2016 CADILLAC CT6
Lightweight construction, big performance makes for a fitting flagship
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.
PHOTO: MARK HACKI NG