A red 2021 Cadillac CT4 is driving on a city street at night.

Why The 2021 Cadillac CT4 Has European Automakers Feeling Nervous

Have you ever felt like the underdog? There’s nothing as unnerving as showing up to a party conspicuously underdressed or finding yourself alone in an elevator with the company’s CEO. That must be what it feels like to be the 2021 Cadillac CT4. As the only American entrant in the compact luxury sedan category, the CT4 faces unimaginable – and intimidating – competition from German imports.

BMW, Mercedes, and Audi spend their marketing dollars to stir aspiration and remind consumers that owning a German luxury sedan means they’ve arrived. It means they’ve joined the ranks of other discerning buyers that want their car to reflect their affluence and good taste. To buy any other vehicle is to exclude yourself from the club. They hope that kind of inferred social pressure – the pressure to “arrive” – will mean image-conscious buyers continue flocking to their nameplates.

Buyers in the compact luxury sedan category are often first-time luxury car buyers, and they’re primed to buy into the hype. Because nameplates like BMW and Mercedes convey affluence and a sense of having arrived, they’re highly sought-after. Unfortunately, many buyers choose a German import not because it’s the right car for their lifestyle, but because they think they should.

We argue that Cadillac deserves the same success-related association, especially with the nimble CT4. Automotive journalists agree that this American-built contender has the goods to steal market share from the usual suspects, and Cadillac’s marketing team should capitalize on its differences, rather than trying to fit in. In other words, Cadillac should embrace its status as an outlier.

Here we review the 2021 Cadillac CT4, including examining its very European sedan-esque features and state our case for why it deserves a much closer look before pulling the trigger on a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. We’ll show you features on the CT4 that you won’t find anywhere else and how Cadillac infuses style and sporty performance across the entire CT4 lineup.

Plenty of Versatility

A grey 2021 Cadillac CT4 V is shown from the front on a rural road.

The 2021 Cadillac CT4 lineup delivers a broad spectrum of trim and package options, including an entry-priced base model for just $33,395 and a gutsy V-Series that starts at $44,895 and creeps up into the mid-$50,000 price point when fully-equipped. Between these two extremes sit a couple of mid-range trims – the Premium Luxury and the Sport – that do an excellent job of distributing desirable standard features in an easily understandable price progression.

The base CT4 Luxury comes standard with Cadillac’s responsive 2.0-liter Twin-Scroll Turbocharged engine mated with a smooth eight-speed transmission and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional, and we recommend upgrading to get the benefit of better traction and handling. LED exterior lights (headlights, taillights, etc.) are standard, as is an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and a suite of driver-assist safety systems.

Next up, the Premium Luxury, for $37,595, levels up interior luxury, adding plush leather seating with driver memory settings and surprisingly warm LED ambient interior lighting. The exterior benefits from a set of unique 18” alloy wheels and driver safety is enhanced by Rainsense Wipers that adjust speed in line with weather conditions and an auto-dimming mirror. Cadillac offers CT4 Premium Luxury trim buyers an option to upgrade to a 2.7-liter engine and its hands-free SuperCruise smart cruise control system.

The CT4 Sport starts at $38,695 and includes everything that comes with the Premium Luxury plus a few exterior tweaks that set it apart as the sportier big brother. These include performance grilles and body fascias that earn it the Sport badge. The rear spoiler and glossy black moldings complete its bold styling. We recommend upgrading to the available 19” wheels and Brembo brake package.

Sitting at the top of the heap is the CT4 V-Series, an intimidating and performance-focused trim that makes the upgraded 2.7-liter Turbocharged engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission standard. Performance-oriented upgrades to the V-Series’ suspension and exhaust combine to deliver a more responsive ride, as well as increase traction and improve acceleration. On the interior, the V-Series features a sport steering wheel, magnesium steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, alloy pedals, and special bolstered front seats.

Outstanding Performance

The Cadillac CT4 has something the rest of its competition doesn’t have: rear-wheel drive. While all-wheel drive is available, the fact that Cadillac offers the CT4 with a rear-wheel drivetrain tells us that this is a performance sedan. Rear-wheel drive means that acceleration happens in the rear, leaving the front for steering. The extra weight this configuration creates delivers better traction during acceleration. By contrast, front-wheel drive puts most of the vehicle’s weight in the front, improving traction in slippery conditions but sacrificing handling as weight redistributes to the rear during acceleration.

Entry-level CT4 buyers need not fret about skipping the more expensive trim options because the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers 237 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That torque is available at low RPMs, which means acceleration feels brisk. The standard 8-speed automatic transmission is well-mated to the engine’s output, leading to smooth acceleration and gear shifting at all speeds.

Cadillac’s 2.7-liter Dual Volute Turbocharged high-output engine delivers 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque with an estimated fuel economy rating of 21 MPG city and 31 MPG highway for the rear-wheel drive models. For the V-Series, the output is further optimized to deliver 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque with little-to-no reduction in fuel economy. Cadillac’s Volute technology allows air to circulate through the turbocharger more efficiently (in a spiral motion), allowing the components to spin faster.

Superior Technology

The wheel and dashboard in a 2021 Cadillac CT4 are shown.

The CT4 offers no shortage of connectivity and advanced technology, beginning with Cadillac’s futuristic SuperCruise hands-free cruise control system. The system works on compatible highways by allowing drivers to travel completely hands-free via sensors that communicate traffic patterns and lane boundaries, keeping the vehicle traveling at a safe distance from the car ahead and inside its intended lane of travel. Cadillac boasts that there are roughly 6,000,000 miles of SuperCruise-compatible highways, and that number increases practically daily.

The 2021 CT4 also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, along with a more advanced voice recognition system for better understandability of audible commands. Thanks to the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and available 12-inch HD driver cluster, staying connected and informed while on the go has never been easier or more technologically-advanced.

Several add-on packages are priced right and contain a whole host of upgrades, including the $1,200 Climate Package. This package includes cozy heated driver and front passenger seats, warm weather-friendly ventilated front seats, and an automatic heated steering wheel that warms up when it senses the interior cabin is chilly. The Technology Package, for $1,350, gets you the 12-inch HD driver cluster and a convenient head-up display.

It’s Time to Try a Cadillac CT4

The 2021 Cadillac CT4 earns its spot among the German competition, leading with rear-wheel drive and unique available features, like SuperCruise, that highlight General Motors’ ongoing commitment to innovation. We argue that the CT4 delivers the kind of cache that will elicit the same driveway envy you’d receive with a German import, but with a dash of curiosity too. After all, you’ve arrived, and you chose a Cadillac. Not only are you a discerning buyer, but you’re a trendsetting one too.