Updated: Apr 1, 2022
That headline is likely to stir some controversy. There will be arguments that Cadillac hasn't worn a crown in a long, long time.
Here's my "yeah, but...": This is still the brand that is best known by its tagline "Standard of the World" from the previous century. The phrase "The Cadillac of..." is still used by a not-insignificant number of people to refer to the best of anything.
So any new Cadillac wears---let's call it the crown of expectations. Can it live up to the family name from the glory days? Might it actually be the vehicle that re-claims the throne for a new generation?
That, to me, is the lens through which we need to view the 2020 Cadillac CT4 V-Series. After spending 20 years trying to establish itself as the builder of edgy, high-performance sports sedans (and one extremely profitable SUV--the Escalade), Cadillac now is taking a step back from trying to beat BMW on the Nurburgring and attempting to carve out its own niche of usable performance combined with contemporary luxury for Americans. And it's doing that at a time when sedans, performance or otherwise, are very much on the endangered list.
The 2020 Cadillac CT4 V-Series is the first example of that new philosophy. The size class and name evoke the now-discontinued ATS-V, a 464-horsepower screamer with the ability to hit 60 from a standing start in 3.7 seconds and a starting price of $68,790. Automotive journalists loved it. It did not sell in large quantities.
Under the hood of the CT4 V-Series is a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Making 325 horsepower and 380 pounds per foot of torque, it'll do 0-60 in 5.1 seconds. And the starting price is $44,495. The questions Cadillac wants you to ask yourself are these:
Is one-point four seconds ( "onemississippitwomiss" ) worth $24,295? Isn't a less-frantic, still-capable sport sedan a better way to enjoy your daily drive?
In our week of city streets, urban freeways and one good winding Sierra foothills backroad run, the CT4 V-Series never left us wanting for power or handling, while delivering a tight, controlled, but smooth ride.
Besides the engine, what does that much more reasonable base price buy you? The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights are adaptive suspension and magnetic ride control, 18-inch alloy wheels with pearl nickel-plated finish, a 14-speaker Bose premium surround sound audio system and dual-zone climate control.
Our test vehicle also had some extra-cost options, including the Climate Package (heated and ventilated seats for the driver and front passenger, with power lumbar massagers and an automatic heated steering wheel) for $1,000; leather-appointed seating (Sangria with black accents) for $1,000 and the Driver Awareness Plus package (following distance indicator, intellibeam headlamps, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert) for $800. Maddeningly, adaptive cruise control, which keeps a distance between you and the car you are following is, as with several other GM products, and extra-cost option. That's nonsense. It's standard on many vehicles we test with base prices in the $20,000s. At this price level, it's inexcusable to charge an additional $1,100 for a package including it (one our test car did not have).
With $995 destination charge, the as-tested price of the 2020 Cadillac CT4 V-Series is $48,490. A reasonable price for the size class, perceived luxury and performance. But that's an increasingly crowded price point. It will be interesting to see if Cadillac's new path pays dividends.