Despite the initial success of its “Art & Science” design language and the original CTS sedan, Cadillac continues to struggle to find a successful formula, especially when it comes to the sort of compact sedan that can challenge the likes of the vaunted BMW 3-Series.
Caddy’s little ATS never seemed to get any traction and has vanished from the line-up. In its stead, the Detroit luxury brand is about to give it another try with the debut of the 2020 Cadillac CT4.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the compact sedan, however. General Motors’ flagship brand took the unusual approach of launching a high-performance version, the CT4-V, earlier this year. Clearly, that move was meant to emphasize the serious driving capabilities designed into the new entry’s underlying platform.
Visually, Cadillac hasn’t abandoned the ATS entirely. There are some familiar Art & Science design cues, though the vertical running lights are now paired with slit headlamps framing the classic Caddy grille. There’s a subtle Coke bottle shape to the sedan’s sides and the rear picks up some cues from the brand’s biggest sedan, the CT6. The goal was to give the car a more “athletic stance,” said Cadillac, with more clearly rear-wheel-drive proportions – though all-wheel-drive is likely to be one of the more popular options.
“We developed CT4 to appeal to youthful buyers in the luxury market who may be new to the Cadillac brand,” said Andrew Smith, executive director of global Cadillac design. “The vehicle was intended to draw attention, using a combination of great proportions, taught surfacing and Cadillac family details that hint at the athletic driving experience this vehicle offers.”
The CT4 is slightly lower and narrower than the old ATS, gaining about three inches overall length.
Critics haven’t been especially kind when it comes to Cadillac cabins of late, faulting recent offerings like the XT4 and XT6 crossovers for not really living up to the level of refinement and sophistication needed to plant the flag in the global luxury market. Caddy designers seem to have taken those criticisms to heart. The layout of the CT4 is more sculptural and there’s been a focus on introducing more lavish materials.
From a technical standpoint, there’s the latest Cadillac Cue infotainment system, a high-def rear backup camera, a premium audio system with active noise cancellation and other niceties. The well-reviewed Cadillac Super Cruise system, which allows limited hands-free driving, will become available next year.
In terms of powertrain options, we’ve already learned that the CT4-V is motivated by a 2.7-liter turbo-four making 325 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. That engine is detuned for the CT4 Premium Luxury package, here turning out 309 hp and 348 lb-ft. The CT4 becomes the first-ever Caddy model to only offer turbo options, the “base” powertrain using a 2.0-liter inline-four making 237 hp and 258 lb-ft. The smaller engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic, both versions of the 2.7-liter getting a 10-speed. And there’s that all-wheel-drive option available with both engines.
Caddy clearly wants to put the word “sporty” back into its vocabulary. The CT4 offers an assortment of options that should appeal to those who like performance, including its driver-mode selector, Brembo brakes on the Sport and V-Series models, and the magnetic ride control suspension that, to our surprise, was not offered on the brand’s newest SUVs due to its higher cost.
With U.S. motorists increasingly shying away from passenger cars in favor of utility vehicles and other light trucks, Caddy has trimmed down what was an expansive plan for its sedan, coupe and convertible line-up. But it knows there’s still demand for classic luxury sedans, especially in the Chinese market where it has been making some much-needed inroads.
Whether it will click with U.S. drivers more effectively than the old ATS is uncertain.
We’ll have to wait until later this year for more details, such as performance numbers, fuel economy and pricing.