Cadillac’s all-new prestige sedan looks fantastic and impresses on many levels.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
When it comes to full-size luxury sedans, manufacturers don’t move a lot of them, but they certainly do pour their hearts and souls into their flagship offerings. Perhaps that’s why Cadillac has felt like an also-ran in this category for years. What they’ve offered has often paled in comparison to the likes of the Audi A8, the Mercedes S-class, the BMW 7-series and even those that don’t come to mind instantly, like Lexus’ LS and Jaguar’s XJ. When it comes to the all-new CT6, Cadillac has obviously pulled up their socks. They have presented a new assault on the luxury class, and their first attempt to compete on the world stage is a solid effort. The CT6 is Cadillac’s first full-size rear-wheel drive sedan since the 1996 Fleetwood. After spending a week with the CT6, I feel as though Cadillac may be embarking on a bold journey and it all starts with this new sedan.
The CT6 is an all-new vehicle for Cadillac and gets a big, impressive exterior with styling that is impossible to ignore. I personally think it’s stunning, and I loved the low stance which means there isn’t a whole lot of wheel well above the tires. The stylists have sculpted the CT6’s lines to look good from every angle, and the long profile is blessed with fantastic proportions and a very refined character. It looks slick, modern and strong. And it has quite a presence. It didn’t matter where we were, people stared at the CT6.
I’m a big fan of Cadillac’s use of LEDs in lighting their vehicles these days. The headlights are LEDs and those vertical waterfall driving lights are very distinctive and make you very visible to oncoming traffic. Even the LED tail light signature is memorable. The concierge lighting feature is pretty cool too – as soon as you walk up to the car (with the fob on your person), headlights, tail lights and door handle lighting turns on to welcome you. The whole package is completed with a set of gorgeous 20-inch rims and bright quad exhaust tips.
Sitting down in the CT6’s spacious cabin is a revelation. Even though you won’t find anything really ground-breaking in terms of styling, the CT6’s is a truly world-class interior, crafted out of premium materials. You’ll find plenty of stitched surfaces, and everything is sumptuous and soft-touch. The wood trim is real and exotic, there’s perforated leather around the touchscreen, those carbon fiber inserts are actually legit and the chrome trim is classy and delightful to look at. And the fit and finish was perfect. The Jet Black interior was quite dark, and I would personally go for one of the lighter toned options – there are three different colour packages you can choose from.
The heated and cooled seats, insanely adjustable with memory settings, are very comfortable around town and on extended highway runs. I found the heated steering wheel (with an electronically-adjustable steering column) very comfortable to use, and the all-digital instrument cluster behind it is made up of a high-resolution 12-inch screen. It shows a tach on the left, speedometer in the middle and fuel and temperature gauges on the right. The coolest part is that the centre portion of each “gauge” can be configured to display a ton of different information and I loved that flexibility. It is well done, and whichever option the driver chooses, it remains clear and easy to read.
Front and centre is a big 10-inch touchscreen which gets Cadillac’s improved CUE system with navigation. You can also use the touchpad on the console to control things – it works pretty well but I ended up preferring touching the screen directly. I found it to be quite responsive and I liked the haptic feedback. The 10-speaker BOSE system sounds delightful. Of course, if that’s not enough, you could also opt for the BOSE Panaray upgrade which places 34(!!!) speakers around the cabin. Yes, that reads thirty-four. I can’t even imagine where they’d find room for all of them, but apparently it’s possible. There are dual sunroofs overhead.
In this trim, the CT6 delivers with a (nearly) full suite of driver assistance technology – surround-vision cameras for the backup monitor, parking sensors front and back, forward collision alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, configurable heads-up display and automatic park assist for parallel and perpendicular parking. There’s also a streaming-video rear-view mirror. It’s mostly good, but the truth is, I turned off that tech and reverted to a good old traditional mirror-mirror. This bit of tech felt like an answer to a question that I hadn’t asked.
I say “nearly” because, irritatingly (especially at this price), adaptive cruise control isn’t included. That’s a big omission in my books, because I had it on the $27,000 Honda Civic I reviewed a few weeks earlier. I think you’ve gotta throw that tech in at this price, Cadillac. I also think it’s a bit weird that there isn’t a separate rear climate control system – again, at this price, that is something I would expect not to be optional. I mention that because it is available, but as a part of an optional (and pricey) rear seat package.
Once I got into the back, I found an enormous amount of leg room and plenty of head room. I’m 5’10” and had a ton of space. The middle seating position does straddle a significant floor tunnel, however all three of my kids were fine back there – even for the road trip. The two outboard seats are heated and those passengers get a few unusual toys to play with. The power rear sunshade can be controlled by either rear passenger (as well as from the front). The same goes for the moonroof’s sunshade – the rear one can be controlled by either rear passenger. Because I have three kids under 13 years of age, that flexibility and control was a curse, because I was constantly enjoying a moving sunshade in my rearview or listening to a Battle of the Pre-Teen Sunshade Operators soundtrack overhead. I wish I could have turned off the rear seat passengers’ controls for those things. The folks in the back get side window sunshades too.
All the charging ports/plugs face forward below the middle rear seat cushion which makes the rear of the centre console nice and clean – all you’ll find there are air vents and a couple of useful storage bins. If you’re only moving two rear passengers, the middle seatback folds down to become a very nice armrest with a tray, a lidded storage bin and two cupholders. The whole thing is hand-stitched and looks deluxe – it would be at home in a high-end limo. If you consider the CT6’s top-line Platinum trim, you really could use it as a high-end limo, since you’ll have reclining rear seats, increased entertainment options, a quad-zone climate control system and more. Of note, a Platinum trim CT6 will easily crack the $100,000 mark.
Cadillac gives you a little storage space under the side-hinged armrest lid and there’s a soft-touch button on the dash to open the glove compartment. What I really loved was the phone storage solution. It’s an angled, rubberized tray that lets you slide your phone partially underneath the front of the armrest lid – that tray also includes a wireless charging mat and cable access to plug your phone in, if you want to use Apple CarPlay.
Pop the power trunk lid, you’ll find a spacious 433 litre cargo space with a rear seat pass-through for transporting long skinny items.
Under the Hood
My review car was a 3.0L twin-turbo V6-powered all-wheel drive CT6. This all-new powerplant churns out 404 horsepower, and more importantly 400 lb.ft of torque at 2500 RPM. The whole thing is mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. We averaged 10.3 L/100 km (23 US mpg) over the course of a week, where we drove just over 700 kms.
On paper, you’d expect outstanding acceleration from the CT6. Unfortunately the programming is such that the CT6 never seems to want to launch quickly. It always takes a couple of seconds to start building momentum from standing start. Of course during normal driving, that isn’t noticeable. But when you’re at a merge point, trying to launch into moving traffic, those two seconds seem like an eternity and become quite worrisome. Now once things kick in, there is no question that the engine is putting down the claimed amount of power. Anything around town or on the highway while you’re on the move is easily achieved with ample, smooth power delivery and even high-speed passing is done with aplomb. I think Cadillac needs to address the relationship between the engine and the transmission for quicker or full-throttle standing starts – otherwise I was very happy with the performance of the CT6’s powertrain.
The new 8-speed autobox is slick, and seems to be quite intelligent. The driver can shift gears using the paddles – gear changes are quick enough, but the transmission is usually smart enough to be in the right gear so I didn’t really bother. There are three driving modes – Tour, Sport and Snow/Ice. These impact the suspension’s tautness, the throttle response and the transmission programming. They aren’t hugely transformative, but you do notice a mild difference in suspension firmness and in the acceleration when you bump it up to Sport. Annoyingly, Sport mode also caused the transmission to hang on a lower gear occasionally, as if it was hesitant to shift up, even when being driven very sedately. The end result was a bit of clunkiness and lurchiness at lower speeds, although this was infrequent.
GM’s Magnetic Ride Control and active rear steering makes the CT6 surprisingly agile and secure on the road. It allowed the car to soak up the hits, big and small, at all speeds, while keeping the suspension firm and controlled. And the handling could almost be called athletic considering the size of this thing. It was a joy to throw this beast into corners and be surprised at how flat it stays and how competently it grips the tarmac. Of course the fact that the CT6 weighs less than the smaller CTS helps make things more sprightly too.
Cadillac put a good set of brakes into the CT6, and visibility out of the car is excellent. I’ve read complaints about the automatic start/stop technology’s smoothness but I found it completely unobtrusive – I couldn’t feel the engine stopping or starting unless I was actively waiting for it.
The CT6 is a delightful road trip partner. We went for a 300 km road trip and found it exceedingly comfortable and nearly silent – even at high speeds, the wind and road noise were virtually non-existent. You’ll only hear from the engine when you’re accelerating, but even then it’s quite subdued. Speaking of engine noise, the twin-turbo V6 doesn’t sound as great as a German V8 does, but I’m guessing that is not something most people shopping in this category will give a hoot about.
So is the new Cadillac CT6 the new standard for excellence? No, it’s not. The competition is too strong and too advanced for it to swoop in and snag that title outright. But it certainly is competitive, and with a few tweaks to the existing powertrain, it will make its way into the top three in my opinion. I like that there is plenty of flexibility in terms of building this car – you can even choose a turbo 2-litre four-cylinder rear-wheel drive version – and you can pick from a substantial number of trim levels and option packages.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. Although she didn’t enjoy the sheer size of the vehicle, she said it was still easy to drive around town and she loved how smoothly it ate up endless miles on the highway. She also felt the CUE system was easy to operate, which is important in two ways – she usually doesn’t comment on the user interfaces in cars and she despised previous CUE systems. Finally, she really loved the exterior and interior and said it looks and feels like a very expensive car.
I agree with her. One reason is obviously because it is a very expensive car. 85 grand isn’t cheap, but then again the competition comes in higher than that. Cadillac has come up with a solid first effort on the CT6. A beautifully styled large but relatively light-weight sedan, sporting a spacious and luxuriously appointed cabin full of current technology, a thoroughly-modern chassis, powerplant and a truly world-class suspension. That’s a big deal and although I don’t expect Caddy dealerships to move a ton of CT6s, I think those shopping in this category would do well to check them out. They’re a great sign of things to come for this brand, and the CT6 is a car that can hold its head up high. Even among those snobbish German rivals.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Don Wheaton.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2016 Cadillac CT6
Base price (Twin Turbo Premium Luxury trim): $76,790
Options: $3,895 active chassis package; $1, 145 crystal white tricoat paint; $150 block heater; $995 comfort package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $85,025