Light­weight con­struc­tion, big per­for­mance makes for a fit­ting flag­ship

Ignition - - Contents Table 0f - By Mark Hack­ing

Cadil­lac is killing it! Last year, the most Amer­i­can of car brands threw down the gaunt­let with first the ATS-V and then the CTS-V. Th­ese two rep­re­sent the most po­tent one-two per­for­mance car punch since the hey­day of the BMW M3 and M5 which, de­pend­ing on your per­sonal pref­er­ences, was likely 1985, 1998 or 2005.

Both the ATS-V and CTS-V are also strong con­tenders for the best over­all per­for­mance car in the world at the mo­ment. Now, we have the Cadil­lac CT6, a dif­fer­ent kind of ve­hi­cle to be sure, but one that is no less im­pres­sive from an en­gi­neer­ing stand­point.

The lat­est Cadil­lac is an ex­ec­u­tive-class sedan that aims to throw this par­tic­u­lar seg­ment into dis­ar­ray. In fact, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the car­maker say that the CT6 sig­nals a new for­mula for a pres­tige sedan: the spa­cious­ness and el­e­gance of a proper flag­ship, the agility and per­for­mance of a smaller sedan.

The key to this for­mula starts with the di­men­sions of the ve­hi­cle it­self.

The ex­te­rior mea­sure­ments for the CT6 place it smartly in be­tween tra­di­tional mid­size sedans such as the Mercedes E-class, BMW 5 Se­ries and Audi A6, and tra­di­tional ex­ec­u­tive-class sedans like the S-class, 7 Se­ries and A8. Its wheel­base is long –

un­be­liev­ably, the back seat boasts more legroom than a cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Es­calade – so the CT6 rep­re­sents an in­spired so­lu­tion for the Chi­nese mar­ket, where long-wheel­base ver­sions of cars such as the BMW 3 Se­ries and Volvo S60 are com­mon.

To com­plete the di­men­sional pic­ture, the CT6 fea­tures light­weight con­struc­tion that in­cor­po­rates 62 per cent alu­minum and five dif­fer­ent ad­vanced join­ing so­lu­tions to fur­ther slash mass and en­sure chas­sis rigid­ity. The en­gi­neers at Cadil­lac started this pro­ject with the no­tion of build­ing an all-alu­minum body, but they weren’t happy with the in­creased noise trans­fer of the light­weight ma­te­rial com­pared to steel, so they landed on a mixed-ma­te­rial con­cept.

The re­sults are im­pres­sive: Cadil­lac claims that the four-cylin­der ver­sion of the CT6 is the light­est car in its class (1,659 kg) and is some 450 kg leaner than the fittest ver­sion of the Mercedes S-class. Tellingly, the CT6 is also lighter than the base CTS, which is also a pretty handy sedan in terms of power-to-weight.

Un­der that low hood, there are three dif­fer­ent en­gines avail­able: a tur­bocharged 2.0L four-cylin­der, a nat­u­rallyaspi­rated 3.6L V6 and a 3.0L twin­tur­bocharged V6. All en­gines are linked to an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Dur­ing the drive event held out­side San Diego, we fo­cused on the top-of-the-line ver­sion and sam­pled the four-cylin­der for com­par­i­son pur­poses.

Of course, the twin-turbo V6 pro­duced more ex­cite­ment in a straight line; this was to be ex­pected from an en­gine with 404 horse­power un­der foot. (This en­gine also fea­tures cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion and au­to­matic stop/start for bet­ter ef­fi­ciency.) The lighter four-cylin­der (265 hp) was no slouch, but it was a rear-wheel drive set-up that seemed less adept on the curvi­est sec­tions of road com­pared to the AWD ver­sion.

All ver­sions come fit­ted with ac­tive rear steer­ing, which re­duces the turn­ing cir­cle and helps the CT6 carve cor­ners more read­ily. The rear wheels turn 3.5 de­grees out of phase at slow speeds, 2.75 de­grees in phase at high speeds.

The full-tilt CT6 also fea­tures the on-de­mand AWD sys­tem. In sport mode (the raci­est of the three driver-se­lectable set­tings), 80 per cent of the torque is sent to the rear wheels, giv­ing the Cadil­lac a level of con­nect­ed­ness that was en­tirely un­ex­pected. For sure, that mo­ment when you turn the CT6 into a cor­ner at high speed makes you re­al­ize that this isn’t your typ­i­cal ex­ec­u­tive-class sedan. Then, when the roads took a turn for the worse, the op­tional Magnetic Ride Con­trol sys­tem en­sured com­po­sure.

Of course, this par­tic­u­lar Cadil­lac isn’t meant to re­place the ATS-V or CTS-V dur­ing week­ends at the track– that’s just not its pur­pose. But the bril­liance of the CT6 is that top-notch en­gi­neer­ing un­der­pins what is an hon­est-to-good­ness pres­tige sedan. If you re­mem­ber the Amer­i­can brand of lux­ury from Cadil­lac of­fer­ings of long ago, you will likely be well pleased with this lat­est model as well.

As is now tra­di­tion with the new­est of Cadil­lac ve­hi­cles, the in­te­rior of the CT6 is an in­spired mix of wood, leather and metal. There is a wealth of mixand-match in­te­rior treat­ments avail­able to the cus­tomer; the vari­a­tions we saw were uni­ver­sally ex­cel­lent in terms of look and feel.

If there’s one glar­ing weak­ness in this par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle, it’s with re­spect to tech­nol­ogy. Full credit to Cadil­lac for push­ing the en­ve­lope when it comes to in­cor­po­rat­ing new think­ing, but it seems un­likely that the tar­get cus­tomer for the CT6 will re­spond.

Ex­am­ple: The re­vised CUE sys­tem is bet­ter than be­fore, and in the CT6 there is a new touch­pad that can be used to trig­ger the touch­screen. But the func­tion­ing of the sys­tem is still not as in­tu­itive or re­spon­sive as more tra­di­tional switches, or even some other man­u­fac­tur­ers’ ro­tary dial sys­tems.

The sys­tem in­cor­po­rates a 360-de­gree cam­era to ease park­ing tasks and night-vi­sion. Also, the CT6 fea­tures the world’s first pro­duc­tion car rear cam­era mir­ror, which projects an ul­tra-sharp wide-an­gle view of what’s be­hind the car into the rearview mir­ror. Un­for­tu­nately, if the sun is at the wrong an­gle, it messes with that view, cre­at­ing a dou­ble-im­age. (This fea­ture can be de­ac­ti­vated with a switch, turn­ing the mir­ror into a reg­u­lar piece of glass.)

Back on the pos­i­tive side of the ledger, the op­tional mas­sag­ing seats are the best in the busi­ness and the like­wise op­tional Pa­naray au­dio sys­tem from Bose is in­cred­i­ble. (The ef­fort the en­gi­neers have put forth to slash noise in the CT6 has set the stage for some truly mem­o­rable driv­ing sound­track mo­ments.)

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, the 2016 Cadil­lac CT6 is a smartly en­gi­neered ve­hi­cle and the lat­est win­ner from a brand that should now be ac­cus­tomed to win­ning. In terms of ex­te­rior de­sign, it isn’t as bold as the level of en­gi­neer­ing or tech­nol­ogy might sug­gest; in­stead, it’s suit­ably un­der­stated, which is what would be ex­pected of an ex­ec­u­tive-class sedan. But in ev­ery other re­spect, the CT6 is a car that will make peo­ple sit up and take no­tice.


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