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2016 Cadillac CT6 First Drive

Los Angeles, CA The struggle for Cadillac is real. Despite record sales last year, Cadillac still has a hard time selling what it is to the highly discerning, difficult-to-please luxury car-buying crowd. 

Caddy’s undergone a complete brand transformation recently, and it’s been well received. Its garnered a 7.5% increase globally in 2015 and interestingly, market studies have found that they had the second highest transaction price behind only Mercedes.

It’s all good news, and I feel like I’ve written the following before... It’s a shame really. A shame because Cadillac’s putting forth real effort with new, innovative and attractive products unlike some OEMs that only change the front grille every 18 months and call their vehicle “new.” At the moment, Caddy is setting a standard that will catch most off guard. 

The Caddy flagship
The new CT6 sets its own bar and consumers will take notice, if they give it a chance. Tell you what, this car’s problems can be summed up here: It’s got a sucky name. This is the case now, but hopefully in a few years it’ll make sense. Otherwise, this is a damn good car. 

Let’s continue by addressing the following question: What is a CT6? This car is a blend of the midsize and large luxury segments, mixing amenities and size, but dialling up the driving experience to an unprecedented level. Big words, eh?

Dieting works
The key element for the CT6’s positive nod-inducing drive is its weight. Cadillac engineers went to great lengths to shave unnecessary girth by strategically blending materials. The chassis and body components are 38% steel and 62% aluminium. The steel was kept for calculated reasons, namely keeping things quieter in the cabin. As well, serious casting changes were made to allow for the use of less matter, thus once more lowering weight, improving stiffness, and allowing more flexibility for styling and proportions. It’s quite a bit to take absorb in one sitting, but these are all facts. 

In fact, 20% fewer parts are required for the chassis. These reengineered parts necessitate less bonding and less sound deadening -- again for weight, maintaining rigidity without sacrificing overall comfort. 

The bottom line is that the 2.0T CT6 weighs roughly 900lbs less than the base S 400 4MATIC Mercedes, but that’s an unfair comparison. The 3.6 AWD Luxury is closer feature-wise and, as such, the gap narrows to a little over 350lbs -- still a sizeable difference. Another stat? The 2.0T CT6 is 100lbs lighter than a BMW 528i RWD. Keep in mind that the Caddy is 11” (28cm) longer than the 5 Series.

Less weight + power = good times
This all means that the CT6 is unlike any of its would-be competitors. Cadillac engineers conceived the CT6 with the following four pillars in mind: Appearance/size/driving dynamics/quiet. The aluminium-and-steel mix play their part in the final two aspects, but let’s move on to powertrains. 

The $61,245 2.0L Turbo benefits from 265 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to try this one out as we ran out of time. The bulk of CT6 sales should carry the 3.6 badge, and a $63,570 price. The all-new V6 puts out 335 horsepower and 284 torques. At the top of the pyramid sits the new 3.0TT ($73,105), the twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 with cylinder deactivation (a world first) is good for 404 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The two V6s carry AWD as standard equipment, while the 4-pot gets RWD. All rely on a new 8-speed automatic. 

Of the two V6s, I preferred the 3.6L. Its grunt is more than sufficient to get the car going. The real trick is how brilliantly the autobox is geared. Smooth yet sharp upshifts land the engine right back into the juicy powerband. This is especially true with the 3.0TT as its max twisting power is on tap from 2,500 rpm to 5,100. With both engines, forward momentum comes without delay or drama. There’s little more to tell. 

Great ‘box and go for Magnetic Ride
Using the transmission in manual mode is engaging and rewarding. A downshift comes with a metered dose of engine revs, while an upshift occurs in the blink of an eye. The level of driver involvement in such a car is unmatched. I must add that steering is highly precise, but without feedback, while the large brakes provide equally immense stopping power. 

The available Magnetic Ride Control suspension was found in both cars I drove, and it is safe to say that if you purchase a CT6, get this suspension. Despite the absence of a custom mode with the available Drive Modes (Normal, Sport, Winter), the CT6 is plenty sporty and “smart” in Normal. The multi-link front and rear suspension caresses the road’s surface and keeps all the wheels in check. 

I noticed a pinch of understeer at times on tight switchbacks -- but it’s nothing to worry about. Let’s not forget the active rear steering (3.5 degrees of turn out of phase at low speed, 2.7 degrees in phase at higher speed) that helps with stability, and to create a very tight turning radius (11.3 metres or 80cm more than a 2016 Cruze). 

Loaded with loads of stuff
Moving on to content. Here, my review could triple in length if I went over just a third of the features one can get with the CT6. Picture leather covered heated/cooled/massaging seats all around; a massive 10.2” centre display; a revised more powerful CUE system; quad-zone climate control; rear dual display screens; 12” display screen gauge cluster; a 34-speaker Bose Panaray audio system; and much, much more. It’s all there, but the best part is that it all comes together tastefully.  

Unlike the CTS, the CT6’s (confusing, eh?) passenger interface is limited to only a few HVAC controls and (thankfully) they are responsive. A haptic touchpad is located on the centre console, but I’ve yet to use one that does not require a substantial amount of attention to work. Although the big screen is high and away from the occupants, it’s still the best way to navigate menus. 

A new feature is the rear-camera mirror that streams HD video into the rearview mirror. It represents a 300% increase in rearward vision, however, I found it very difficult to focus on the image compared to the usual reflection. A button cycles from one mode to another. With time, this may become an excellent attribute. 

Creature comforts
The seats are incredibly comfortable. The level of support makes you feel as though you are floating above the seat. The rear perches are equally relaxing. I must admit that I spent loads of time in loaded Platinum CT6s  -- I never wanted to exit the car. 

Beyond all the creature comforts and amenities, it’s the craftsmanship that caught my eye. The blending of real woods, stitching and leathers is tastefully and expertly done. Note that all materials are actually real, so even the carbon fibre is authentic although it looks glossy and fake. 

Assured stance
And then, there’s the way the CT6 sits and stares back at you. The subtle yet defined elegance of Cadillac’s new look is very well represented here. Creases, proportions, and the lovely amount of restraint on behalf of the designers (limited amounts of chrome) graciously comes together -- nothing's over the top. The car is beautiful. The “dash to axle is exciting” ratio is exciting and dynamic. 

This new Cadillac CT6 proves that GM is back in the business of making cars for both drivers and the discriminating luxury buyer. This big sedan combines the agility and performance of a smaller car, but with S-Class/A8/7 Series interior space. This Caddy is an in-between-er, much like Nissan’s new TITAN and I’m very curious to see where this will lead carmakers. 

Cadillac’s goal is to attract a younger buyer so they’ll likely capture the older folk’s attention. As they say: “You can sell a young man's car to an old man, but not vice-versa.” Thing is, however good it might be I’m not convinced it will be given a sufficient chance to shine. We’ll have to wait and see. 

The Cadillac CT6 will be in showrooms as of March. FYI, the top-line Platinum 3.0TT retails for $99,220, about $3k less than a base S-Class.

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2016 Cadillac CT6
cadillac ct6 2016
2016 Cadillac CT6
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Photos:M.St-Pierre
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2016 Cadillac CT6