Cadillac is decisively re-entering the luxury sedan barge with its new flagship model, the CT6, in a quest to establish the brand as a relevant global competitor. And on paper, their vanguard seems to have what it takes to conquer the market, specifically the BMW 7 Series, Genesis G90, and Lincoln Continental.
The entry price for the CT6? $61,695, and it’s got the looks to impress as well, empowered with a formula that has always worked for Cadillac: long, low, and wide. Sporting strong and bold lines, this chromey, shiny, and sleek CT6 is a stunner, especially from the rear quarter view where it prompts similarities to a Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Bentley Mulsanne. Not so sure about those teardrop headlights, though.
The CT6’s interior makes quite the impression. Cadillac has played it safe however, trying hard not to deviate from the design language that debuted with the XT5 crossover. The cabin is not as clean or as simplistic as the Volvo S90, or as tech laden as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it holds its own with an American touch.
Classy features like the four-spoke steering wheel and gear shifter shaped like a boat’s throttle lever (foreshadowing its yacht-like qualities on the road?) gives us reminiscent feelings of Cadillacs from yesteryear. Hard leather, plastic, and optional carbon fibre veneer make up the majority of the cabin, while a large panoramic display dominates the center stack. Underneath it is a controversial touch-sensitive slider for volume controls, but on the bright side there are hard buttons and dials for the vents and heated seats.
Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system has gotten a fair bit of criticism in the past for convoluted menus and aggravating touchscreen controls, but this updated example is the best we’ve ever seen. The screen is responsive, functionality has been improved, and the colour definition is top-notch, besting even the examples in the Volvo and Mercedes.
By endowing their flagship with some one-up features against its rivals, the CT6 becomes a hub of innovative technology. Most notably: a wireless phone charging slot neatly tucked below the center armrest, 4G LTE connectivity (with separate data plans), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an industry-first Rear Camera Mirror: flip up the rear view mirror like you normally would to reduce glare, and the mirror will switch to a digital display that offers a clear view of what’s behind the car. I never found it that useful on the road, as it was hard to adjust my eyes to a screen so close to my face, but it did come in handy in low-speed rear-end parking scenarios.
There are also cameras situated all around the vehicle, offering an instant 360-degree view on the center display. It can also display camera views of the front and rear, all of which can be viewed at the same time – something not all luxury sedans have the ability to do.
Vehicles are rarely ever perfect when first launched into the market, and we do have some minor (call us picky, if you like) gripes with the CT6 that we would like to share: the signal stalk is mounted too high up on the steering column, the gauge cluster is a weird mix of digital and analog in base models, the headrest doesn’t move far back enough, and the Lexus-like touchpad is more sensitive than a menstruating teenager.
Be that as it may, the CT6 also has some stand out features that we’re giving two thumbs up for, namely its immersive 34-speaker Panaray sound system (a sub-brand of Bose), seats that vibrate to alert the driver of lane departure or impending forward collision, and the CT6’s fantastic (and optional) twin-turbocharged engine.
Underneath the hood of our test vehicle is the top-of-the-line 3.0-litre V6 that produces 404 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. Don’t let the small displacement fool you – those two turbos propel you to the back of your seat with force, rendering any plans for a future V8 obsolete.
The turbochargers take some time to spool, an intrinsic attribute we can hardly put blame towards, but once it does get going the CT6 delivers a good amount of thrust. The V6 also emits an aggressive and rewarding ATS-V-like exhaust wail under duress, and features cylinder deactivation, which will shut down two of its cylinders under light load to help save fuel.
There are two other engines available down the ladder at more affordable price points: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder exclusively with rear-wheel drive (265 hp, 295 lb-ft), and a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 with all-wheel drive (335 hp, 284 lb-ft) that we’ve seen in the CTS Sedan.
All motors are routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission, which is frankly the CT6’s weakest link. Though the trio of engines are well refined and power-heavy, the gearbox doesn’t seemed tuned well enough to keep pace, resulting in jerky downshifts and abrupt shudders at low speeds and during first to second gear transitions.
In spite of that, the CT6’s gearbox issues are largely overshadowed by the rest of its phenomenal chassis. It has been said before that some cars drive “smaller” than their actual size suggests, but the CT6 epitomizes that saying with its Active Chassis Package ($3,895), adding rear-wheel steering to the fray and GM’s highly praised Magnetic Ride Control.
Rear wheel steering is exactly what the name suggests: the two rear wheels can actively turn in small angles, helping to reduce the car’s turning radius and to increase stability at higher speeds. As a result, the CT6, which is about the size of a short-wheelbase BMW 7 Series, turns like a “smaller” car and drives more like a BMW 5 Series.
By further adding Magnetic Ride Control, which independently monitors and adjusts each wheel every millisecond, the CT6 keeps its horizontal motions in check and stays buttoned down and flat around sharp corners. Putting the CT6 into Sport Mode will tell the all-wheel drive system to shift power 20% to the front and 80% to the rear for a more rear-biased tail-happy experience. In standard Tour Mode, the power will be split 40/60 front to rear.
Cadillac calls their CT6 a lightweight performance sedan and I wholeheartedly agree, but I’m not so sure how many prospective luxury sedan buyers would favour performance over comfort and technology. Both attributes are the CT6’s strong suits, though its gearbox needs quite a bit of work and the phenomenal twin-turbo V6 does command a premium of $4,625 over the 3.6-litre V6.
The CT6 is brimming with technology but when fully loaded, its price tag can hit numbers in BMW 7 Series territory, and that’s where it begins to fall apart. The best bang for your buck would be the low-mid level Luxury trim, which lies in the “bargain” spot around $60-70,000. I would skip the twin-turbo V6 upgrade and stay with the naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6. The power is more linear, predictable, and also comes with all-wheel drive. I’d also skip the Panaray speaker system ($4,255 is quite expensive and the base audio system isn’t too shabby either).
I would rather put the money into the Active Chassis Package ($3,895) for a better drive, and also the Enhanced Vision and Comfort Package ($2,515), which offers the Rear View Camera, dual panel sunroof, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.
Whichever trim you do end up choosing however, it is safe to say that Cadillac is finally back in the game, and the CT6 marks a confident stride forward in the luxury sedan market. Does it change the rules of the game? No, but it’s an admirable first step into regaining relevance with innovative design and technology, but that’s not to say Cadillac isn’t improving. From here, there’s only one direction for them to go, and that’s up.