2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury in Satin Steel Metallic (a $625 option)

Consumer Guide Test Drive

2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury AWD

ClassPremium Midsize Car

Miles driven: 542

Fuel used: 22.0 gallons

Real-world fuel economy: 24.6 mpg

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB-
Power and PerformanceB+
Fit and FinishB-
Fuel EconomyB
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyB-
Tall GuyB
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs335-hp 3.0L
Engine TypeTurbocharged V6
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Drive WheelsAll-wheel drive

Driving mix: 20% city, 80% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 18/26/21 (mpg city, highway, combined)

Fuel typePremium gas recommended

Base price: $40,795 (not including $995 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine ($3500), all-wheel drive ($2000), Navigation and Bose Premium Audio Package ($1350), Climate Package ($1090), Satin Steel Metallic paint ($625), Lighting Package ($600), Driver Awareness Plus Package ($500)

Price as tested: $51,455

More CT5 price and availability information


Quick Hits

The great: Satisfying performance and plenty of available features for less money than European competitors

The good: Distinctive styling; all-weather traction of all-wheel drive

The not so good: Some interior materials are disappointing for a luxury-brand car; so-so trunk space

John Biel

Before the 2021 model year is over, the Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury is really going to be something with the optional availability of Super Cruise semi-autonomous freeway-driving control (now with lane-change capability) and a Diamond Sky special-edition package with Diamond Sky Metallic paint, special interior trim, and blue-caliper Brembo brakes. Even without those things, though, it remains a good value among premium-midsize sedans.

2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
The Cadillac CT5 midsize sedan debuted for the 2020 model year and sees a few updates–including availability of  Cadillac’s Super Cruise semi-autonomous driver-aid system–for its sophomore season.

Consumer Guide tested a Premium Luxury outfitted with extra-cost all-wheel drive and 3.0-liter twin-turbocharger V6. With these features, Satin Steel Metallic paint, and four option groups, a vehicle that otherwise starts at $41,790 (with delivery) rose to an out-the-door total of $51,455. Comparing some numbers against others in the class helps to illustrate why CG has tagged this Cadillac as a “Best Buy.”

As if fate wanted to see a comparison test, we happened to receive almost simultaneously the CT5, a BMW M5, and a Lexus ES 350 F Sport. The F Sport and—especially—the M5 are not the most direct competitors for the CT5 Premium Luxury tester, but they both come from premium-midsize vehicle lines that contain something more analogous to the Caddy, and that got us thinking.

Test Drive: 2021 Lexus ES 250 AWD F Sport

Consumer Guide Test Drive
Though the CT5’s interior materials don’t look or feel as upscale as many of its class rivals’, the cabin ambiance is pleasant and the controls are nicely laid out. The center console houses dual cupholders, a wireless charging pad, and infotainment-system and audio-volume control knobs.

Give them all 6-cylinder power and starting prices are $45,290 for the CT5, $46,125 for an ES 350 Luxury, and $60,445 for a BMW 540i. The Caddy and Bimmer are the horsepower leaders at 335 (the 3.5-liter Lexus V6 makes 302 ponies) but at 400 lb-ft the CT5 has a solid advantage in torque over the BMW turbo 3.0-liter inline mill. If you want all-wheel drive, that packs $2000 on the price of a CT5 and $2300 on the 540i, but it adds nothing to the ES 350 for the simple reason that it’s not available—only 4-cylinder ES 250s can get it.

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2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the rear-seat area offers decent space for adults. Our tester was outfitted in attractive Sahara Beige leather upholstery with Jet Black accents.

The ES holds the advantage in most passenger-space dimensions (it’s the one with the best chance of hosting a middle-rear passenger), but the CT5 has the most front headroom and matches the Lexus for front legroom. Of the group, the CT5 has the second-best rear legroom and trails only the BMW in the German’s strong suit—shoulder room, front and rear. CT5 and BMW 5-Series models both have curiously shaped trunk floors that aren’t uniformly flat—they drop in the center—and folded rear seat backs sit slightly higher than floor level, a possible loading complication. The ES, another CG Best Buy selection, has a capacious flat-floored 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space (the CT5, the shortest car of the trio, lags all at just 11.9 cubic feet), but that’s all there is because its rear seat does not retract for bonus space when needed.

In the end, seen through the filters of power, passenger room, and price, the Cadillac CT5 holds up well as a midsize luxury-car choice. That’s not all there is to commend it, either.

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2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
The CT5’s trunk capacity is 11.9 cubic feet–a bit disappointing for its class.

The CT5 was introduced for 2020 as a de facto successor to the CTS, so there’s not much different about the ’21 car. Most of the action is in options. In addition to the Super Cruise (also available for the V-series model) and Diamond Sky package, a 12-inch high-definition digital gauge cluster and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity are newly available, and the Magnetic Ride Control suspension and limited-slip differential formerly exclusive to CT5-V can be ordered for the Sport model. One new standard feature is “Buckle-to-Drive” that prevents the vehicle from being shifted out of Park until the driver seat belt is fastened. (In case you’re old enough to have a bad flashback triggered by exposure to the federally required mid-Seventies starter interlock, know that this device times out after 20 seconds and can be turned on or off in the Settings menu.)

In many ways the ’21 Premium Luxury was reminiscent of the CT5 V-Series CG drove in 2020—though the V has a little extra power from its version of the V6 and a suspension with more performance enhancements. Even at “only” 335 horsepower the Premium Luxury’s engine is nicely responsive and quite smooth in conventional “Tour” driving mode. Switching to “Sport” holds back upshifts from the fine 10-speed automatic transmission—and paddle shifters let drivers handle things for themselves if they choose. This driver’s 85.4-mile test stint, dominated by 76 percent city-type operation, resulted in 18.5 mpg at fill-up time, though other CG editors put on lots of highway miles that brought our cumulative average up to 24.6 mpg. Our numbers were about in line with EPA projections of 18 mpg in the city, 26 mpg in highway driving, and 21 combined. There’s a laudable blend of ride comfort and handling prowess with the standard 18-inch alloy wheels and steering that seems at its best in Sport. (“My Mode” allows drivers to custom-blend engine and chassis performance elements.)

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2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
The CT5’s step-up engine choice–a 335-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6–is a $3500 option over the standard 237-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels with a “Manoogian Silver” finish are standard equipment.

Leather upholstery is standard in the Premium Luxury, but it took the Climate Package option to get them heated and ventilated in front, and to provide heat for the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Soft surfaces extend to the sides of the console but overall CT5 interiors don’t look or feel as classy as some of their competitors.

The Cadillac User Experience system handles infotainment needs two ways: directly on an easy-to-use 10-inch touchscreen or remotely through a console-mounted dial. Wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility and satellite and HD radio are standard. Dual-zone climate control is, unfortunately, managed by numerous buttons, including switches for temperature and fan-speed that require repetitive pushes. Standard safety aids include forward-collision alert, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Even after expending extra money for an audio upgrade (with navigation), the Climate Package, and lighting and driver-aid groups, the CT5 Premium Luxury we tested wasn’t outrageously expensive for its class. That it behaves well on the road just makes it all the more worthwhile.

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2021 Cadillac CT5 Premium Luxury
It might be incongruous to think of a Cadillac as a value leader, but that’s really what the CT5 is. Even when optioned up with several pricey features, our CT5 Premium Luxury tester still undercut the price of many similarly equipped class rivals–while still delivering respectable luxury, high-tech features, and satisfyingly athletic performance.

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