Vanilla: 2020 Cadillac CT5-V Series

Cadillac V Series cars have historically always been serious performance machines. We’ve driven several of them them in the past, the likes of the ATS-V and CTS-V, and came away loving every mile. Now though, Cadillac decided that they wanted to make the V brand a little more vanilla. They’ve introduced V branding onto vehicles that aren’t the fire-breathing models of old, but rather slightly more sporty variants. Think of this in the same light as Audi’s S cars, and Mercedes 35, 42 and 53 models. So does this new V stand for vanilla, or not? Well, sort of.

We sampled the all-new Cadillac CT5 V-Series, which is a competitor to a C43, M340i and Audi S4. Dynamically, Cadillac is always near the top of the class in chassis development. This CT5 V-Series is no different, and truly adheres to the brand’s performance moniker quite well. Compliance over bumps with the adaptive dampers was magnificent, and even great through mid corner undulation. All of this is helped by the electronic rear limited slip differential and magnetic ride suspension. Our tester arrived with all-wheel-drive optioned, a feature that impeded some front passenger footwell space, but provided a reassuring grip on the cold, wet roads. Unfortunately, no amount of grip could bring life to the CT5’s steering.

The CT5 V-Series is still more lukewarm than hot however, and that’s mostly to do with the engine itself. The thrust is not the issue, but the character is lacking. You can make this complaint with many modern V6 powerplants, but even the old CTS V-Sport we drove had more personality. The CT5-V is powered by a 3.0L V6 with 360 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque and its capable of making the sedan move quite rapidly. Unfortunately we had a few struggles with the 10-speed automatic with slow upshifts and some strange downshift programming. We tried the paddles, but the response wasn’t as good as leaving it in auto. Drive modes are configurable between Sport, Track, Snow/Ice and Tour. There is also a My Mode for the driver, which allows configuration of the suspension, engine sound, steering, powertrain and brake response. Personally, I preferred to leave the suspension in Tour with everything else in Track, but I really don’t think brake response should be something that is changeable. Our testing also coincided with the first snowfall of the year, an environment that the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires weren’t ideally suited for.

On the outside, the CT5 V-Series is a good looking car, especially in our tester’s Evergreen paint. The black accents, for the grille, window trim, and rear diffuser separate it well, but we’d be remiss to not discuss that weird trim around the C pillar. Inside the two tone seats and supple leather play nicely with this cars near $60k price tag, but there is also some letdowns here too. Scratchy plastics for the door bins and a less-than-stellar dashboard materials cheapen what is an otherwise nice interior. The analog gauge cluster looks fairly old school, but the screen between has a large amount of information and it is easy to navigate. The central screen says goodbye to Cue, and hello to a much easier interface. Not one issue here, and it was one of the best that we tested in 2020 in terms of intuitiveness and ease of use.

Cadillac’s naming structure really doesn’t make much sense here. We really liked when they had the regular model cars, the V-Sport cars, and then the full V cars. Calling these a “full” V is a dilution to the brand, but one could argue that AMG and M have done the same. So we understand in that aspect what Cadillac has done and recognize future Blackwing versions will bring even more power to the equation. With that in mind, the CT5 V-Series is an impressive car. Cadillac are masters at chassis tuning, but the engine’s false timbre and the dead helm steering diminish the personality behind the wheel. Compared to the full V models of old, it is just a bit too vanilla.

-Scott Villeneuve

2020 Cadillac CT5 V$47,695
V Premium Package$4,190
Drivetrain, All Wheel Drive$2,000
Whisper Beige/Jet Black Accents w/ Leather Appointed Seating$1,500
Driver Awareness Plus Package$1,300
Evergreen Metallic$625
Destination Charges$995
As-Tested MSRP$58,305

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