Detroit battles the S-Class with a decidedly American take on the luxury sedan.
– Detroit, Michigan
Almost every day when I leave the Motor1 office, I follow a trailer full of Cadillac CT6 sedans and Chevy Volt plug-ins onto the freeway. The Hamtramck plant that builds the two very dissimilar cars is only a mile away from our Detroit headquarters; there are only three cars being built within the city limits, the third being the ultra low-volume Viper. Building the Cadillac CT6 here was no accident – it’s a strong signal that this new Caddy is an all-American take on the luxury sedan.
The pinnacle of the Cadillac range (for now, at least), the CT6 is a large, comfortable luxury machine in the traditional genre. But it’s also supremely modern: made from a mix of aluminum and steel, to shave weight; packing four- and six-cylinder engines but no V8, to save fuel; and loaded with new technologies, to compete with the best German rivals. While it might not be enough to knock the Mercedes-Benz S-Class off its best-in-class mantle, the CT6 comes closer than any Cadillac has for years.
- It’s hugely spacious. The Cadillac CT6 is a long car – though a couple inches shorter than its German rivals, the A8, 7 Series, and S-Class – but its proportions don’t make it look huge or bloated. The benefit to its 204-inch length is immense interior room. Adult passengers luxuriate in acres of legroom in the back seats, and the trunk is similarly generous, with plentiful storage for a long vacation’s-worth of luggage.
- Once you’re comfortably ensconced in that roomy cabin, the rest of the world seems to melt away. The suspension dilutes all but the harshest bumps, while the car itself is so well insulated you’ll barely hear any outside noises. Which is fine, because the interior noises are great, too…
- Debate all you want about the virtues of a high-end sound system in a moving car with lots of background noise, but the $3,700 Bose Panaray system fitted to this car is worth the admission price. Thanks to a whopping 34 speakers (other CT6s come with 8- or 10-speaker Bose setups) and clever digital signal processing, every song I listened to came through incredibly crisp, clear, lifelike, and more than loud enough to drown out the noise of other traffic. Audiophiles should note that a CD player is only available as an option on the CT6, but between several USB ports, an auxiliary port, and Bluetooth audio streaming, there are plenty of ways to get your music to the Bose system.
- The well-appointed interior lives up to the price tag. I love the smart materials in the CT6, the very modern design, and the minimalism of the center stack. Instead of buttons and flash and glitz, the Cadillac’s cabin delivers style with plenty of function. The fully digital instrument cluster is an excellent touch, especially with the ability to replace the speedometer with an optional night vision display. I also love how neatly Cadillac integrated the 10.2-inch CUE touchscreen into the dashboard. Whereas some cars simply tack the screen on, as if simply installing an iPad Mini, Cadillac’s designers deftly mounted the display as part of the very button-free center stack.
- The CT6 could do with making a bolder styling statement. It’s a handsome car, with lovely proportions and a striking light signature that instantly identifies it as a Cadillac. But from the Mercedes-like chrome grille to the soft, plain rump, the CT6 is much more anonymous than Cadillac’s striking ATS and CTS.
- Though upshifts are silky-smooth, the eight-speed automatic transmission routinely jolts as it descends through its ratios. The effect is most notable when slowing gently to a stop, as the downshift into first gear jerks through the whole car at about four miles per hour. It’s an unwelcome trait in a gearbox that is otherwise notable for the fact that occupants rarely notice it.
- The biturbo 3.0-liter V6 engine has smoothness and refinement in spades. What I wish it had more of was head-jerking thrust. The CT6 will get up and hustle when you wake up both turbos, but it never feels as powerful as the 404-hp label promises. Where’s the urgent punch I love in the CTS VSport’s 420-hp biturbo 3.6-liter engine?
- I like using the new touchpad as much as I like the touchpads in Lexus cars: Not at all. It’s finicky and overly sensitive; tapping the larger, clear touchscreen is far easier and less distracting when behind the wheel.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com