The entry-level luxury sedan segment requires automakers to walk a fine line.
It’s important they tempt customers with a sample of what they can expect from a premium brand, but doing so while coming in at a relatively attractive price point is no easy task. To wit, Cadillac has taken its fair share of attempts at entry-level luxury over the years, some of which have been forgettable and others fruitful.
It started with the Cimarron, essentially a gussied-up Cavalier, and then there was the Catera that was a little larger but was how to get your foot in the door of a Cadillac dealer back in the late ’90s. From there came the CTS, followed by the slightly smaller ATS. Quality, fit, and finish have unquestionably improved with each passing model and generation, which brings us to the brand’s latest entry-level offering: the 2021 Cadillac CT4.
The CT4 makes an excellent first impression from tip to tail. Design is highly subjective, but I think Cadillac knocked it out of the park on this one. It’s sleek, yet feels substantial and well proportioned. The head- and taillight housings cut a sharp silhouette in the bodywork and create impressive lighting signatures at night. The packaging strikes a keen balance between being distinctive and sophisticated. It’s a modern design, but one I suspect will age gracefully.
The cinnamon-coloured leather seating and jet-black accents of my tester made for an inviting cabin. Contrast stitching, brushed stainless steel, and premium leather highlight an interior that feels thoughtfully laid out. Surfaces look and feel high in quality, with very few exceptions where plastic is used.
The CT4 comes well equipped with active and passive safety features, with the option of adding even more. My tester featured the full available suite of blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and a lane-keeping aid. Forward collision alert, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking are all standard.
This sedan also features eight airbags throughout the cabin, including dual-stage seat-mounted side-impact ones, as well as knee airbags for the front occupants, and curtain airbags for the front and rear seats. It’s also available with front and rear park assist, and high-definition surround vision, and can be equipped with a semi-autonomous driving aid. It also comes with membership-based connected services and OnStar, which includes emergency notifications in the event of a collision.
An eight-speaker audio system is standard, but the 14-speaker stereo packaged with navigation as a $1,440 option offers an impressive in-car audio experience. Wireless charging is also available, while Bluetooth connectivity, an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections are standard.
Cruise control, audio, and infotainment can all be accessed by the steering-wheel-mounted controls which also allow the driver to scroll through information within the centre digital dash display. Various drive modes allow you to prioritize fuel economy or performance, and parking alerts can be disengaged if you don’t enjoy the beeping sounds.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Unlike some competitors in this segment, the Cadillac CT4 presents a simple, intuitive driving experience. Its seating, driving controls, infotainment, and technology are all easy to operate. The centre console features all the switchgear, along with duplicate controls for the infotainment, and buttons for traction control, ignition stop-start, and driving modes.
The size and shape of the windows ensure a bright cabin and adequate visibility. Parking sensors and the back-up camera that’s mandated by the government are presented on the large infotainment screen. Bluetooth and voice-activated infotainment integration, along with wireless charging and connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, offer a modern driving experience that lets you focus on the road and not your phone.
Thanks to its dimensions and driving characteristics, the CT4 feels sporty and nimble, which makes it fun to drive and convenient to park. Being a compact sedan, rear passenger room and cargo space is, well, rather compact. The 303-L trunk offers a decently wide opening, along with 60/40-split folding rear seats for larger or longer items.
Rear seating isn’t cavernous, but is large enough to accommodate two adults. The sloping shape of the rear door opening requires passengers to duck and manoeuvre themselves into the seats. It certainly isn’t as challenging to access the rear seats as a coupe, but it does necessitate some dexterity. The ability to add all-wheel drive, meanwhile, will no doubt add to the CT4’s all-weather appeal.
Front bucket seats that offer 14-way adjustability in the Premium Luxury trim tested for both driver and front passenger come as standard equipment. (The base Luxury trim includes 12-way driver and eight-way passenger adjustability, while Sport and V-Series models get 18-way functionality for both.) Seating surfaces are covered in faux leather in the base Luxury but leather in the Premium Luxury that feels relatively high in quality, accentuated by the perforated inserts and emblems. Seat cushions and seatbacks for driver and passenger are also heated and ventilated in the Premium Luxury trim.
The leather-wrapped heated steering wheel is a welcome addition, which comes on automatically when cold temperatures are detected. Road noise is minimal even when driving at highway speeds on winter tires, aside from the sound of the engine entering the cabin during acceleration. I would categorize suspension as sporting and firm rather than supple and luxurious. The driving experience is rewarding and enjoyable until rough roads are encountered, and then you’ll feel them.
Driving Feel: 7/10
Offered in rear-wheel drive as standard, my upgraded all-wheel-drive CT4 felt well balanced and nimble in the corners. Steering inputs are direct with a tendency to return to centre; however, feedback could be improved as it feels artificial and somewhat vague at times when driven more enthusiastically.
The noise coming from the upgraded 2.7L turbocharged engine under even moderate acceleration is coarse. It’s distractingly – even alarmingly – loud. It both sounds and feels as though it is straining despite how brisk its velocity appears on the speedometer. Hearing the soulful sound of an engine winding up can be an enjoyable experience, but not this one.
The base engine is a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, while the top CT4-V Blackwing raises the bar with a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V6 making 472 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. It can also be had with adaptive suspension, Brembo brakes, and a six-speed manual transmission, among other features that would highly elevate the driving experience. It understandably also elevates the price tag.
The standard engine in the CT4 is a 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged powerplant mated to an eight-speed transmission, delivering 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The turbocharged 2.7L four-cylinder engine can be had for an added $2,875. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and is good for 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque that’s available as low as 1,500 rpm. The CT4-V uses a high output version of the same engine to produce 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque.
Despite sounding like it is painfully objecting to inputs, the 2.7L delivers enthusiastic results. Engage sport mode and change gears manually on a smooth, winding road and the CT4 is willing to play. Its sound and driving characteristics feel more in line with what you’d expect from a youth-focused sports coupe rather than a luxury sedan, but it’s got some zip all the same.
Fuel Economy: 7.5/10
Fuel consumption among the engine and drivetrain variations from the rear-wheel-drive CT4 with the 237-hp 2.0L engine up to the all-wheel-drive CT4-V making 325 hp are minimal. The standard engine with rear-wheel drive has a combined rating of 8.7 L/100 km, while the higher output 2.7L with all-wheel drive in CT4-V trim is rated at 10.2 L/100 km.
My tester featuring the 310-hp 2.7L inline-four-cylinder engine is rated at 11.4 in the city and 8.2 on the highway, for a combined rating of 9.9 L/100 km. Over the course of a week with the CT4, I achieved 10.4 L/100km on winter tires and utilizing each of the drive modes. Much of the time was spent cruising on the highway at 110 km/h with cruise control on, but a decent portion was also enjoyed in manual mode throwing it around the corners in an area known as Ontario’s Highlands, where straight roads, traffic, and stoplights are few and far between. While in the city, I kept the automatic stop-start feature engaged to prevent idling in stop-and-go-traffic or when sitting at red lights.
With a starting MSRP of $35,998 before freight and tax, the entry-level CT4 is a screaming good deal that comes in less than competitors like the BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe ($42,500) and Mercedes-Benz A-Class ($37,800), but they also offer more amenities for the money, including standard all-wheel drive. An Audi A3, on the other hand, comes in at a very competitive $34,500, but brings front-wheel drive and less power to the table at that price point.
Upping the ante to Premium Luxury trim will run you $38,998, but there are still a number of popular amenities not included in that price. My respectably equipped tester came in at $51,118 with freight but before tax by adding what I would consider to be essential equipment, such as a power sunroof, all-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels, and upgraded audio coupled with navigation. Other checked boxes include the Crystal White Tricoat paint ($1,395) and the 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder engine ($2,875). The CT4 feels competitively priced and provides a tangible feeling of value not felt in Cadillac’s previous compact luxury sedan offerings.
The Cadillac CT4 provides a modern entry-level luxury sport sedan experience. It improves on the previous ATS in a manner that offers buyers a small glimpse into the world of Cadillac ownership. However, it may not be the best representation of the brand given how far other models have advanced in recent years. That isn’t a knock against the CT4, though; instead, it’s more a compliment of the strides taken across the higher echelon of the lineup.
Depending on the trim level, some models make several compromises in order to command an attractive price tag. If you’re looking for something different from what your neighbours have in their driveways, the CT4 lineup is one worth looking into. Trim levels and options can be chosen to pick the model that’s best for you at a price you’re comfortable paying for the experience.
|Peak Horsepower||310 hp|
|Peak Torque||350 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||11.4 / 8.2 / 9.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||303 L|
|Model Tested||2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium|
|Price as Tested||$51,218|
$10,020 – Power Sunroof, $1,295; All-wheel drive, $2,200; Crystal White Tri-Coat paint, $1,395; 2.7L Turbo four-cylinder engine, $2,875; 18-inch Alloy wheels, $695; Wheel locks, $120; Navigation and Bose premium audio, $1,440