Many luxury car brands are now luxury SUV brands. GM’s Cadillac division is one of the very few that still sells luxury cars as well as SUVs.
And one of them – the CT4 – doesn’t cost much more to start than some family sedans.
It’s also not just a badge you’re buying.
What It Is
The CT4 is Cadillac’s entry-level luxury sport sedan. It is also a rear-wheel-drive sedan, which is becoming harder-to-find even in the entry-level luxury-sport sedan class. CT4 rivals like the Audi A4 are based on front-wheel-drive layouts – like current economy cars.
The Benz starts at $44,850 – vs. $34,395 for the CT4.
A BMW 3 starts at $42,300.
Cadillac also offers high (and very high) performance versions of the CT4.
The $46,595 CT4 V comes standard with 325 horsepower and if that’s not enough, the $60,995 CT4 Blackwing comes with 472.
And it comes standard with a manual transmission.
What’s New For 2023
All trims now come standard with the previously optional surround-view camera system and the Blackwing gets updated appearance packages.
Rear-wheel-drive for thousands less than front-wheel-drive-based rivals like the A4.
Three available engines – including a V6.
Very roomy up front for such a small car.
What’s Not So Good
Manual transmission only available in the Blackwing.
Very cramped in back – even for a small car.
Under The Hood
The CT4’s standard engine is the seemingly Universal Engine – because practically every new car seems to come standard with one, regardless of make or model. It is a 2.0 liter four, with a turbo – just like the 2.0 liter turbo fours that are standard in rivals like the A4, C300 and the BMW 3 sedan.
The main difference is the output.
An eight speed automatic is standard. As is rear-wheel-drive.
All-wheel-drive is optional.
A second engine is available – and though it’s still a four (and has a turbo) it is a bigger (2.7 liter) four that’s nearly the size of a small V6. And – in the V – it produces horsepower comparable to the output of a small V8: 325 horsepower and 380 ft.-lbs.of torque. A slightly less potent (310 horsepower) version of this engine is also available as an option in the Premium Luxury trim.
This engine comes standard with a ten speed automatic that has a very deep a 0.64 overdrive ratio that reduces engine RPM at highway speeds of 70 MPH to just under 2,000 RPM, accounting for the slight fuel efficiency penalty you pay for all that additional power. The 2.7 engine takes the CT4 20 miles in the city and 29 on the highway – vs. 23 in the city and 34 on the highway with the 2.0 liter engine.
If you would like a manual – a feature none of the others in the class offer – the CT4 Blackwing comes standard with one. To go with the turbocharged 3.6 liter V6 that’s also standard. This one generates 472 horsepower and 445 ft.-lbs. of torque – more than most large V8s.
It’s sufficient to get the Blackwing to 60 in just under 4 seconds.
Blackwings also come standard with a limited slip rear differential, upgraded brakes, launch control and a free-flowing exhaust system.
ASS – automatic engine stop/start – is (unfortunately) standard with the 2.0 and 2.7 liter engines.
And all three CT4 engines are premium unleaded engines.
The CT4 is what luxury-sport sedans once were – in that is authentically sporty. Perhaps too much so for some tastes. The car has been faulted by some reviewers for having a too-firm ride (even the base Luxury trim) but this is a subjective and one you might disagree with – if you like an authentically sporty ride.
The ride is firm – and the steering is sharp. But that’s what makes this car fun to drive – as opposed to just driving along. The Blackwing is even more so (you can read more about that, here). But the relevant point is the other iterations of the CT4 are, too. Just not as brutal – this is a compliment – as the Blackwing.
This car’s chief problem isn’t fun.
Like others in the class, it is a small car. But – unlike many of the others – it is too small in terms of passenger (and trunk) space to serve as other than a fun car.
Though it has four doors, its back seats are almost useless – being much-too-tight to sit in for most adults. And the trunk is almost as small as you’d find in some two-seater cars, which makes using this car to take more than two people on a short trip (sans their stuff) problematic.
Even so, these deficits are countered by the car’s options – which include the available 2.7 liter engine, which you do not have to step up to a top-of-the-line trim to enjoy. And you can enjoy it even more given you do not have to buy all-wheel-drive to go with it.
Al-wheel-drive has traction advantages, certainly. They include handling advantages, especially if the roads are wet. But you give up the intangible satisfactions – such as being able to slip a little, sometimes. Some will characterize this as “immature.”
Those who say so have forgotten how to have fun.
It would all be a lot more fun if the manual transmission that’s standard in the Blackwing were available in other iterations of the CT4. And it might be smart. After all, Cadillac is trying to offer something different here.
Why not make it even more so?
At 187.2 inches long, the CT4 is one of the largest – longest – small cars in the class. But it is also – per the commentary above – one of the most cramped.
At least, for those condemned to suffer in the back.
It has just 33.4 inches of rearseat legroom – which isn’t much more room than you’d have in the back seat of a two-door performance car like the Ford Mustang. It is also almost three inches less than what you’d have to work with inside a Benz C300 -which has 36 inches of rearseat legroom – and a BMW 3 series (which has 35.2 inches).
Rearseat headroom is also almost two inches less (36.5 inches) than in front (38.3 inches) which means taller adults have to duck as well as tuck to sit back there.
This problem is exacerbated by the smallness of the CT4’s trunk – which is something odd to say about a Cadillac. At one time – a long time ago – Cadillacs were as famous for their big trunks as for their big engines. It was said – and it was true – that you could fit two bodies in the trunk of a Cadillac – back when Cadillac was still building Sedan deVilles. This Cadillac might have room for a trunk – sans the the legs and arms. You only have just over 10 cubic feet to work with, which is markedly less than the BMW 3’s comparatively generous 13 cubic feet and the C300’s almost-the-same 12.6 cubic feet.
It is only slightly more than the 9.9 cubic foot BMW Z4’s trunk. And the Z4 is a two-seat roadster.
Well, it is something, certainly.
You can buy a CT4 for about what it costs to buy a loaded Honda Civic. Not that there is anything wrong with the Civic. The point is you could have a Cadillac for give-or-take the same. A rear-drive (vs. front drive) luxury-sport sedan vs. a sporty economy sedan. It’s not forbidding a jump to move up to the Lux trim, either – at which point you can opt for the 310 hp 2.7 liter engine.
The lower-trim CT4s still have analog gauges rather than flat screen displays, which is another difference relative to others in the class – which come standard with LCD dash displays. If you don’t want an LCD display in front of you, here’s a way to avoid having to buy one. There is, however, the seemingly Universal LCD Tablet poking up from the center stack. These are also as common in new cars – regardless of make or model – as the Universal 2.0 liter engine.
Oddly, the Sport trim is not available with the 2.7 liter engine. It comes only with the base 2.0 liter engine. It does come standard with “sporty” affections, however – including a rear spoiler, metal paddle shifters, sport seats and a sport steering wheel.
The CT4 is anomalous – being both a sedan and a sedan that’s still available with a manual transmission. These two things together set it dramatically apart from the automatic-only crossovers (most of them with 2.0 liter engines) that have become as prolific as dandelions after a spring rain – and just as individual.
Cadillacs used to stand out – and this one still does.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a bargain that’s also fun – and different – this one might be the one!
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