Sharp Styling in a Compact Premium Sedan
Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Cadillac.
Rear wheel drive. Turbocharged engine. Sports luxury sedan. Under $34,000. Four compelling reasons for serious drivers to consider the 2021 Cadillac CT4.
What you will see is a sharp design with a great stance that rivals its Mercedes-Benz CLA, BMW 2-Series, and the Audi A3 competitors. With sedan sales in the US declining over the past few years as crossover SUVs have become the vehicles of choice, Cadillac is looking to grab the attention of luxury sports sedan enthusiasts with the competitively priced CT4.
The 2021 Cadillac CT4 comes with two gasoline engines that run on 91 octane and two automatic transmission options, in either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 237 horsepower (hp) and 258 pound-feet of torque (lb.-ft.), and is mated to an eight-speed automatic. The 2.7L twin-turbocharged engine puts out 350 hp and 475 lb.-ft. of torque but, in the CT4 V-Series, those numbers increase to 380 hp and 515 lb.-ft. of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions have paddle shifters and driver selectable drive modes of Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice, My Mode–and Track in the V-Series.
Clean Fleet Report drove the CT4 Premium Luxury AWD with the 2.7L engine and 10-speed transmission. This combination delivered consistent zero-60 runs at 4.8 seconds. The twin turbo has a narrow torque band, coming on at a very usable 1,500 rpm and ending at 4,000 rpm., with the 10-speed automatic smoothly accelerating through the gears while making a pleasant rumble from the twin exhaust.
Such horsepower and torque numbers can mean so-so fuel economy, but that was not the case with the EPA rating at 21 mpg city/29 highway/24 combined. In 286 miles driving through Southern California, we averaged 27.2 mpg, but in a 180-mile all-freeway run with the cruise control set at 65 mph we averaged 32.9 mpg. This shows as a freeway cruiser on long road trips, the CT4 can be efficient as well as high performance. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
We had to remind ourselves we were driving a four-cylinder premium sports sedan with a starting price tag under $34,000. The is important because the CT4 is not to be compared with the high-performance sedans in its class, but the base models, which is where the CT4 falls in the Cadillac line-up, below its CT5 big brother. What we got was mid-four-second acceleration to 60 mph, very good stopping with the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, excellent steering feedback with good feel for the road through the well-weighted electric-variable steering, little body roll or motion on the most demanding corners, and a firm but not stiff suspension making for a comfortable ride and direct cornering. The 235/40 all-season Michelin ProContact tires, mounted on 10-spoke, 18-inch silver-finish aluminum wheels, provided good grip for the 3,732-pound, five-seat sedan.
Cadillac Style: Exterior
Cadillac says the CT4 exterior styling is “designed for a new generation of performance-luxury customers.” From sharp angles of a few years back that were found on all Cadillac models, the style has evolved to a softer but still sculpted look that works very well.
The front grille, with bright, distinctive hot foil stamping, is framed by the signature vertical LED lighting. The long hood leads to a laid back windshield into a smooth roof that is only interrupted by the color keyed shark fin antenna. The short rear deck, with a spoiler, leads to vertical LED tail and brake lights, and the twin chromed exhaust ports. The chrome elsewhere is held to a tasteful minimum around the grille, windows and door handles, and looked great against the Infrared Tintcoat paint.
To challenge consumers in a curious way, Cadillac has placed a “500T” badge on the power release trunk lid (for the 2.7L-powered models). The first thought is this references a 5.0-liter engine or 500 horsepower, but no, not even close. Cadillac has converted the torque, from foot-pounds into newton-meters (Nm), which is a metric torque measurement used in most countries around the world, but not the U.S., then rounded it up to the nearest 50, and added a “T” meaning turbocharged. If for some reason you want to learn more about newton-meters, you can go to school here.
Cadillac Style: Interior
Clean Fleet Report liked the supportive leather-covered, 12-way power heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats. The driver’s seat has a surprise for you: it vibrates as part of the lane departure and the automatic rear parking warning systems. The rear seating area is tight, especially for taller passengers where headroom will be an issue, and putting three in the rear seat should only be for short jaunts.
The CT4 has a low dash design that nicely incorporated the 8.0-inch, high-definition color display for navigation and the optional Bose surround-sound audio system. Fourteen speakers pumped-out quality sound for AM/FM HD radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora and SiriusXM. Bluetooth for hands-free phone worked well, with multiple USB power outlets completing the audio system. The Cadillac User Experience, or CUE System is designed to provide a complete suite of infotainment, navigation and communication tools for keeping the driver connected.
The controls are nicely laid-out and easy to understand, including switches to operate the dual-zone climate control with an air ionizer. The 12-inch instrument cluster is configurable for different driving themes. For added convenience, there are volume and channel knobs for the radio on the dash, as well on the center console. The CT4 is well-equipped with convenience features, including remote keyless entry with remote start, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, wireless phone charging, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, tire pressure monitoring system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless push button on/off and OnStar.
A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader, and after the initial service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.
Cadillac says the CT4’s interior has ”sophisticated details wrapped around a driver-centric cockpit.” The CT4 includes interior colors of Jet Black, Whisper Beige, Cinnamon and Sky Cool Gray, with contrasting colors and aluminum trim. There were both hard and soft surfaces throughout the cabin that were acceptable for a car at this price point, but were not quite up to the premium Cadillac standard.
The power release trunk revealed a small cargo area with a high lift over. When the rear 60/40 seats are folded flat, the increased storage space will accommodate all the luggage for two on a road trip. If taking a road trip with four adults is in your plans, have them pack light.
The 2021 CT4 has front, seat-mounted side, knee and head-curtain airbags for both front and rear seat passengers. The advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) include automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking, lane change and blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, HD rear vision camera, and a full-range adaptive cruise control with following distance indicator. The CT4 has a smooth stop/start feature where the engine shuts off when coming to a stop, and then when it is time to go, engages automatically.
The Buckle-to-Drive feature will prevent the shifter from leaving Park for up to 20 seconds, or until the driver’s seat belt is buckled, whichever comes first. This feature can be turned-off through the settings control.
Teen Driver monitors driving habits, keeps the driver from disabling stability control and other features, and even allows parents to set the maximum radio volume.
The 2021 CT4 has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2021 CT4 Premium Luxury had a base price, including the $995 destination charge, of $38,590. The MSRP, including $9,580 in options and the $995 destination charge, came to $48,170. The entry-level RWD CT4 currently starts at $32,840, including the destination charge.
The 2021 CT4 comes with these warranties:
Bumper-To-Bumper – Four years/50,000 milesPowertrain – Six years/70,000 milesRoadside Assistance – Six years/70,000 milesScheduled Service/Maintenance – One year/First visit
Observations: 2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury AWD
Competing in the premium compact sedan category, the 2021 Cadillac CT4 has some stiff competition including models from Acura, Audi, BMW, Genesis, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. The CT4 is rear-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive optional, so for those who love to drive, this may be the deal maker. The CT4 is nimble to drive with responsive handling, and a near 50/50 weight balance.
The CT4 has a quiet interior, can get 30+ mpg on the highway, has a comfortable ride that absorbs road imperfections, making for a very nice road trip car. The trunk and rear passenger space is tight, and the interior may not impress everyone as being full Cadillac luxury. These issues aside, the CT4 is a great-looking car with a smooth single or twin-turbocharged engine, a slick-shifting 10-speed transmission and top-notch road manners.
General Motors has announced a commitment to 30 new global electric vehicles by the year 2025. With crossover SUVs being the hottest sales category, it stands to reason the CT4 sedan will either be discontinued or completely reborn with some sort of electrification. There will be a new make-up of models by all of the auto manufacturers by the end of the decade, including Cadillac’s sedans.
If you are shopping for a compact premium sedan under $50,000, then the CT4 should be high on your consideration list.
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