Cadillac commits to sedans with CT5 semi-autonomous car debut at New York auto show

Key Points
  • The CT5 offers Cadillac's Super Cruise technology, the brand's semi-autonomous driver assistance system.
  • The 2020 Cadillac CT5 will reach showrooms this autumn.
  • Pricing won't be released until closer to its sale date, but it's expected to be bumped up from the outgoing CTS which starts at $46,995.
The 2020 Cadillac CT5
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Once the self-described "standard of the world," Cadillac has spent the last decade struggling to catch up to key competitors like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, a chase complicated by the broad market shift from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs.

General Motors' luxury brand has rolled out a procession of high-line utility vehicles over the last several years, most recently including the XT6. But Caddy President Steve Carlisle insists the brand is "very much committed to sedans," something it intends to demonstrate during this week's New York International Auto Show with the debut of the new CT5. The show opens to the public Friday.

The sedan is meant to replace the old CTS, the four-door model that originally introduced Cadillac's distinctively Art & Science design language back in 2002. The look isn't quite as edgy but retains key styling cues, such as the signature vertical head and taillights. Equally important, the CT5 becomes the second Caddy model to offer Super Cruise, the brand's semi-autonomous driver assistance system.

The 2020 Cadillac CT5
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

"The first-ever Cadillac CT5 showcases Cadillac's unique expertise in crafting American luxury sedans," Carlisle said at a preview ahead of the unveiling. "Its details elevate every drive and reward the senses."

The CT5 survived a shakeout within the Cadillac product portfolio. Over the last several years, the brand has moved to expand its light truck portfolio with models like the XT4 and XT6 crossovers, even while paring back its sedan and coupe plans. The CT5 picks up on some of the design cues of the Escala, a well-received concept vehicle that was originally expected to influence several other new passenger car models.

The sedan adopts a fastback shape that is meant to give it a sense of "athleticism, sophistication and confidence …from every angle," said Andrew Smith, Caddy's global design chief. It adopts a 116-inch wheelbase, more than an inch longer than that of the old CTS, with the added space being used to provide a roomier passenger compartment. The fastback shape allows for longer side glass that, from the outside, gives the CT5 a longer appearance while improving visibility for those inside.

There are plenty of classic high-line cues — lots of leather, chrome and wood accents as well as massaging seats. But the CT5 picks up on what is becoming the new definition of luxury, with an array of high-tech features. Outside, that starts with all-LED lighting. Inside, there's a digital gauge cluster and a 10-inch touchscreen to operate the sedan's infotainment system and other vehicle functions. Drivers also can operate key functions by voice, by steering-wheel controls or by using a new, rotary-control knob.

The 2020 Cadillac CT5
Handout: Cadillac

Parent General Motors has been aggressively developing self-driving vehicle technology. The CT5 is set to become the second Cadillac to offer Super Cruise — what, in technical terms is known as Level 2+ autonomy. In practical terms, however, it means a driver can operate the vehicle hands-free on well-marked, limited-access highways.

"The expansion of Super Cruise to CT5 reinforces our commitment to bringing the most innovative technologies to our customers," said Carlisle, noting that the goal is to roll the technology out across the Cadillac lineup by early in the coming decade.

The new sedan will also offer an assortment of other advanced driver assistance systems, such as blind-spot detection and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

The 2020 Cadillac CT5 will be offered in a variety of trim levels and will have two powertrain options, starting with a twin-scroll turbo 2.0-liter inline-four making 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The performance alternative is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that bumps the figures up to 335 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque.

While Cadillac officials haven't confirmed plans, Carlisle has hinted that an even higher-performance V-Series version of the CT5 will follow.

Both engines will be paired with a high-efficiency 10-speed automatic gearbox and while the sedan comes in a rear-wheel-drive configuration, both engines can be ordered with optional all-wheel-drive that Caddy officials expect to be the primary choice in northern climates.

The 2020 Cadillac CT5
Adam Jeffery | CNBC