In case you haven’t noticed, Cadillac has been fielding one of the most formidable and cohesive luxury lineups in the industry. It doesn’t have any downmarket follies to deal with like Mercedes-Benz, or a sprawling mess of crossovers like BMW, or models with interchangeable styling like Audi. Instead, Cadillac has a clear, concise portfolio ranging from the ATS to the Escalade that offers both world-class luxury and performance, bringing it closer to its classic “Standard of the World” motto than it has been since LBJ was in The White House.
Sitting comfortably at the top of the range is the all-new for 2016 CT6, a full-size luxury sedan that cleverly manages to “hit ’em where they ain’t” so far as the competition is concerned. As far as length (204 inches), interior space (plenty), and amenities go, the car is every bit an S-Class/7 Series/A8 competitor. But with a $54,490 base price, it’s firmly in midsize E-Class/5 Series/A6 territory, and with top trim cars coming in close to $90K, it’s an ultra-luxury bargain considering you can’t drive an S-Class off the lot for less than $97K.
But don’t let the price tag fool you; the CT6 scrimps on nothing and has everything you’d want from a big, powerful, rear-wheel drive luxury sedan. We’ve been big fans of the car since it was revealed at the 2015 New York Auto Show, but on our recent first drive, we were still surprised by how good it is. Cadillac has spared no expense building a world-class flagship, and after a quick spin in one, we think it might be time to start talking about Cadillac’s “ambitious comeback” in the past tense. Because with the CT6, not only does it feel like the brand is back, but it hasn’t missed a beat.
Our Moonstone metallic over light cashmere leather test car had the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6, which pumped out 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. While a big V8 is the norm in cars like these, the Caddy bests the BMW 7 Series’ entry-level inline-six by some 80 horses, and the Audi A8’s six by a healthy 67. And while its current lineup of inline-fours and V6s are more than enough of a match for the car, a model-exclusive 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8 will arrive shortly, giving the CT6 plenty of power to compete with the upper-end of the German flagships.
Inside, the hand-stitched leather covers nearly every touchable surface — at least, any surface that isn’t already covered by aluminum and wood, giving it a classic luxury car feel. And while we don’t usually spend time waxing poetic on wood trim, the lumber in CT6 could be the best in the industry. Thick slabs cover swaths of the dash and center console, and it’s finished in a way that looks and feels substantial. It recalls classics from Jaguar and Rolls-Royce in a way that few (if any) modern cars do, and it helps to make the cabin a hard place to leave.
That isn’t to say it feels old; in fact, it feels completely contemporary. Cadillac’s CUE system has been updated (it gets better with each generation), and the haptic controls are now pressure sensitive, giving you more more feedback when you want to adjust the stereo and HVAC systems. The digital instrument panel and 10.2-inch touchscreen are big, bold, and responsive, and available safety features like night vision and a suite of radar, camera, and ultrasonic sensors are enough for you to question why Audi is considered the tech luxury brand du jour when you can have it in the CT6 with a lot more style for a lot less money.
Thanks to the car’s hybrid high-strength steel/aluminum construction and sound deadening, the CT6 is an incredibly quiet place to be — that is unless you opt for the exclusive Bose Panaray sound system, which we highly suggest you do. With 34 speakers strategically placed throughout the car, not only is it one of the best factory stereo systems we’ve ever heard, it sounds better than some systems our audiophile friends have in their homes.
While its German competitors all offer sport versions of their big sedans, Cadillac has no plans to turn the CT6 into a big, tire-roasting track toy. That said, it’s still a performer; our drive included some seriously twisty mountain roads, and the car handled them with ease, staying level in the corners and pulling hard under acceleration. It’s the type of acceleration you feel but don’t hear, and it suits the CT6 perfectly.
The 3.0-liter twin turbo car can hit 60 from a standstill in 5.7 seconds — that’s Mustang EcoBoost territory. And while we wouldn’t dare compare Ford’s four-cylinder ponycar to Cadillac’s flagship otherwise, the CT6’s aforementioned lightweight steel and aluminum build means the full-size sedan weighs roughly the same as the ‘Stang (a shade under 2 tons), and is some 600 pounds lighter than the lightest 7 Series. That light weight paired with the brand’s famous Magnetic Ride Control and available four-wheel steering makes the CT6 surprisingly agile for its size. Call us crazy, but once the V8 becomes available, we have a feeling that performance-minded buyers may not even miss a V-Sport version.
Our time with the CT6 may have been brief, but it was more than enough to make a lasting impression, which is more than we can say about some of its more established competitors. Yes, the old guard enjoys a high degree of brand loyalty, but the premium for a three-pointed star, four rings, or a roundel suddenly looks a little ridiculous compared to Cadillac’s new contender.
Thankfully, the CT6 isn’t another case of “follow the leader” — an all-too-common mistake made by the competition. Instead, it’s fresh, bold, and opulent, just like a classic American luxury car should be. That said, it’s also quick, stylish, and loaded with cutting-edge tech, just like you’d expect from a world-class modern luxury car. If you’re in the market for top-shelf luxury, you’d be crazy if you didn’t spend some time with a CT6. And yes, that’s our professional opinion.