The 2016 CT6 is very much a classic Cadillac: a long, grand sedan with a plush cabin and distinctive American styling. There's more to the CT6, however, as the classic formula now includes modern Cadillac virtues like the latest technology and impressive handling dynamics. It reconciles the brand's storied past with present expectations better than any Cadillac before it, but it's not always enough to push the CT6 above its primary competitors from Germany.
What Is It?
The CT6 is Cadillac's biggest, most expensive full-size luxury sedan. There are three available engines: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V6 and a twin-turbocharged 3.0 V6. The base engine is rear-wheel drive only, while the others come standard with all-wheel drive. Each engine is available with a variety of trims and options that create a wide price range that stretches from the $53,495 for the base 2.0T to $88,460 for the loaded 3.0TT Platinum.
How Big Is It?
It's definitely big, but it can be hard to tell, which is a good thing.
At the same time, the CT6 doesn't look that large, nor does it feel as big from behind the wheel. Innovative engineering has removed both visual and literal bulk to create a large sedan that is shockingly lightweight. Depending on the trim, the CT6 can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds less than some of its rivals.
In terms of interior space, there is plenty. The front seats have copious leg- and headroom (even with the panoramic sunroof) and boast a seating position that feels slightly taller than normal. This conspires with the low, downward-sloping hood to create a superb view of the road ahead and furthers the impression that the CT6 is smaller than it actually is.
The backseat is similarly spacious, falling somewhere between its main competition in terms of leg- and headroom. The optional rear seat package offers slightly less headroom but makes up for it with 3.3 inches of tilt/recline adjustment along with heating, cooling and massage functions.
How Comfortable Is It?
The CT6 is not as plush, cushy or isolating as its rivals. This is a car that delivers distinct road feel that we find reassuring. The ride quality is still deep within the realms of comfortable, but if you're looking for comfort above all else, there are better options in the class.
Nevertheless, the available magnetically controlled dampers found on our 3.0TT Platinum test car expertly iron out bumps and control body movement over undulations and through corners. If, however, you want to keep the price down, the base suspension provides a perfectly acceptable ride quality with only a slight decrease in overall performance.
How Do the Engines Perform?
Cadillac officials said they expect most CT6s will have the midlevel 3.6-liter V6 that's rated at 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels. Though we didn't sample this engine in the CT6, given our experience in other vehicles, it should be a smooth, capable engine that is well up to the task of moving a sedan of this size.
On the low end, the CT6 offers a turbocharged four-cylinder that's also mated to an eight-speed automatic. Producing 265 hp and 295 lb-ft torque, the 2.0-liter engine comes with rear-wheel drive only. We found it surprisingly capable of getting the CT6 up to speed, although it does sound a bit odd in a car of this size. It's also worth noting that Cadillac estimates it'll return up to 31 mpg on the highway.
On the other end of the spectrum is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 (dubbed 3.0TT). This new Cadillac engine produces 404 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Like the standard V6, the twin-turbo 3.0-liter sends its power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic.
At our test track, the CT6 3.0TT sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. That's certainly quick, but we were expecting better given the car's power-to-weight ratio. By comparison, the heavier 333-hp Audi A8L 3.0T returned a 0-60-mph time of 5.3 seconds, while BMW estimates the heavier, 320-hp 740i will hit 60 in 5.4 seconds.
How Does It Handle?
In short, the CT6 handles shockingly well. The base car feels particularly nimble, at least compared to other big sedans. This is perhaps not surprising given that it's lugging around the least amount of weight, especially over the front wheels. This is best felt in its crisper steering response and the eagerness in which it turns into corners.
The CT6's abilities are best realized when equipped with the Active Chassis package available with the 3.6 and 3.0TT engines. Its aforementioned magnetic dampers constantly adapt to road conditions, while active rear-wheel steering further helps shrink this big sedan by decreasing its turning radius and allowing tight corners to be taken with greater control and speed. Throw in the presence of all-wheel drive and our test car's summer tires (a $495 option on V6-powered models), and the CT6 delivers a degree of road holding that's equivalent to anything in the class.
A set of shockingly capable brakes further contributes to the CT6's abilities. We measured a 60-0 distance of just 102 feet. That's deep within sports car territory and indeed equal to the Cadillac CTS-V. Standard all-season rubber will likely lengthen that distance, but we nevertheless appreciated the CT6's firm, easily modulated brake pedal that elicited confidence in both our loaded 3.0TT Platinum test car and a lesser equipped 2.0T.
Interestingly, we did most of our driving in Tour mode — one of three modes that also include Snow/Ice and Sport. The latter seems more like a token gesture, adding unnecessary steering weight and firming up the suspension in a way that may seem "sporty" but doesn't really do much in the real world except build some arm muscle strength and jostle you about.
What Features Are Available?
Like most high-end luxury cars, the CT6 offers an extensive list of standard and optional features. One feature worth noting is Cadillac's revised CUE touchscreen interface. The system is much quicker to respond to inputs and no longer uses palpable clunks to register your choices. The CUE screen itself is also larger and is joined by a redundant touchpad controller on the center console, not unlike the one found in several Lexus models. In total, we prefer the knob-and-screen systems of rivals, but didn't find CUE to be the deal-breaker it once was.
Two other optional items worthy of mention are the 34-speaker Bose Panaray sound system and the rear seat package. Besides the adjustable, heated, ventilated and massaging rear seats, the latter also includes an entertainment system featuring two pop-up display screens, wireless Bose headphones, a Blu-ray player, an HDMI port and the ability to stream video via the car's WiFi connection in conjunction with a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick.
Overall, we found the interior of our top-of-the-line Platinum model comfortable but not class-leading. The quality of the materials and switchgear simply doesn't match the top cars in the class, most of which are considerably more expensive.
What Safety Features Are Available?
The CT6 is packed with both common and novel safety items. The one likely to be noticed first is the rear camera mirror. It delivers a wide-view image generated by a high-definition camera placed on the trunk lid. It creates a much wider field of vision than a standard mirror, since it isn't blocked by the rear roof pillars or passengers in back. However, its effectiveness at night is questionable, as it's harder to see details of following cars, and winter sludge will render it all but useless.
Additional parking cameras provide forward and simulated overhead views, while also allowing for the industry-first ability to record front and rear views while driving. Your insurance company will probably love this.
Along with blind-spot and lane-departure warning, there's also the increasingly ubiquitous optional collision warning system, which at least goes beyond the norm of detecting cars by also alerting you to pedestrians, animals and stationary objects before automatically braking, should you fail to heed its warning. We did experience some low-speed false alarm braking events, however, so the system could use a bit more work.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider?
The car that the CT6 most reminded us of was the Jaguar XJ. It, too, doesn't feel quite up to the level of Audi, BMW or Mercedes, but is also more engaging to drive and presents a different take on the luxury game indicative of its non-German homeland.
The BMW 7 Series is a technological and engineering tour de force that comes with a price tag to match.
If you don't need the extra space offered by the CT6, a midsize luxury sedan like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class could be another alternative. It's available with most of the same features at a lower price, while arguably offering a slightly higher degree of perceived quality. This is especially true of the forthcoming 2017 model.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
You want the grand size and features of a flagship luxury sedan, but with a more engaging driving experience that makes you forget about how big it really is. The fuel-efficient base engine is a rarity in this segment.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Despite its lower price, the CT6 doesn't clear the lofty bars set by its German competitors when it comes to refinement, materials and build quality.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report. The manufacturer also provided Edmunds a vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.