.S. luxury pie became much smaller. But Caddy got its act together more quickly than Lincoln, the other big U.S. luxury make since Packard ceased to exist after the late 1950s. So for the past 20 year or so Caddy has been making solid and fairly stylish luxury vehicles.
Like all carmakers, even Porsche, Caddy turned to SUVs and crossovers to lead their brand. Yet it has struggled at the lower end of its lineup to create sedans and coupes that capture the aspiring middle agers’ interest, and more importantly, their paychecks. BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in particular have had strong low-market luxury offerings for some time.
Finally, about four years ago Cadillac came out with its CT6 sedan, then the CT5 model a couple years later. Now, it has a CT4 compact and low-cost leader to compete with the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, the Audi4 and Mercedes’ C Class.
The CT4 is a handsome entry-level luxury sport sedan with some oomph and a stylish nose that could persuade some up-and-coming millennials (and others) to drop some coin on a Caddy. I liked the car, but it’s no BMW. (Trust me, I’d driven the BMW 228i a few weeks earlier.)
Yet it doesn’t have to be as it’s not all about speed and handling. It remembers that a luxury feel is important and that stately and sedate may still appeal to some buyers. In profile it’s styling is nothing special, but its nose, headlights and taillights help distinguish it. And let’s be honest, even luxury car buyers know value when they see it. That’s where the rear-drive CT4 shines.
It is lower priced than the smaller Audi and Mercedes competitors, yet on size and roominess competes well with the aforementioned models.
Cadillac’s CT4 Luxury, the base model, lists at $33,990, which is slightly below the average selling price of sedans in the U.S. Naturally to get more power and more luxury doodads and safety equipment a buyer needs to move up a level or two. The metallic black test car was the second tier Premium Luxury model, starting at $38,490, including delivery.
It’s well equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo I4 that creates 237 horsepower and uses an 8-speed automatic.
But only in the Premium Luxury trim you can boost your oomph with a high-revving 2.7-liter I4 turbo hooked to a 10-speed automatic and put some fun into the equation. This will do 0-60 in less than 5 seconds. Car & Driver magazine says 4.7 seconds from this 310-horse beauty that delivers 350 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s some scoot for $2,500 extra and it’s what the test car featured.
Wow, what fun to have the extra power to those back wheels. And if you want power to all four, AWD is available at $2,600 or so extra, depending on trim level. Plus, and Caddy fans will already know this, there’s the typical high-performance top of the line V model. It’s powered by a 325-horsepower version of the turbo I4 and the racy V version lists at $45,590.
But let’s stick with what we had. The CT4 Premium Luxury is fast and sporty, just as you’d expect. Steering is fairly precise and moderately weighted. Ride is well-controlled, but not soft and cushy if that’s what the Cadillac name still means to you.
Like so many other cars today, the CT4 comes with drive mode selection so at the click of a button you can make it behave as you’d like. Tour is standard and the car defaults to it every time the ignition is turned off. That’s how many of us would like it around town. There also is a Snow/Ice mode along with My Mode to adjust individually.
Yet if you’ve got this turbo 2.7 motor it’s likely you want more power and performance, so click on Sport and the engine feels like it has extra ponies under the hood and ride firms to extra stiff while steering effort becomes much heavier. If you’re wanting power, this is the way to go, although the ride and steering effort could become tiring after a bit, especially if streets in your neighborhood are anything like mine.
What doesn’t’ grow old is the quiet luxury feel of the car’s interior. Yes, you can still hear a little engine wind-up, especially in sport mode, but that quiets quickly. Road noise is barely noticeable so even older drivers can hear a passenger talk or enjoy the radio. And here there’s a Bose surround sound system with 14 speakers, part of a $1,700 option package that includes navigation, wireless phone charging and Caddy’s user experience audio system.
While not flashy at all, the interior is more a throwback to earlier German make interiors. It’s black ladled on black, from dash to perforated leather seats with gray stitching. Trim on the doors, dash, wheel and speaker covers is a satin chrome, with a herringbone metallic pattern on the console. The shifter has piano black trim and satin chrome that causes some reflection on sunny days.
A $1,200 Climate package adds heated and cooled front seats and heated steering wheel too.
Seats themselves are comfy and powered, both front seats having power lumbar support. Side bolster support is moderate, not over aggressive as in some sport sedans. I, and other riders, found these comfortable. The back seat is less so, with a hard lumbar area and moderate foot room, but you could carry four folks in the car.
Standard on this model is the leather seating, automatic lights, rain-sensing wipers, a couple memory settings for the seats, an ambient light system along with auto-dimming rearview mirror and rear parking sensors. Wheels are upgraded to 18-inchers too.
What you won’t find is a sunroof, which is a $1,050 option. A couple other concerns include the poor location of the drive mode selector, well back on the console creating an awkward reach for short drivers. This needs to move further forward on the console. A-pillars are large, like in an SUV so side views are a bit limited and that high-powered turbo prefers 91 octane gasoline, keeping your weekly out of pocket costs a bit higher.
Trunk space is modest too at 10.7 cubic feet, but it looked like a set of golf clubs, maybe two, would fit easily enough.
Safety goodies? Standard is front collision alert and emergency braking with pedestrian awareness and braking. There’s a rearview camera, naturally, plus rear park assist and a safety alert seat. That vibrates a bit as the Cadillac approaches the center line or side road markings, actually twitching your bum on the side of the road you’re approaching. Still can’t decide if I like this, but it’s better than a beep or chime.
The test car added an $800 Driver Awareness Plus package that included a following distance indicator, Intellibeam headlights, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. For a luxury make I’d expect most of this to be standard now, but obviously making all this optional helps Caddy keep the pricing down.
With all its options the tested model hit $44,690, still well within entry-level luxury car pricing. With fewer options the CT4 could be a high-value buy.
Note too that gas mileage was good, despite me lead-footing it a bit. I managed 28.4 mpg while the EPA estimates the CT4 at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. That upper number seems quite achievable.
Ultimately CT4 is a value-leader among entry-level luxury sport sedans, with just enough style to garner a closer look.
Hits: Handsome entry-level sport sedan with good power from optional engine, sporty ride and luxury car quiet interior. Heated wheel, heated/cooled front seats, Bose sound system, wireless charger, multiple drive modes, typical safety equipment (some optional) and sharp nose styling.
Misses: No sunroof, ride becomes extra stiff in Sport mode, awkward location of drive mode selector, thick A-pillar, prefers 91 octane fuel.
Made In: Lansing, Mich.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 237 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 3,455 lbs.
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 187.2 in.
Cargo: 10.7 cu.ft.
MPG: 20/30, 28.4 (tested)
Base Price: $38,490 (includes delivery)
Major Options: 2.7-liter turbo I4 (310 hp) w/10-speed automatic, $2,500
Navigation & Bose premium audio package (Bose surround sound, 14 speakers, wireless charging, Cadillac user experience w/nav), $1,700
Climate package (heated front seats, power lumbar, 4-way power driver/passenger seats, cooled front seats, heated steering wheel), $1,200
Driver awareness plus package (following distance indicator, intellibeam headlights, lane change alert w/side blind zone alert, lane keep assist w/lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert), $800
Test Vehicle: $44,690
Editor's note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.