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5G: A transformation in progress

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Analogue mobile phones first appeared in the early 1980s, and were used for voice calls only (imagine that!). Second-generation (2G) digital mobiles made their debut a decade later with GSM, offering text messaging (SMS) as the ‘killer application’ on top of voice services, becoming the dominant technology worldwide. A roughly 10-year cycle has continued ever since, with each generation adding more data bandwidth and therefore enabling a richer set of services: around the turn of the millennium, 3G (UMTS or CDMA 2000) offered data rates of around 1Mbps and could be described as ‘mobile broadband’, while 2010 saw 4G (LTE) reaching 100Mbps.

Of course, as in any evolutionary process, there have been intermediate stages: GPRS and EDGE were ‘2.5G’ packet-switching technologies that made internet connections possible, for example, while HSPA and HSPA+ brought ‘3.5G’ data rates up to 2Mbps. More recently, ‘4.5G’ LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro have paved the way from 4G to 5G, taking data rates up to 1Gbps.

We are now on the cusp of the 5G era, with standards, spectrum allocation, network infrastructure, chipsets and devices all moving into place around the world. Fast 5G networks with low latencies and high connection densities will improve existing mobile experiences and, in due course, enable new use cases. In the meantime, as the 5G ecosystem develops, we will inevitably see a lot of marketing activity — some of it distinctly questionable.

This article sets the post-CES 2019 5G scene: for more detail, see the remaining content in this ZDNet special feature.

5G specs and use cases

The road to 5G began back in 2015, with the ITU’s IMT-2020 framework, which set out the general requirements and future development of the next-generation mobile technology (IMT stands for International Mobile Telecommunications). Here’s how the performance requirements (which were approved in November 2017) compare to the previous-generation IMT-Advanced (a.k.a. 4G):

4G (IMT-Advanced)

5G (IMT-2020)

Peak data rate (downlink)

1Gbps

20Gbps

User-experienced data rate

10Mbps

100Mbps

Latency

10ms

1ms

Mobility

350km/h

500km/h

Connection density

100,000 devices/sq km

1,000,000 devices/sq km

Energy efficiency

1x

100x

Spectrum efficiency

1x

3x

Area traffic capacity

0.1Mbps/sq m

10Mbps/sq m  

The ITU’s broad goal for IMT-2020/5G was to accommodate “new demands, such as more traffic volume, many more devices with diverse service requirements, better quality of user experience (QoE) and better affordability by further reducing costs”. The key driver for this effort was the need to “support emerging new use cases, including applications requiring very high data rate communications, a large number of connected devices, and ultra-low latency and high reliability applications”.

Here’s the IMT-2020 vision for broad classes of 5G use cases:


Image: ITU IMT-2020

It’s clear from these scenarios that 5G will be as much about businesses as it is about consumers. Yes, there’s Ultra-HD and 3D video, augmented reality, smart homes, self-driving cars and more. But there’s also a multitude of business opportunities to be exploited in 5G-enabled smart offices, cities, factories and farms.

These mobile use cases are enabled by three classes of service: eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband); URLLC (Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications); and mMTC (massive Machine Type Communications).

eMBB essentially delivers faster and better mobile connectivity — not only for consumer smartphone users, but also for mobile professionals with 5G-enabled tablets or laptops, or field workers using AR apps and smart glasses, for example. Now enshrined in the June 2018 3GPP Rel 15 standard, which includes NSA (non-standalone, built on LTE-A/Pro) and SA (standalone) elements, eMBB is the first phase of 5G. The second phase will address the kinds of connections required by self-driving vehicles (reliable, low-latency — URLLC) and IoT device-heavy environments like smart cities (moderate bandwidth, high density — mMTC), and will be covered by the developing 3GPP Rel 16 standard, which was originally due for completion in December 2019 (see below) but has now been put back by three months.

3gpp-4g-5g-releases.png

Image: 3GPP

Another 5G use case is FWA (Fixed Wireless Access), which enters the picture because data rates will be sufficient to compete with wired broadband (over copper or optical fibre — even fibre-to-the-premises). According to recent research from Ovum (sponsored by UK mobile operator Three), 5G is expected to deliver data rates of 80-100Mbps in the UK and could replace traditional wired broadband connections for 85 percent of the country’s 26 million fixed-line customers: 

5g-fwa-addressable-market-uk.png

Chart: Ovum / Data: Ofcom

Other advantages of FWA, says Ovum, include plug-and-play setup, flexible contracts and portability — customers simply take the wireless home broadband box with them when they move. (Note: Three has a stake in this market via its UK Broadband-operated subsidiary Relish, which currently offers FWA on its 4G LTE network).

The state of play: early 2019

Next-generation 5G networks will operate on three broad radio frequency bands, each of which have different characteristics and address different use cases. Low frequency (sub-1GHz) spectrum is well suited to wide-area and indoor coverage, and will be important for improving mobile coverage in underserved rural areas as well as mMTC and URLLC applications. Mid-frequency (1-6GHz) spectrum supports a good combination of capacity and coverage, and is the initial focus for eMBB and FWA, with mMTC to and URLLC to follow. High-frequency spectrum — a.k.a. millimetre wave, or mmWave (>24GHz)– supports very high speeds and low latency within local ‘hot-spot’ areas and can deliver ‘full’ eMBB and high-speed FWA, although indoor coverage is poor.

The precise bands used will vary around the world, but here’s the picture in the UK (as of March 2018 — the 2.3GHz and 3.4-3.6GHz auctions referenced below are now complete):

5g-spectrum-ofcom.png

Image: Ofcom (Enabling 5G in the UK, March 2018)

Following its May 2017 acquisition of UK Broadband (UKB), Three currently holds the most 5G spectrum among the UK’s four mobile network operators, although there are upcoming 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz auctions in 2019 (which Ofcom aims to conclude by spring 2020):

ofcom-5g-spectrum-uk.png

5G spectrum holdings among UK mobile network operators (H3G = Three, Telefonica = O2)


Image: Ofcom

In its March 2018 Enabling 5G in the UK report, Ofcom noted that high-frequency mmWave spectrum has not been used to deliver mobile services to date, but is likely to support new high-capacity, low-latency 5G applications. The UK regulator has called for input from MNOs and other players on the 26GHz (24.25-27.5 GHz) band, and has also prioritised 66-71GHz as a second stage high-frequency band, with 40.5-43.5GHz targeted as a priority band for study.

All four UK network operators are now trialling 5G services: EE in London; O2 at London’s O2 Arena; Vodafone in Salford, Greater Manchester (with six more cities to follow); and Three in London. Areas of high demand — i.e. big cities — may get limited 5G services (FWA and eMBB) in 2019, but it will take years before 5G coverage is widespread and new (URLLC and mMTC) use cases are fully supported.

gsa-report-cover.png

Looking further afield, in November 2018 the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) estimated that 192 operators in 81 countries were actively investing in 5G — that is, “have demonstrated, are testing or trialling, or have been licensed to conduct field trials of 5G technologies, are deploying 5G networks or have announced service launches”. By mid-January 2019, the number had risen to 201 operators in 83 countries.

The GSA identified over 524 demonstrations or tests in its November 2018 report, noting that:

Key 5G technologies being explored include new radio (NR) interfaces operating in spectrum bands not previously used for mobile telecoms services and network slicing to support delivery of services tailored to specific types of customer or service; combinations of technologies such as massive MIMO, or complex beam-forming that are needed to achieve very high speeds; and backhaul, cloud- and edge-computing arrangements to support very low latencies.

At least 87 of the 524 projects tested massive MIMO involving 64 or more transmitters or some other 5G-specific technology, while 26 explicitly featured network slicing, the GSA reported. The most common frequency band in the tests was 3.3-3.8GHz (107 trials), followed by 26.5-29.5GHz (87 trials). Many of the trials reported peak downlink speeds of well over 1Gbps, although the GSA noted that the very highest speeds will not be deliverable by commercial networks for some time:

gsa-trials-speed.png

Image: Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)

As far as latencies are concerned, most of the 68 trials examined by the GSA achieved 1-1.99ms, although again these test results may not be representative of production networks:

gsa-trials-latency.png

Image: Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)

According to the GSA’s latest (January 2019) figures, eleven operators claim to have launched 5G services (either mobile or FWA): AT&T (USA), Elisa (Finland and Estonia), Etisalat (UAE), Fastweb (Italy), LG Uplus (South Korea), KT (South Korea), Ooredoo (Qatar), SK Telecom (South Korea), TIM (Italy), Verizon (USA), and Vodacom (Lesotho). All of these services are limited in terms of geography, device availability and customer coverage, according to the GSA. Seven other operators have turned on 5G base stations but not yet launched commercial services.

As of January 2019, 86 telecom operators in 46 countries had announced their intentions of making 5G available to customers before the end of 2022, the GSA said.

5G at CES 2019

5G has been a key topic at CES in recent years, and the recent 2019 show predictably saw plenty of activity. Here’s a summary of ZDNet’s 5G coverage at CES 2019:

CES 2019 news (ZDNet) Summary
Qualcomm President Amon is convinced you’re going to be thrilled with 5G Qualcomm’s president, Cristiano Amon, took some time at the Consumer Electronics Show to discuss how 5G cellular will amaze consumers. He also reflected on how AI processing on smartphones will become more prevalent.
Sprint rounds out CES 2019 with 5G call Working with Nokia and Qualcomm, Sprint has made a 5G data call on its live commercial network in San Diego, including streaming YouTube videos, making Skype video calls, and sending and receiving messages.
CES 2019: Intel details autonomous vehicle trial in Israel Intel is extending its autonomous driving trials in Israel to provide an entire mobility-as-a-service offering across car, software, platform, mapping, and safety mechanisms.
CES 2019: Telstra CEO Andy Penn talks 5G smartphones Speaking with ZDNet at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Telstra CEO Andy Penn discussed 5G devices, possible pricing, download speeds, and what 5G will mean for IoT.
CES 2019: Las Vegas and Los Angeles see 5G as a game changer for smart cities AT&T is working with Los Angeles and Las Vegas on multiple smart cities projects, with the two cities saying 5G will bring even more opportunities.
CES 2019: Telstra confirms 5G smartphones by mid-2019 Telstra has announced multiple agreements to offer commercial 5G smartphones to customers in the first half of 2019.
CES 2019: First look at the Samsung 5G smartphone Samsung is showing off its 5G smartphone prototype at CES 2019, giving users a first taste of what the device will look like.
CES 2019: Cisco talks 6G While everyone else spent CES 2019 talking about 5G, Cisco is already looking towards a 6G future.
CES 2019: Verizon showcases the potential of 5G with drones, Disney and more 5G connectivity will be “a quantum leap compared to 4G,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said during his CES keynote.
CES 2019: Sprint pairs Curiosity IoT with 5G to power smart cities, autonomous vehicles Sprint is combining its Curiosity IoT platform and its 5G mobile network to power a smart city in South Carolina and an autonomous vehicle test track in Georgia, and to launch more precise mapping technology.
CES 2019: AT&T 5G to connect hospitals and stadiums AT&T is working on hospital and stadium use cases for its newly launched 5G network, as well as announcing that it will be connecting Toyota and Lexus cars with LTE between 2019 and 2024.
CES 2019: Intel’s Mobileye signs deal with UK mapping agency Mobileye and Ordnance Survey have announced that they will collect and share map data for better management of infrastructure aimed at enabling smarter cities.
CES 2019: Sprint unveils smart home Magic Box, confirms Samsung 5G phone Sprint has used CES 2019 to unveil a small cell smart home product with LTE and Alexa integration, as well as confirming a Samsung 5G smartphone launching in the summer.
T-Mobile marks 5G milestone with first data call on 600 MHz spectrum The carrier said it has completed a series of successful 5G service tests in the 600MHz band with partners Intel and Ericsson.
CES 2019: Ford demos cellular V2X with Qualcomm chipset Ford is using CES 2019 to demo how its Qualcomm-powered cellular V2X technology enables multiple cars to negotiate rights of way at four-way intersections without traffic lights and stop signs.
samsung-5g-prototype-phone.jpg

Samsung’s protoype 5G handset at CES 2019.


Image: ZDNet

Samsung’s prototype 5G phone received a lot of attention, even though it simply sat in a perspex box on the booth wall, running a video (from internal memory) about the company’s 5G goals. It has a conventional form factor, but no technical details were revealed about its internals. However, the US network Sprint revealed at CES that it will be carrying Samsung’s 5G smartphone later this year on its LTE and 5G networks using the 2.5GHz, 1.9GHz, and 800MHz spectrum bands.

Coming soon: Mobile World Congress

Naturally, 5G is a major theme at the other big tech show at the start of the year — Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona (25-28 February). Among the unveilings expected is a 5G phone from OnePlus using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 chipset and X50 5G modem. This is expected to launch in the spring on the UK EE network (using sub-6GHz spectrum), before becoming available from other carriers worldwide. LG has also flagged up an MWC 5G handset announcement based on the Snapdragon 855 chipset.

What the surveys say

There have been plenty of surveys of different parts of the 5G ecosystem, by various interested parties. Here’s a selection from the past six months or so.

IHS Markit
Business information provider IHS Markit polled 17 mobile operators for its August 2018 Evolution from 4G to 5G: Service Provider Survey. The headline finding was that 14 (82%) were trialling and testing 5G technology, while two (12%) — both from North America — were planning commercial rollouts by the end of 2018. South Korea is expected go live with 5G in 2019, said IHS Markit executive research director Stéphane Téral in a statement, while most European networks were not planning to deploy 5G until 2021 or later.

5g-ihs-trial-deployment.png

Image: IHS Markit

Ultra-low latency was the main 5G technical driver for 82 percent of the mobile operators, followed by decreased cost per bit (76%) and increased network capacity (71%). When it came to challenges, 53 percent cited radio as requiring the biggest development effort to make 5G happen, followed by transport (24%) and management (14%).

The highest-rated 5G use case was eMBB, although FWA was expected to be ready for commercial development first. “The bottom line is early 5G will be an extension of what we know best: broadband, whether in FWA or eMBB form,” Téral said. “Don’t expect factory automation, tactile low-latency touch and steer, or autonomous driving to be ready on 5G anytime soon despite being touted as the chief 5G use cases,” he added.

Gartner
In May-June 2018, Gartner investigated the demand and adoption plans for 5G among 185 survey respondents (85 Research Circle members and 100 others). IoT communications was the most popular 5G use case (59% of respondents), followed by video (53%). However, echoing IHS Markit’s findings, Gartner senior research director Sylvain Fabre warned in a statement that 5G networks were far from ready for all use cases: “In the short to medium term, organizations wanting to leverage 5G for use cases such as IoT communications, video, control and automation, fixed wireless access and high-performance edge analytics cannot fully rely on 5G public infrastructure for delivery.”

Gartner noted that a new network topology is required to fully exploit 5G, including new network elements such as edge computing, core network slicing and radio network densification. This will take time: “Most CSPs [Communications Service Providers] will only achieve a complete end-to-end 5G infrastructure on their public networks during the 2025-to-2030 time frame — as they focus on 5G radio first, then core slicing and edge computing,” Fabre said.

As a result, organizations keen to deploy 5G quickly may need to look beyond CSPs. “Private networks for enterprises will be the most direct option for businesses that want to benefit from 5G capabilities early on,” said Fabre. “These networks may be offered not only by CSPs but also directly by infrastructure vendors — and not just by the traditional large vendors of infrastructure, but also by suppliers with cloud and software backgrounds.”

Deloitte
In a June 2018 survey of nearly 4,000 UK smartphone users (The Race to 5G), Deloitte found that just 12 percent of respondents would switch to a 5G network as soon as it became available. A further 19 percent would switch on hearing positive reports, while 32 percent would ‘probably switch to a 5G network eventually’. Hardly evidence of pent-up demand, although the release of the first 5G handsets during 2019 is likely to change this picture fairly quickly.

deloitte-5g-survey.png

Image: The Race to 5G (Deloitte, 2018)

PwC
In September 2018, PwC surveyed a sample of 1,000 Americans aged 18-64 to investigate several things: their satisfaction with current home and mobile internet services; how they feel about 5G’s potential; what they expect from 5G (in the home and on mobile devices); and their willingness to pay for 5G.

Only 46 percent of respondents were familiar with the term ‘5G’ without prompting (57% male, 37% female), although 62 percent found it ‘very appealing’ once defined. The main ‘must-have’ across both home and mobile internet was reliability (33% home, 32% mobile), with portability (66%), DIY installation (57%) and wireless (39%) adding to the appeal of 5G FWA in the home. On average, consumers would be willing to pay $5.06 extra/month for 5G home internet and another $4.40/month for 5G mobile internet. The main driver for this willingness to pay more was faster data speeds, both for home (49%) and mobile (63%) internet.

Given that 5G handsets are not yet available, it’s perhaps no surprise that PwC’s respondents weren’t exactly clamouring for the new technology: 74 percent would wait until they were eligible for an upgrade, while only 26 percent were prepared to buy a new device regardless. Having said that, there was some willingness to change mobile habits for 5G: 32 percent would switch providers; 21 percent would switch mobile device brands; and 19 percent would switch platform or OS.

An ‘end-to-end’ approach to 5G

You can’t go far in 5G-land without encountering the term ‘end to end’ (or E2E) with reference to network architecture. That’s because there’s a lot more involved in being a network operator than winning RF spectrum and building a radio-access network (RAN): other key components are backhaul (or transport) from the base stations to the core network, plus supporting IT operations. A full 5G deployment requires architecture changes at every stage:

three-end-to-end-5g.png

Image: Three UK

For example, as well as acquiring a healthy 5G spectrum portfolio, UK mobile operator Three has:

* Signed an agreement for the rollout of new cell site technology to prepare major urban areas for the rollout of 5G devices, as well as enhance the 4G service

* Built a super high-capacity dark fibre network, which connects 20 new, energy efficient and highly secure data centres

* Deployed a world-first 5G-ready, fully integrated cloud-native core network in new data centres, which at launch will have an initial capacity of 1.2TB/s, a three-fold increase from today’s capacity, and which can scale further, cost effectively and rapidly

* Rolled out carrier-aggregation technology on 2,500 sites in the busiest areas, improving speeds for customers

Investments of this order — Three has committed to spend £2 billion — underscore the fact that different 5G use cases (eMBB, URLLC, mMTC and FWA) have different requirements when it comes to bandwidth, latency, mobility, security, reliability and pricing. Early 5G deployments are concentrating on traditional more consumer-oriented areas such as eMBB and FWA, are based on the finalised 3GPP Rel-15 standard, and can utilise a lot of existing 4G LTE infrastructure. But phase 2 of 5G will be based on the still-developing Rel-16 standard, and will require new spectrum and infrastructure to support advanced business use cases like URLLC and mMTC.

Enabling all this requires a cloud-native, service-oriented architecture that supports network slicing, where multiple virtual networks coexist on the same physical infrastructure, leveraging technologies like software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV).

5g-network-slicing.jpg

Image: ITUNews

In a May 2018 white paper, Ericsson described a trial with Swisscom showing how network slicing supports critical railway communications on a public network carrying mobile broadband traffic. High-definition video — from cameras on platforms and in the front of trains — was isolated, with guaranteed performance levels. “Assurances are required when trains are in areas with only moderate radio signal coverage, or during periods of particularly high mobile broadband traffic loading,” Ericsson said. “Although capacity demands from critical communications are low, RAN radio resource partitioning can be used to maximize available capacity for other lower-priority demands, without affecting performance guarantees.”

Although it’s crucial to full 5G deployment, network slicing is still very much a work in progress: in the November 2018 GSA report described earlier, just 26 out of 524 5G demos or tests (5%) explicitly featured the technology. There’s plenty at stake though: according to the GSMA, network slicing will permit operators to address revenue opportunities worth $300 billion by 2025. “To unlock this opportunity, Network Slicing will enable operators to create pre-defined, differing levels of services to different enterprise verticals, enabling them to customise their own operations,” the GSMA said. “However, the opportunity could become even bigger. Automation and the ability to quickly create slices could pave the way for operators to dynamically package and repackage network capabilities for different customers. This is the end goal of Network Slicing.”

Outlook

Network operators are implementing the first phase of 5G, and 5G smartphones are beginning to surface, all of which means that general awareness of 5G is increasing. However, there’s still a lot of end-to-end work to be done before fully operational 5G networks can support the advanced use cases that could transform business.

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2021 Cadillac CT5 Review: Personality Matters

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For all the luxury sedan segment may be dwarfed by sales of lavish SUVs, that hasn’t made the category any less competitive. On the one side, the German mainstays bring reputation and refinement to the party; on the other, comparative upstarts like Genesis, Lexus, and Acura claw back attention with imaginative risk-taking. What to make, then, of the 2021 Cadillac CT5 somewhere in the middle?

I like Cadillac’s styling, with the CT5’s blend of angles and LEDs making for a handsome sedan from most angles. As with the most recent Escalade, the CT5 isn’t quite as vocal in its aesthetic as its predecessor: the grille feels like it could be a little larger; the side proportions a little beefier. 18-inch alloys are standard, with 19- and 20-inch versions available. I’d say step up at least one size, as the regular wheels look a little small to my eyes.

The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, and is good for 360 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. They’re certainly healthy numbers, and a fair sight more than the 237 hp / 258 lb-ft the standard 2.0-liter turbo-four delivers.

What you can only get on the CT5 V-Series, though, is Cadillac’s upgraded performance suspension and Magnetic Ride Control. The electronic limited-slip differential and Performance Traction Management system are exclusive to the V, too.

It leaves the regular CT5 with independent MacPherson strut front suspension and independent 5-link rear, and it’s all tuned on the soft side. Where the V-Series can flip from comfort to sport at the touch of a drive mode button, switching between Tour and Sport in the standard car is less dramatic. The 10-speed holds lower gears for longer, and the engine sounds louder, but it doesn’t have the sharpened dynamics which leave the CT5-V feeling poised and eager.

The multi-valve dampers on the CT5 simply aren’t so adaptable. It’s not that the sedan can’t hustle, it just doesn’t really encourage that. Long-distance cruising would be a joy in this Caddy, and pickup in a straight line is as urgent as the power figures would lead you to expect. Where some luxury sedans encourage leaving the family at home and playing on the backroads occasionally, though, the CT5 just doesn’t inspire the same.

Doubling down on that road trip ethos is the interior. The CT5’s cabin has plenty of space – for passengers, at least, though the 11.9 cu-ft trunk is a little small – and there’s no shortage of equipment. Premium Luxury trim comes with 14-way power front seats, leather, keyless start, a wireless phone charger, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and ambient lighting as standard. You get rear parking assistance and cross traffic alerts, forward collision alerts, blind zone warnings, and front pedestrian braking too. That’s all for $40,795.

As well as $3.5k for the V6 and $2k for all-wheel drive, my test car had the $1,350 navigation and Bose 15-speaker audio, the $1,090 Climate Package with heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel, and the $600 Lighting Package with LED cornering headlamps and illuminated sill plates. $500 adds auto high-beams, lane-keep assistance, and following distance indicator, and $625 gets the Dark Moon Metallic paint. In all, with $995 destination, you’re looking at $51,455.

All the pieces are there, but I wish there was a little more oomph in how they were put together. The CT5’s cabin seems solid and the switchgear generally feels sturdy, but there’s little of the aesthetic consideration that rivals deliver. Shared parts with the rest of GM’s brands, combined with sober finishes that border on dour, feel neither special nor particularly luxurious.

It all works, it just doesn’t go beyond that to delight. Cadillac’s infotainment system feels like just what you’d find in a recent Chevy or GMC (because, funnily enough, it is) whereas the new Escalade serves up something a lot more unique. The chromed switchgear is too clearly plastic when you touch it, while the 10-inch touchscreen looks tagged on rather than integrated. A fully-digital driver’s display is optional, but the smaller standard panel – sandwiched between analog dials – could benefit from nicer graphics. Again, it does the job, it just doesn’t make itself memorable.

Super Cruise is finally available on the CT5, though the $2,500 option was absent from my test car. It’s the enhanced version, too, which can automatically change lanes for you. Honestly, if I was buying a CT5, it’s the option that would be top of my list.

As for economy, the V6 with AWD is EPA rated for 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, for 21 mpg combined. Conspicuous by its glaring absence is any sort of electrification; for a Caddy EV we’ll have to wait for the Lyriq crossover, which is still some way out.

2021 Cadillac CT5 Verdict

So many of my complaints about the CT5 could be boiled down to “just commit more, Cadillac.” There are hints at greatness throughout, but it seldom quite feels like the automaker goes the whole way and delivers on them. The styling is handsome but falls short of gravitas; the cabin is spacious and well-equipped, but feels bland; and the driving dynamics, especially with the twin-turbo V6, are promising yet not quite as engaging as the sum of the parts would lead you to expect.

That adds up to a problem, because rivals aren’t making the same mistakes. BMW’s 3 Series is more engaging, Genesis’ G70 takes more styling risks, and Mercedes’ C-Class has more comfort. Importantly, all three are just more memorable than the CT5.

Cadillac is quick to point out that its sedan is aggressively priced compared to its competitors, particularly the Germans, and that it outweighs them on things like power and standard equipment. Problem is, in focusing on comparisons, the CT5 has forgotten to factor in Cadillac’s own inherent charm: that singularly American presence and borderline-excess. The result is a car that’s good in many ways, but not great, and that’s just not enough in this segment to rise above the crowd.

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Lincoln Zephyr Reflection is the bold car design we’ve been waiting for

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Lincoln has revealed its latest concept car, and the Zephyr Reflection is a striking reminder that “American Luxury” can be darn handsome too. Unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2021, the shapely sedan is focused entirely on Chinese tastes, Lincoln says, and pushes beyond some of the more monolithic cues of the automaker’s current line-up.

The goal, Lincoln claims, was to draw in a younger audience. The grille gets a starburst pattern, and is considerably larger than usual, extending into the leading edge of the hood and down deep into the lower fascia.

It’s bisected with a line that links the narrow headlamps, and then trails back into the sharply creased shoulder-line. Flush door handles and high-end trim like tinted chrome, copper, and satin silver add some sparkle, while a trunk-spanning light bar joins the slimline clusters. A blacked-out A-pillar give the Zephyr Reflection a profile like no other Lincoln sedan in the range right now.

The automaker has been thinking about lighting a lot, it seems, with new welcome patterns and ambient lighting promised. The same goes inside, with glowing controls that only appear on touch-surfaces when they’re required. A huge, dashboard-spanning display dominates the dashboard, and can be split into three virtual sections.

As for the UX, that’s a new system being called Lincoln Constellation. Themed around the night sky, it’ll have three different versions – Normal, Sport, and Zen – each with unique animations and graphics.

What Zephyr Reflection doesn’t appear to be, however, is anything more than a styling exercise at this stage. Lincoln’s announcement is conspicuously absent of any sort of powertrain discussion, instead focusing entirely on the design of the sedan. That “hints at the future of Lincoln’s design philosophy and signature features ahead of the production model debut later this year,” the automaker says.

China is aggressively pushing EV adoption – and, indeed, Lincoln is using Auto Shanghai 2021 to debut the locally-produced version of its Corsair PHEV there – but though we’re expecting full-electric Lincoln news soon, it doesn’t seem like the Zephyr Reflection will be the model for that. Indeed, look closely at the dashboard display render, and there’s clearly a little gas pump icon there, suggesting this is a PHEV at best.

Of course, trying to read into production plans from a concept car is usually a shortcut to confusion, and so we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out Lincoln’s actual production plans. Certainly, sedans are still popular in the Chinese market, as is the concept of “American Luxury” itself, meaning whatever the Zephyr Reflection evolves into will likely be more of a hit there than it would be in Lincoln’s home market.

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Genesis Electrified G80 is more than just a luxury EV sedan

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Genesis promised us an all-electric model, and now we get to see just what that is, with the Electrified G80 giving the luxury automaker its first pure EV. Unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2021 today, it takes the well-received G80 sedan and gives it an all-wheel drive electric makeover.

Gone is the usual choice of 2.5-liter or 3.5-liter turbocharged gas engines, and indeed the rear-wheel drive option. However the Electrified G80 can switch between RWD and AWD depending on road conditions, with a Disconnector Actuator System (DAS) selectively decoupling the drive shaft.

The result is 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, Genesis says, in AWD mode. As for range, on the NEDC test you’re looking at over 310 miles, though we’d expect the US EPA numbers to be lower than that. Something that’s particularly impressive is 350 kW DC fast charging support which – if you find a suitably potent charger – could mean going from 10-percent to 80-percent in 22 minutes.

The underlying architecture supports 400/800V switchable modes, to suit different charger types. Just as exciting, though, is the inclusion of V2L (Vehicle to Load) support, effectively turning the Electrified G80 into a huge battery on wheels that’s capable of powering a home in the case of a grid outage or similar. In that situation, Genesis says, the EV can deliver 3.6 kW – more, it suggests, than the typical household requires.

On the outside, the changes from the internal combustion G80 are subtle. The Crest Grille switches from its usual mesh, with an inverted G-Matrix pattern instead. In the upper right corner is a door for the charging port; open that, and as well as a place to plug in, you’ll also find some Two Lines chrome detailing to harmonize with the exterior styling.

Inside, meanwhile, Genesis has blended traditional materials with some eco-minded treatments. There’s natural dyed leather on the seats, console, and rear seat armrest, for example, while the wood uses recycled timber. Recycled PET – the sort of plastic used in water bottles – features in other fabrics.

The GV80 SUV donates its Active Noise Control-Road system, which promises extra cabin hush by analyzing road noise and then creating opposite sound waves to cancel it out. There’s also Genesis’ Electronic Control Suspension with Road Preview system, which uses a front-facing camera to scan the asphalt ahead and preemptively adjust the suspension settings to iron out potholes and bumps.

Though Genesis is debuting the Electrified G80 in China – its first vehicle launch, it points out, outside of South Korea – it will be bringing the EV to the US and Canada, it’s confirmed. More information on localized specifications for that version will be shared later in the year, Genesis says, in addition to news on the other BEVs the automaker has planned.

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