NYC show: Goodbye mid-size Cadillac CTS, hello compact CT5

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
The 2020 Cadillac CT5 - shown here in Sport trim - will compete against the BMW 3-series in the compact car class.

New York — Cadillac is shaking up its luxury sedan lineup by taking its mid-size car down market.

General Motors Co.'s luxury brand is replacing its CTS sedan with a similarly sized compact car aimed squarely at the German trio of BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. Badged the CT5, the new Caddy was unveiled Tuesday ahead of its appearance at this week’s New York auto show.

Pricing will likely be thousands of dollars less than the current CTS while retaining its mid-sized proportions and adding exotic technologies like the Super Cruise limited hands-free driving system also found on Cadillac’s large CT6 sedan. With all-new skin, interior and engines, the 2020 Cadillac CT5 marks a bold re-positioning of GM’s luxury maker to take on its compact German competition with a bigger, more luxurious car than the current ATS.

The ATS replacement expected later this year — the CT4 — also will likely go down-market against subcompact luxury cars like the BMW M2 and Mercedes A-class. Its small-for-compacts rear seat should be more competitive in that class.

“The first-ever Cadillac CT5 showcases Cadillac’s unique expertise in crafting American luxury sedans," said Cadillac President Steve Carlisle, who has re-established the brand's headquarters in Metro Detroit from New York City. "Its details elevate every drive and reward the senses." 

The CTS badge is retiring after nearly two decades as Cadillac’s premier sedan — a model that set a new, 21st-century course for the tired brand by introducing the angular Art & Science design language.

The CT5 will contrast most notably from the CTS in its console and grille designs. The console sheds the CTS’ controversial, haptic-touch Cadillac User Experience for an all-new system introduced earlier this year on the XT6 mid-size SUV. The new CUE system enables users to choose from multiple controllers.

“We want to be a class-leading user interface,” said Cadillac Chief Designer Andrew Smith. “We made the most logical system so that customers get to choose how to use it: by voice, rotary dial, or touch.”

The sophisticated console complements a cabin lush with natural materials and optional tech features pioneered by Cadillac like a head-up display and Super Cruise — technology that allows hands-free highway driving while the car monitors the driver via steering-wheel-mounted sensors.

Outside, the CT5’s front fascia and racy fastback distinguish it as a CTS successor. The narrow, LED headlights are integrated with the big pentagon grille while the brand’s signature, vertical running lights frame the fascia. The grille can be had in chrome for the Premium Luxury models or black for the Sport model — the two trims available above the base Luxury model on Cadillac’s new “Y-trim” strategy. A Platinum package available on both.

The CT5 is four inches shorter than the CTS, which gives it a more coupe-like appearance in the rear. But the 116-inch wheelbase actually expands by two inches, bringing mid-size rear legroom to the compact class.

“This is a vehicle I’ve really been wanting to show you,” smiled Smith. “We wanted to make a car that looks like it drives.”

To that end the CT5 still will be based on the athletic, rear-wheel-drive-based Alpha platform that has undergirded the CTS and ATS. But in addition to its new wardrobe, it will also get a remade suspension and engine lineup to compete against its nimble class rivals. Cadillac engineers took the CT5 to race tracks including Virginia International Raceway, Colorado’s high Plains Raceway, and GM’s epic Milford facility.

The multi-link front and five-link rear suspension get new bushings, springs and dampers. The Sport model gets performance Brembo brakes. The CT5 features four drive modes standard on both RWD and all-wheel-drive models.

The compact Caddy debuts an all-turbo engine lineup with a standard, 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while a bigger, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 will crank out 335 ponies and 400 pound-feet of torque. The torque numbers — when translated to Newton meters of torque (a nod to Cadillac's coming wave of electric vehicles) — will distinguish the two cars with a trunk badge.

Befitting the CT5’s downsizing to the compact class, both engines get less power than current CTS offerings — and will likely gain in fuel economy when EPA figures are finalized as the car approaches its fourth quarter sale date. No electrified powertrain has been announced — nor is there evidence yet of a V-sport performance variant to replace the Corvette-powered, supercharged CTS-V.

Both engines will be married to GM’s 10-speed automatic transmission. The CT5 will be built in Lansing. It will be on public display here at the New York show April 19-28 and will be available to order this fall. 

Despite an overall industry decline in luxury compact sales of 15 percent in 2018, Cadillac Marketing Chief Jason Sledjewski says sedans like the CT5 remain important: “Sedans are a part of our DNA. They move consumers into our brand.”

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.