► Cadillac’s new luxury saloon tested
► Lots to like, but a few problems too
► Yours for £70k, but LHD only
You there, at the back – stop sniggering. Yes, the press kit for the new Cadillac CT6 does draw comparisons with the BMW 7-series and Audi A6. Yes, they’re being serious. And yes, the launch of the CT6 does mark yet another step in yet another attempt from Cadillac to make noticeable – and lasting – headway in the European market.
There’s more to this new luxury saloon than meets the eye, however. Like many a recently launched Cadillac product – including the CTS, ATS and high-performance ‘V’ spin-offs – there’s a depth of engineering and potential talent present that makes the CT6 worthy of further investigation.
You may question the above. After all, when high-end European brands are flaunting advanced kit like electronically controlled all-wheel-drive systems, four-wheel steering, cylinder deactivation, eight-speed transmissions and electronically adjustable magnetorheological suspension, how is a brand like Cadillac going to grab any headlines?
Well, by cramming all of the above – and a slickly engineered twin-turbocharged V6, among other things – into its new CT6 saloon, that’s how. That’s right: it might not be a highfalutin European offerin’, but it damned well packs the tech to rival ’em.
You can even order one from Cadillac’s sole UK outlet, this time around – albeit in left-hand-drive form only. You’ll pay a hefty £69,990 for the privilege, though, meaning it runs immediately into some pretty serious premium European competition.
Wait, did you say a twin-turbo V6 in the Cadillac CT6?
That’s right – Cadillac hasn’t just gone down the sling-an-LS-family-engine-in-it route; this is a far more modern and power-dense solution. It’s an all-aluminium quad-cam 3.0-litre unit with direct injection, variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation. All in, it cranks out 412bhp and a stout 409lb ft, the latter of which comes on song from 2500rpm – and then runs all the way to 5100rpm.
Similarly modern, on paper, is the drivetrain and chassis. The force-fed six is coupled to a GM-designed eight-speed torque converter automatic, the output from which is then split between all four wheels. The motor does have its work cut out, given that the Cadillac clocks in at a not-insignificant 2050kg – but the CT6 has a lot working in its favour to aid it in making the most of the engine’s output.
Outside of the aforementioned electronically adjustable magnetorheological suspension system and four-wheel steering, the CT6 benefits from a variable assistance and ratio steering rack, five-link rear suspension and substantial Brembo front brakes.
Cadillac even claims that the body of the CT6 is stiffer than the likes of the BMW 5-series and Audi A6, which should help the suspension do its job properly – as well as laying the groundwork for a quiet, solid-feeling car.
So, is the CT6 fast?
Jump on the pedal and, outside of doing passing impression of a Nissan GT-R at full chat, the CT6 will sprint from 0-62mph in just 5.7sec. Thanks to the all-wheel-drive system, it’s easy to deploy the V6’s prodigious torque and get the big saloon off the line, and acceleration is always vigorous – even at motorways speeds.
That said, the powertrain’s not without its faults. The engine is a charismatic, muscular unit with masses of mid-range torque and a free-revving nature – which would all be good, if it wasn’t hamstrung by a transmission that’s as indecisive as a small child in an ice cream parlour. This eight-speed automatic does a fine job of detracting from the overall experience in the CTS and ATS, so it’s even more of a shame that Cadillac hasn’t revised it.
Roll on the throttle and the gearbox might drop one, two or three gears, or climb through the ratios instead. Approach a corner and you might, just might get a crisp downshift before the turn – or the ’box may stay in gear and labour the engine through the bend instead, before dropping a handful of ratios on the other side.
It’s consequently very difficult to make smooth, rapid progress in all-automatic mode – which is a pain, because given the engine’s reserves of torque, there’s really no need for the gearbox to continually hunt through the ratios. At least in full manual mode it typically delivers swift, sharp shifts (and doesn’t automatically upshift), but you then have to interact with the Cadillac’s less-than-tactile plastic shift paddles. Swings and roundabouts.
Is it still all about living life a quarter mile at a time, though?
No, this Cadillac’s more than capable of dispatching corners at a fair rate of knots. The steering has a natural, accurate feel to it – and plenty of weight, helping the Cadillac track straight and true at higher speeds. Turn into a corner and the four-wheel-steering system unobtrusively steps in to work its magic, boosting the car’s agility and helping deliver a poised, responsive cornering feel.
There’s not a huge amount of feedback, but there’s enough information relayed to you to grant some understanding of what’s going on up front – which is good, because you can carry some serious speed through corners in the CT6. That’s in part thanks to an impressive degree of front-end grip, and partly because the AWD grants you the ability to continue putting the power down mid-corner – although the CT6 still feels like an inherently rear-driven saloon. It even does a remarkable job of masking its kerb weight, feeling far more lithe than the figures would suggest.
The ride quality serves as a further reminder as to how much the Cadillac has changed, technologically and in character. The CT6 gets down the road in a reassured, composed and taut fashion, and feels like many a European rival. Even on rougher roads, at higher speeds, it remains unflustered – and body roll is kept to a surprising minimum. It’s firmer than you might expect, but it remains comfortable – even over longer distances.
Outside of the transmission, which blunts the overall experience markedly, the Cadillac’s other notable failing is in the stopping department. The brake pedal simply lacks any real authority and requires far too much effort, denting your confidence in the CT6’s ability to pull up promptly. While the lack of initial stopping power and bite isn’t a problem around town, when you’re really deploying that V6 – and you’ll want to, given the way it revs out – you’ll no doubt encounter a few heart-stopping moments when you go for the left pedal in earnest.
As an aside, during an interview with a Cadillac representative, they mentioned how they were aiming at delivering ‘real-world’ economy figures. The CT6, in this particular trim, is claimed to average 28.8mpg –which isn’t unreasonable considering the numbers in play. Lo and behold, following our mixed test route, the Cadillac returned 26.4mpg. Drain the 16-gallon tank in its entirety and the CT6 should travel a practical 422 miles between refills. That's pretty impressive for a car of this ilk.
And what about the CT6's interior? Is it the usual Cadillac fare?
It’s a mixed bag. At a glance, ugly and ungainly steering wheel aside, it’s a relatively smart-looking affair with some neat touches. There’s plenty of space fore and aft, the boot’s got more room than a Chicago mobster could ask for, and the massaging seats adjust more ways than you’ll ever need.
Alas, there’s still plenty of room for improvement on the quality front – especially when you consider that the CT6 is knocking on the door of £70k. Thin carpets that look like they’ll be bare in several thousand miles, easily marked dull plastic trims, obvious split lines in the dash trim for the passenger airbag and low-rent, sharp-edged plastic mouldings take the wind out of the Cadillac’s high-end aspirations.
There’s a moderate amount of wind noise at surprisingly low speeds, too, which further reveals that Cadillac’s still got some way to go on the refinement front. Also, every CT6 we rode in exhibited some kind of rattle, creak or odd fluttering noise – early cars, perhaps, or simply not finished with the attention to detail required at this price? Time will tell.
Presumably it’s stacked to the nines with kit?
And then some. This car is loaded, going some way to reinstating the high-class feel that Cadillac’s so desperately chasing. There’s only one version of the CT6 offered in the UK, and that’s the £69,990 Platinum model, which features a kit list longer than the Chilcot report.
There’s the usual fare – adaptive cruise control, quad-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel and a battery of safety systems – but there are several stand-out features worthy of closer inspection. First up is the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which relays a substantial amount of information in a clear, easily scanned fashion. This, in conjunction with a crisp and bright colour heads-up display – far better than the likes of Jaguar’s efforts – makes it easy to keep tabs on what’s going on.
Cadillac’s CUE media system, which features a 10.2-in touchscreen display, also works quickly and is easy to use. It’s been significantly overhauled, so is far better than those before it, although a completely unnecessary and dubious track pad with haptic feedback has been added.
The company also makes a lot of noise about its rear-view camera mirror, which is designed to offer an unobstructed view of the area behind the car – allowing you to see ‘through’ the pillars, passengers and luggage compartment. You simply flip a dimming-style switch, and the mirror changes to a high-resolution display of a camera’s rearward view. Because it doesn’t have any natural depth to it, and it delivers a slightly fishbowl-style view, it’s somewhat unnatural to use – shifting your eyes from the road to the display requires you to refocus significantly, and the lack of depth means it’s hard to judge distances. An interesting concept, perhaps, but one requiring further development.
What is undeniably satisfying, however, is the 34-speaker Bose Panaray sound system. Its natural reproduction, without any nonsensical ‘concert hall’ modes, is delightful. A quick blast of Mobb Deep’s Temperature’s Rising demonstrated faithful reproduction of its hard-hitting percussion without any muddying of the vocals – and there’s bass aplenty, should you desire it.
The CT6 even gets a space-saver spare, instead of the oft-useless repair kit. Good call, Cadillac.
Cadillac’s current UK line-up consists primarily of its ‘aspirational’ models – the grin-inducing supercharged CTS-V and finely engineered twin-turbo ATS-V. Both of these cars deliver immense feel-good factor, and perform far better than you’d expect. Enough so that in some cases the LHD-only configuration, sub-standard interiors and uncompetitive pricing could be overlooked.
The CT6, however, occupies a far more hotly contested sector of the market and lacks the outright charm and flair of its more potent brothers required to overcome those same stumbling blocks. Cadillac was always going to have to work very hard in this class to merit serious consideration alongside the established European players, and while there’s much in the CT6’s favour – including its distinctive looks and equipment list – this is still very much a car you would only buy if you desperately wanted one.
That said, Cadillac’s certainly heading in the right direction – and the next generation of CT6, should it arrive in right-hand-drive form and with a more reasonable price tag, could well mark a more significant turning point for the brand.
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