A bold beauty

BY MICHEL DESLAURIERS. Dec 30 04:00 am

Cadillac has set out to battle the well-established players in the full-size luxury segment by introducing the new CT6. While it certainly isn’t the biggest car Cadillac has ever made, it is the largest car in the current lineup.

Bigger than the CTS, bigger than the limo-fleet sweetheart XTS, the 2016 Cadillac CT6 rivals in size with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 Series and the Audi A8. It has a longer wheelbase than the regular versions of these German sedans, slightly longer overall, about as high, but not quite as wide. So yeah, it’s big.

A slew of available powertrains is a prerequisite in this group, which the CT6 has. A turbocharged, 2.0-litre four serves up 265 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque; interesting, but it might not be substantial enough for duty in a car of this size and prestige. Stepping up to the naturally aspirated, 3.6-litre V-6 is a no-brainer, which boasts 335 hp and 284 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s also exclusively matched to all-wheel drive, another no-brainer in Canada. This is the engine and drivetrain combo we tested, which also includes an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Performance is, well, good. Not stupid fast, though. For that, buyers will need to move up to the twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V-6 that belches out 404 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque.

But for everyday driving — and the occasional back-road shenanigans — the non-blown V-6 will do the trick. It’s also smooth, but can growl when asked to.

We recorded a decent average of 11.4 L/100 km during our test, and this engine can run on regular unleaded.

And then there’s the upcoming, 2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid, which will be on sale in spring. Mercedes and BMW each have one, by the way. It combines the 2.0L turbo with two electric motors and an electronically controlled, variable automatic transmission for a total output of 335 hp and 432 lb.-ft of torque. According to the brand, the CT6 PHEV can hit 96 km/h (0-60 mph) in 5.2 seconds, about as fast as the twin-turbo CT6. It can also cover a distance of about 48 kilometres in electric-only mode and travel at speeds of up to 125 km/h. That is, until the gas engine kicks in and keeps pushing the car up to 240 km/h.

The 2016 Cadillac CT6 drives well, although we found the ride surprisingly harsh over poorly maintained roads — and that’s with the optional Magnetic Ride shocks, too. We always expect pillowy softness in a Caddy, but lest we forget this is a modern-day model, not an ‘80s Brougham d’Élégance or a ‘90s Fleetwood. Times have changed, and so have the brand’s customers.

On the other hand, with the optional rear-wheel steering package, the CT6 offers surprisingly good handling characteristics. You can’t discern it under normal driving, but at higher speeds, the car feels nimbler than its 1781-kilogram curb weight suggests. Come to think of it, that’s actually very light for a full-size luxury car. The other advantage here is that with rear-wheel steering, the CT6’s turning circle shrinks from 12.2 to 11.3 metres. In a crowded shopping mall parking lot, that makes a huge difference.

Inside the 2016 Cadillac CT6, fit and finish is swell, but not as impressive as what’s found in its German rivals. The overall design is simple and elegant, some trim finishes look good, and yet there’s a certain richness found in the S-Class and the 7 Series that’s missing here. However, justification does come in the form of a more affordable price.

For the most part, the car’s switchgear is easy to use, whether we’re adjusting the front seats or fiddling with the climate-control system. The Cadillac CUE interface, which some of us like and some don’t, is improved a little here with the addition of a laptop-like touchpad on the console, but it doesn’t make the system more loveable. Actually, the touchscreen is decently responsive, at least more than before.

The Bose Panaray surround sound system seemed promising, with no less than 34 speakers spread around the cabin, including in the headrests. It performs well, no doubt, but didn’t blow our minds like a good Burmester or Bang & Olufsen stereo does in the German sedans.

The 2016 Cadillac CT6 starts out at a low $61,695 before freight and delivery charges. Low, that is, for a full-size luxury sedan. However, keep in mind that it applies to a base, rear-drive version with the four-cylinder engine. Stepping up to the V6-powered CT6 Luxury, the price climbs to $68,930. Add the Active Chassis Package, the Enhanced Vision & Comfort Package, the Rear-seat Package, the Bose Panaray stereo — which costs $4,255 — and an extra charge for the paint colour and the car you see in these pictures is priced at just under $83,000. A loaded-to-the-gills Twin-Turbo Platinum variant barely cracks the $100,000 mark.

That’s actually not bad, considering a BMW 750i xDrive is listed at $114,000, a Mercedes-Benz S 400 4MATIC costs $103,000 and up, and an Audi A8 starts at $86,000. Yet somehow, the CT6 doesn’t feel like we’re comparing apples to apples. Apart from the Caddy’s size, there’s a difference in luxury and sophistication here that makes us think a 7 Series or S-Class buyer won’t look at the CT6. Ah, but stepping down a rung to the 5 Series and E-Class, and the big Cadillac makes more sense.

Simply put, the CT6 is a sure-footed large sedan that’s spacious and comfortable. It may be causing a feud by stepping on the toes of its CTS and XTS sisters, and there’s a risk of cannibalizing sales within GM’s luxury brand, but it’s a better car for hunting down the German competition.

— The Canadian Press

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