To me, the 2021 Cadillac CT4 is a personal cause for celebration — a thoroughly contemporary compact sport sedan that competes against the best in the world. As a former Cadillac owner who has followed the fortunes of the American luxury manufacturer, I wondered if I'd ever be able to say that.
My first and only Cadillac was a 1967 Sedan DeVille that I bought on a lark. It was parked on a street in Northwest Portland when I lived more than 25 years ago. The paint was fade, the leather seats were cracked, and the chrome was faded. The For Sale sign in the window said $350.
I should have walked away. I didn't need another beater car. But I stopped and looked. At nearly 19 feet long, it was one of the largest cars ever built and looked it. But it seemed to be all there and the tires looked good, so I went home and called the number on the sign.
The owner was an old man in the senior citizen apartment building the Cadillac was parked in front of. We agreed to meet at the car. He was small and frail and sad. He was the sole owner and loved the car, and was only selling it because his doctor told him he couldn't drive anymore.
What else could I do? I asked to drive it just to make sure it actually ran. Although it showed well over 100,000 miles on the odometer, the Cadillac fired right up and drove smoothly through the pothole-marked neighborhood streets. The radio, air conditioning and power windows all worked. I bought it on the spot. It was blue with a white top and interior, and I named it Moby.
Two days later, the water pump went out. It was a complicated two-part piece of machinery that cost $650 to replace, more than I paid for the car. But that was the last thing that broke during the next three years. Every drive was weirdly enjoyable — with the bulk of the car offset by a suspension that seemed to defy gravity and made Moby float comfortably through the world. The 7.0-liter V8 purred quietly under the hood despite looking like it had never been worked on.
I can't remember when or why I sold it. I think I needed an even larger vehicle for delivering a newspaper I was publishing at the time. Whatever the case, Moby made me appreciate Cadillac more than I expected.
So I was disappointed when it began to devolve into a generic GM brand during the 1990s, with the DeVille becoming just a slightly larger version of the Buick Road Master. But then Cadillac began reinventing itself with smaller versions of its models featuring more angular styling, less chrome, new engines and more advanced technologies. In the mid-2000s, the company introduced the impressive midsize CTS followed by the compact ATS, both of which included serious V performance versions that challenged if not beat the European manufacturers at their own game.
Despite positive reviews, the new Cadillacs did not sell as well as they should have. But the manufacturer hasn't given up. The CTS has been replaced this year with the all-new CT5, which won me over completely when I tested it recently. And the CT4 that succeeded the ATS accomplishes the same goal — it makes a model that deserved to be taken seriously even better.
The base CT4 comes with rear-wheel-drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four that produces a respectable 237. My tester was a top of the line Premium Luxury model that included all-wheel-drive and the optional turbocharged 2.7-liter four that pumps out a healthy 310 horsepower. An even more powerful V version is also available with an additional 15 horsepower from the same engine.
In a week of driving, I found the 2021 CT4 Premium Luxury AWD to be stylish, comfortable, quiet, up-to-date compact sports sedan with plenty of power, refined handling and all the technology I could ask for. Although it is three feet shorter and 834 pounds lighter than Moby, it is still every inch a Cadillac in the best sense of the world — by which I mean, it's a genuine premiere American luxury car. It is also faster, better handling, and gets much better gas mileage, of course.
If you're in the market for a luxury compact sport sedan, by all means drive the German and Japanese models. But also test the equivalent version of the 2021 CT4. You might be surprised by what you find.
Another Pamplin Media Group review of the 2021 Cadillac CT4 can be found here.
2021 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury AWD
Base price: $41,990
Price as tested: $46,865
Type: Compact luxury sedan
Engine: 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (310 hp, 350 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Modes: My Mode, Tour, Sport, Snow/Ice
EPA estimated mileage: 21/29
Overall length: 187.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,732 pounds
Final assembly: Lansing, Michigan
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