Brand new … all over again.Cadillac is back to challenge the sport sedan hegemony, and this time it’s going to work. Seriously.

The 2020 Cadillac CT4 is the brand’s latest attempt to lure buyers away from their BMW and Mercedes-Benz sedans and into something made closer to home. The previous version – the Cadillac ATS – was well received but failed to gain a real foothold.

The CT4 makes amends with an extra 3.6 inches of length, although the wheelbase remains the same. The roofline is boxier, which helps rear passengers to an extra 1.4 inches of head room. Their legs aren’t so lucky – the CT4 has 0.1 inches less rear leg room than the outgoing ATS. Cargo capacity has barely improved, stalling at an underwhelming 10.7 cubic feet.

These numbers leave the CT4 stuck in a strange in-between class: larger than subcompacts like the Audi A3 but smaller than popular sedans like the BMW 3-Series.

Modern power. The CT4 gets a fresh lineup of engines, but they’ve lost some power. The base engine remains a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, but this one puts out 237 horsepower. That’s not bad for the class, but it’s significantly less than the 272-hp ATS.

We’re more excited for the new 2.7-liter turbo-four – similar to the one powering the Chevy Silverado – which makes 309 hp and 348 pound-feet of torque. The engine is an option on the Premium Luxury model, but oddly absent on the top CT4 Sport trim. To get the upgraded engine with extra performance goodies, buyers will need to spring for the CT4-V (covered separately).

Both engines improve in the efficiency department: a rear-wheel-drive CT4 achieves an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon combined. Opting for all-wheel drive subtracts only one mpg.

The ATS was no slouch in the handling department, and the CT4 ought to be more of the same. The suspension and brakes get updates, and the Sport trim gets beefy Brembo units up front. Even base models get four configurable drive modes. That makes us optimistic, although we haven’t gotten the chance to fling the CT4 around any corners yet. If only Cadillac would make their magnetic ride control available beyond the CT4-V, we’d be thrilled.


Cadillac CT4

Modern technology, too. The biggest upgrade in the new CT4 is in the technology department. Following the lead of a screen-centric market, Cadillac has replaced the outgoing (and frustrating) CUE infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen. On upper trims, a matching 8-inch instrument cluster is an option. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard.

Sadly, active safety tech doesn’t – you’ll need at least the Premium Luxury trim to unlock features like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors.

The infotainment system gets automatic over-the-air updates, and every CT4 comes with wi-fi hot spot capability. Cadillac’s impressive Super Cruise system, which allows near hands-free driving on the highway, will come to the CT4, but not until next year.

A question of refinement. Handling was never the ATS’ problem. Refinement was the bigger issue, as German rivals pulled ahead in fit and finish.

The CT4’s newly-streamlined interior looks like a welcome step in the right direction. Synthetic leather is the default, but leather is an option on upper trims and all CT4s get goodies like remote start and dual-zone automatic climate control. Sophisticated eight- and 10-speed transmissions ought to smooth out the drive, too.

It's a good bit of kit for the CT4’s price, which starts just shy of $34,000 after destination. This puts the CT4 in the ballpark of smaller Germans like the A3 or Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but well below the Mercedes C-Class or 3-Series. The CT4 has the size advantage over smaller competitors, which should make it a decent value.

Final thoughts. Pending confirmation of the build quality and handling abilities of the 2020 Cadillac CT4, we’re optimistic about its chances. A sharp interior and good standard tech bode well for the sedan’s future, although we wish Cadillac would make safety tech standard as well.

Will buyers respond this time? We’ll have to wait and see. At the very least, buyers looking for an American alternative to European sport sedans should give the CT4 a long look.

Check prices for the 2020 Cadillac CT4 »