Prelude: 2021 Cadillac CT4-V Series

In case you haven’t noticed, Cadillac has become the only US auto manufacturer to continue developing new sedans. Two, in fact! GM’s own Buick brand, Ford, and Lincoln have dropped their sedan offerings all together, leaving just the aged Chevrolet Malibu and Dodge Challenger as the only two four-door vehicles available. But Cadillac soldiers on, developing both the CT5 and this CT4 to compete in the German-dominated sport sedan market. Having been a bit lukewarm to our winter test of the CT5 V-Series early this year, we resolved to wait until the weather improved to try the smaller CT4 V-Series. Slotting in Cadillac’s performance lineup between the CT4 and upcoming CT4-V Blackwing, this compact sedan completes with the likes of the Mercedes-AMG A35, the Audi S3, and the BMW M240i Gran Coupe.

For the driver, the CT4 V-Series immediately feels right-sized. Fans of the venerable E46 3-Series and B5 A4 will revel in a platform with a familiar wheelbase. The CT4’s traditional sedan shape also benefits headroom and visibility. Rear legroom can be made if the front seat passengers are willing to forego some of theirs, but our tester’s all-wheel-drive system made its presence known in the form of some front footwell intrusions. Mild ergonomic complaints aside, the Cadillac’s bolstered seats and thick rimmed wheel are nice sporting cues. Outside, our Jet Black tester helps hides some of the V-Series unique trimmings; the darker accents, grilles, rocker extensions, and rear spoiler. What’s immediately clear, in any hue, is that the CT4 is a fine looking car. Sharp styling, bold LED light designs, and timeless V-Series wheels round out an excellent design. And unlike its big brother, there’s no fake rear 3/4 glass to complain about.

Powered by a dual-volute turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 325 hp and 380 lb-ft torque, the CT4 V-Series has no trouble getting out of its own way. With a 10-speed automatic and respectable mid-4 second 0-60 time, it’s downright quick over sweeping back roads. The dual-volute turbo works similarly to a twin-scroll design where exhaust gases are routed from the cylinders via two different ducts, but the dual-volute turbo has those ducts feed the turbine from opposite sides rather than channeling into a single turbo inlet. This increases the energy at which the turbine is spun, decreasing turbo lag from the 2.7L engine. Think of spinning a pinwheel by blowing with up on one side with a straw, and down on the other with a second straw. The result is a punchy sport sedan that is quick to react and a transmission that isn’t afraid to shed 3-4 gears if prompted. In fact, the 10-speed is so good, I rarely felt the need to pull on the paddle shifters. Sadly, the all-wheel-drive CT4 V-Series doesn’t get the Magnetic Ride Control 4.0 and limited-slip rear differential fitted to the rear-drive variant. On passive dampers and without any torque vectoring capability, the CT4 AWD does fall a bit short on tight back roads. The multiple drive modes do well to change throttle, transmission, and traction parameters, but don’t quite do enough to really dial in the body control the ride like Magnetic Ride Control is capable of. There was plenty of grip, however.

Cadillac’s infotainment system, Cadillac user experience, worked well on the 8-inch touch screen, with wireless charging and wireless Android Auto working seamlessly for integration on the go. But there are shades of the ATS’s mass-market interior still dotted around the cabin. For starters, our tester wasn’t optioned with the Technology Package, so we made due with analog gauges and a small, low resolution central screen. A 12-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster is an option. Second, the all-black interior didn’t feel as luxurious as the competition. Some materials and switch gear, specifically the volume and seek knobs, felt flimsy at hand. And don’t get us started on the cheap knock-off BMW shift lever. Finally, we’re not quite sure where Cadillac’s love of copper contrast stitching comes from, but a bit more color in the cabin would have been appreciated. (Editors note: the interior photos of the CT4 V-Series show the optional 12″ gauge cluster) Many of these grievances can be solved by checking a different set of options boxes, but they were observations made more than once during the week.

The Cadillac CT4 V-Series’ diminuitive size didn’t let it down. In our week of testing, did more than passenger duty. With the rear seats folded down, it carried several 8-foot 2×6 boards with the trunk closed, leaving just enough room to operate the gear lever. So this all-purpose all-wheel-drive CT4 V-Series provided practicality as well as driving enjoyment. The solid platform and stylish looks create an appealing package. But it feels only like an introduction; an automotive overture of sorts. The V-Series offers a glimpse into a capability that has yet to be unlocked. We can’t wait to see what Cadillac engineers do to the top-shelf CT4-V Blackwing.

-Christopher Little

2021 Cadillac CT4 V-Series$44,895
Jet Black w/ Jet Black Accent$1,500
Climate Package$1,200
Driver Awareness Package$800
All Wheel Drive$500
Cadillac User Experience w/ Navigation$500
Destination Charges$995
As-Tested MSRP$50,390

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