Cadillac's CTS sedan gets a refresh and new name – the CT5

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Cadillac introduced a renamed and reskinned mid-size sedan Monday as the brand reboots under a new president, a new Warren headquarters and a youthful marketing campaign.

The car formerly known as the CTS now carries the CT5 badge, another step in Cadillac's new alphanumeric system for cars beginning with the CT6 sedan. A CT4 replacing the ATS small sedan is expected this year. 

The bones of the CT5 remain the same, but the sedan gets a major cosmetic refresh inside and out. Exterior panels are all new as the CT5 adopts the design cues of the Escala concept car that has wowed auto show audiences. Inside, the plush CT5 adopts a monostable shifter now common in Cadillacs (and the Chevy Bolt EV), as well as a console-based rotary infotainment controller first seen in the XT6.

The rotary controller allows drivers the ability to access the screen by touch or remote. It's a significant shift away from the haptic-touch CUE system that alienated some customers in the last-generation car.

The CTS was a historic car for Cadillac in 2003 when it replaced the Catera mid-size sedan and signaled Caddy's shift away from conventional nameplates and toward a more athletic brand competing head-on with German brands like BMW and Audi. 

The striking appearance and ambitious technology of the third-generation CTS earned it the 2013 Detroit News Vehicle of the Year award. The performance V-series trim of the current CTS has the same 640-horse 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 as the Corvette Z06 track monster. 

The 2020 CT5 will be available with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 or a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. A V-series performance variant will likely follow.

The CT5 follows the XT6 in adopting Cadillac's new nomenclature that highlights the car's torque. (Torque is the low-end pulling power of a motor).

Determined to familiarize a new generation of customers with the brand's transition to electric cars — Cadillac is promising 20 EVs by 2023, and electric cars have  prodigious torque under acceleration) — the rear of the CT5 will carry a badge with with the metric newton-meter measurement of torque.

"We have a foot in two worlds," says Cadillac President Steve Carlisle, referring to the brand's near-term push to sell more gas-powered SUVs while it develops a new, electrified platform for next decade.

Once a leader in plug-in hybrid technology, GM is abandoning that strategy for an all-electric future paced by its first EV crossover targeted for 2022.

The reveal of the CT5 comes via Cadillac's YouTube channel, a first for the brand as it seeks to appeal to a younger demographic with technology, music, and electrification. A video series title the "Sensory Symphony" will tease the CT5 leading up to the vehicle's coming out party at the New York Auto Show on April 17.

The videos use so-called "autonomous sensory meridian response" or ASMR technology  — which causes the skin of some listeners to tingle — to bring the car's sounds to life. The videos follow a series of Cadillac ads featuring Childish Gambino to introduce its XT6 SUV at the Oscars.

The 2020 Cadillac CT5 gets a new name (it formerly was the CTS) and skin.

"We're going back to the musical part of our heritage that we feel resonates with females and youth," said Carlisle.

The CT5 comes to market as the brand's sedan halo, the CT6, is apparently heading out to pasture. The CT6 is in production until next January, after which its Hamtramck production facility is scheduled to idle.

The CT5 will be built at GM’s Lansing Grand River facility, which recently received an infusion of $211 million.

Caddy's new sedan will be offered in a Premium or Sport trim, with the Sport distinguished by a black-out, mesh grille. More refinement can be added through a Platinum package for both models.

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.