2023 Cadillac CT5-V Review and Test Drive
Internal-combustion Cadillacs are on their way out — but the rowdy CT5-V proves they won't go quietly.
Cadillac's future is electric. By 2030, all Cadillac models will have a battery and electric motors instead of an internal-combustion engine. The first model reflecting this brand transformation is the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq, a crossover SUV with room for five people and up to 312 miles of driving range. Cadillac has also revealed the Celestiq super-luxury sedan and the 2025 Escalade IQ. More EVs are coming, and eventually, one of them will replace the Cadillac CT5.
What is a Cadillac CT5? It's a midsize car that replaced the Cadillac CTS in 2020, accompanied by a new name indicating its position within the automaker's sedan hierarchy. Cadillac slotted the CT5 between the smaller CT4 and larger CT6 just before the CT6 disappeared from the market. Priced like a compact luxury car, equipped with a cabin the size of a midsize luxury car, and offering available performance that can shame many a luxury sports sedan, the CT5 is primed to appeal to a broad cross section of people seeking value, room, and zoom.
Cadillac introduced the CT5-V Blackwing in 2022, describing it as the most powerful and fastest production car in the company's history. The 2023 CT5 lineup is nearly unchanged from the previous year, aside from paint colors, a new Blackwing badge on the back of the Blackwing model, and a standard rear pedestrian alert system for the CT5-V Blackwing.
The 2023 Cadillac CT5 comes in CT5, CT5-V, and CT5-V Blackwing trim levels, and base prices range from the high $30,000s to the mid-$90,000s, including the destination charge to ship the car from the Lansing, Michigan, factory that builds it to your local dealership.
For this CT5 review, I test-drove the CT5-V in Southern California. It came with extra-cost Rift Metallic paint, Whisper Beige over black leather upholstery, a Climate Package, and a Super Cruise 1 Package, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $59,405, including the $1,395 destination charge. Cadillac provided the vehicle for this CT5-V review.
2023 Cadillac CT5-V Review: The Design
Attractive design draws attention to the Cadillac CT5-V. That's true in the Los Angeles area, at least, where spotting this model feels like a rarity. Its unusual chalky gray paint and polished aluminum wheels set the Caddy apart in L.A.'s sea of dark-wheeled, lookalike luxury vehicles, and my test car drew numerous stares from other drivers and pedestrians alike.
The interior also looks terrific — until you examine the details. The soft leather, racy red contrast stitching, matte-black switchgear, stainless steel speaker grilles, simulated carbon fiber trim, and polished aluminum accents look and feel legit. Unfortunately, the plastic Cadillac uses within the cabin reminds me of a nondescript General Motors rental car. Excessive use of the material makes it easier to understand how my decently equipped CT5-V test car cost less than $60,000.
I mention the matte-black controls because that finish makes them easy to see, identify, and use. In addition, Cadillac locates things where you expect to find them. Also, though I found the digital instrumentation display and touchscreen infotainment system underwhelming in terms of their presentation and graphics, they more than compensate for that by offering a simple and intuitive user experience.
The CT5-V has 18-way power-adjustable front sport seats, making finding a proper and comfortable position behind the power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel easy. Tweak the side bolsters, extend the thigh support cushion, add some lumbar support, and you're ready to travel hundreds of miles or whip the car down a favorite back road.
Getting into and out of the front seats is easy, but while the CT5 has a roomy back seat for two adults, entry and exit require more effort than expected. The door openings aren't large, and the rear seat features generous side bolsters that can impede your departure from the car.
When I sit in the CT5's back seat, the inboard seating position, excellent support, and amount of legroom and footroom remind me of the BMW 3 Series. But the plastic covering the front seatbacks, which looks cheap and scuffs easily, reminds me that I'm in a Cadillac.
Storage space is decent, but many of the locations lack a lining, which means items placed within them are more likely to rattle while you're driving. The trunk space is disappointing, measuring just 11.9 cubic-feet. In addition, the load floor is narrow, though there is a deep well to the right and some hidden storage space beneath the load floor.
2023 Cadillac CT5 Review: The Technology
Problems with technology can cause owner dissatisfaction with new vehicles, so it's critical to get the user experience and user interface right. In my opinion, the Cadillac CT5 excels at it. Granted, the car's available 12.0-inch digital instrumentation may be less graphically sophisticated than what you might find on some rivals, and the standard 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system feels average. But when you use them, you'll likely appreciate their simplicity.
Perhaps surprisingly, the CT5-V does not have a standard embedded navigation system. Instead, it's an option the test car did not have. Fortunately, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are standard, so I used CarPlay, Siri, and Apple Maps to get around. In addition, the infotainment system includes Alexa Built-in with natural voice recognition.
Except for a Home button, there aren't any physical controls on or near the touchscreen. Typically, this spells trouble, but Cadillac has thought this approach through. First, from the Home screen, it is easy to access what you seek thanks to simple, organized menu structures. Second, the center console houses a stereo volume knob and radio tuning buttons that change stations sequentially, and you can use them without looking down. Third, steering wheel controls adjust the stereo volume and tune the radio, but the tuning function cycles through your saved favorite stations here. Fourth, I had no trouble using voice commands to change radio stations.
In addition, Cadillac separates the climate controls from the infotainment system. While this means you cannot adjust cabin temperature or turn on the seat heaters using voice commands, I'm OK with the approach. The polished aluminum toggles are simple and intuitive, and the heated and ventilated seat buttons are located just below them, where they're easy to find and operate.
A 15-speaker Bose Performance Series surround-sound audio system is standard in the CT5-V. I thought the stainless steel speaker grilles on the door panels looked good, and the system meets expectations at the car's price and for the segment. Undoubtedly, the AKG high-end sound system in the CT5-V Blackwing would prove more satisfying.
Cadillac also offers a head-up display, a high-definition surround-view camera system, a surround-view recorder system, and a performance data recorder system. As a part of its optional Super Cruise option package, the test car had the surround-view features, and I found the resolution quality excellent.
Super Cruise is a hands-free Level 2 semi-autonomous driving-assistance system. It pairs adaptive cruise control with lane-centering and lane-change assist, adding hands-free driving capability on approximately 400,000 miles of roads Cadillac has approved for system use. Cadillac CT5 models equipped with Super Cruise get an exclusive steering wheel with an embedded green indicator light, a driver-monitoring camera that continually watches to ensure the driver pays attention, and the previously mentioned 12.0-inch digital instrumentation and surround-view recorder system.
The latest version of Super Cruise is the most capable technology of its kind that I have evaluated to date. It is clear to the driver when the technology activates, thanks to the green steering wheel light and a robotic change in the steering feel. Let go, and Super Cruise is handling the driving as long as that green light is on. It can even automatically change lanes when you catch up to slower traffic. You don't need to signal because the tech takes care of everything.
However, Super Cruise requires your vigilance. For example, on one occasion, the system initiated an automated lane change just as the vehicle behind the CT5 began to execute its own pass of the Cadillac. I had to intervene and override Super Cruise, which was easy enough to do. But this experience underscores why drivers must be ready to take control at a moment's notice.
On another occasion, after I had directed Super Cruise to enter a carpool lane on a Los Angeles freeway, the CT5 attempted an automated return from the carpool lane to the Number 1 lane. Unfortunately, for some reason, Super Cruise directed the CT5 to cross the double-yellow and single-white lines separating the carpool lane from the other lanes. That's not legal in California and can result in a serious fine. So, I had to override that lane change, too.
In addition, the CT5's Super Cruise had some trouble navigating the bends in the Conejo Grade as it rises from the farmland of Ventura County into the Conejo Valley area. Ultimately, the Cadillac remained within the painted lane lines but did not always remain centered in the lane. Also, on several occasions, Super Cruise shut down when it could not understand what to do when the carpool lane widened to allow entry and exit.
Please understand: This version of Super Cruise is the best example of this kind of technology that I've used to date. However, after the novelty of driving without using your hands wears off (and it will), you might wonder why you spent so much money adding it to your vehicle. Since you cannot fully trust the technology, it doesn't relieve driver stress. Instead, in my experience, it can add stress because you're constantly monitoring and second-guessing what it's doing.
If you're a parent, grandparent, or caregiver and you've ever taken a toddler to a beach, you'll understand what I mean when I say monitoring Super Cruise gives you the same feeling. So, after I evaluated the tech in multiple situations, I turned it off for the remainder of my time with the car.
The CTS-V comes with the Cadillac Smart System plus automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, front parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic reverse braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. After I had completed my Super Cruise testing, these features worked as expected and did not prove to be a source of irritation.
Regarding safety ratings, the 2023 Cadillac CT5 boasts the highest five-star rating in each assessment performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including for rollover resistance. That's a rare feat. As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested the Cadillac CT5.
2023 Cadillac CT5 Review: The Drive
Cadillac installs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the standard CT5, producing 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. I've experienced this engine in the smaller Cadillac CT4, and it could be more energetic and refined. You can get a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 in the CT5. This engine generates 335 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque and is a more appropriate and satisfying engine for this car. In addition, both engines pair with a 10-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive (RWD). The CT5 is available with all-wheel drive (AWD).
At the other end of the CT5 lineup, the performance-tuned Blackwing dominates with a hand-assembled 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine paired with a six-speed manual gearbox or a 10-speed automatic transmission. It cranks out 668 horsepower and 659 lb-ft of torque, which Cadillac claims is good for acceleration to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and more than 200 mph on a racetrack.
The CT5-V uses the twin-turbo V6, massaged to make an extra 25 horsepower. It also has RWD or AWD, launch control, an electronic limited-slip rear differential, and performance-driving and track-oriented drivetrain settings. Cadillac says the CT5-V will accelerate to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and hit a top speed of 156 mph.
In addition, Cadillac fortifies the CT5-V with a performance-tuned adaptive damping suspension, 19-inch wheels wrapped in summer run-flat tires, and Brembo front brakes with four-piston calipers. The car also has an active exhaust that produces a resonant note that piques curiosity, as several people asked me what engine the CT5-V had. It changes depending on your driving mode, and there's even a Stealth mode to quiet the car down. That was my favorite mode.
As a daily driver, the CT5-V is agreeable but lacks isolation. Engine, exhaust, road, and suspension noise make their way into the cabin, degrading a sense of quality already dented by the inexpensive-looking interior plastic. Nevertheless, the car is quick, responsive, and provides a good ride and athletic handling.
Exercise the CT5-V on a twisty road, and it exhibits impressive handling and braking. The steering lacks feel, however, and when you're in the Sport driving mode, it firms up artificially. That said, it responds quickly and proves precise, so you can trust it despite the muted communication levels.
I don't typically use paddle shifters. One reason is that they are not a satisfying substitute for three pedals and a stick shift. Another reason is that I prefer to shuffle steer when hustling a car on a mountain or canyon road, which puts the paddles in the wrong place unless they're affixed to the steering column. However, with the CT5-V, I found using the paddles necessary to enjoy the drive.
Cadillac equips the CT5-V's 10-speed automatic with Dynamic Performance Mode. In Sport mode, this feature began holding lower gears for too long, and the engine revs too high, distracting and irritating me. A good sports sedan does not distract or irritate its driver. When I controlled shifting via the paddles, the CT5-V was more satisfying to drive.
I also tried the Track mode. It makes the car's powertrain even more responsive and the suspension quite firm, but introduces plenty of exhaust pop and crackle. That's fine on a racetrack, but on a public road, the last thing you want to do is advertise your driving to law enforcement.
Fortunately, the CT5-V offers a MyMode setting. Using it, you can customize the powertrain response, exhaust sound, steering effort, suspension firmness, and brake feel to your preferences. That mode worked best for me, though I still needed to shift manually for optimum driving enjoyment.
Overall, the Cadillac CT5-V is fun to drive and would be more satisfying with a few added layers of quiet and isolation. As for fuel economy, the EPA says the CT5-V should get 18/27/21 mpg in city/highway/combined driving. On my Southern California testing loop, it averaged 19.5 mpg.
Is the 2023 Cadillac CT5 a Good Car?
I think the Cadillac CT5 is a good car. But it could easily be a better car with more attention to detail and some added refinement. Of course, that would push the price higher, and there's no denying that with the CT5 and CT5-V, you get plenty for the money.
In addition, this Caddy's styling is distinctive and appealing, the interior is comfortable, the controls and technology are easy to use, and the safety ratings are high. And with the twin-turbo V6 or rip-roarin' supercharged V8, you'll get speedy acceleration to go with the balanced ride and handling for which the CT5 is known.
But the CT5 is aging and fast. That's fine — it is the last of its kind, a Cadillac sports sedan with an internal-combustion engine. Fittingly, and especially in CT5-V Blackwing specification, it represents the best luxury sports sedan ever built by an American automaker. So get one while you still can, flaws and all.