The new Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid is supposed to be futuristic-feeling luxury without the scary unfamiliarly of a pure-EV powertrain or a “startup” brand backing it. The execution—even in a brief jaunt—is impressive enough to convert some electric skeptics in the big executive car crowd.
More than that, it speaks to how the CT6 is the current technological flagship for Cadillac, not counting the track-storming gadgetry you get in the V models. Later this fall the CT6 even gets Super Cruise, General Motors’ first attempt at a semi-autonomous driving system.
I tested the CT6 Hybrid to see if all this tech actually worked, and if it lives up to what luxury buyers expect these days when they blow $75,000 on a sedan.
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(Full Disclosure: Cadillac offered free coffee and food to lure me across Manhattan and spend the afternoon testing out the CT6 plug-in so I could tell you about it. )
Overview And Standout Features
It’s a marked improvement from Cadillac’s first go-around with a hybrid, the ELR, which saw its production cut short following abysmal sales. It’s also an intended competitor to the hybrids from BMW and Mercedes and others.
One thing Cadillac wanted to emphasize was that, despite the electrified powertrain, what’s important here is performance.
There’s certainly enough on paper to back that up: The one trim offered starts at around $75,000, and the combined system cranks out 335 horsepower and 432 lb-ft of torque. This sizes up with the BMW 740e plug-in, which packs 322 HP and 369 lb-ft of torque.
With 31 miles of claimed range for the electric motor alone, there’s a sense of practicality, too. Americans drive on average about 40 miles a day, so those who can jump on the into a CT6 and work at an office with EV chargers could be set to get around without gas for a long time. Daily work commutes could be relegated to the electric energy alone.
The juice here comes from a dual power system that pairs a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four cylinder engine with a 18 kWh lithium-ion battery and a two-motor electric variable transmission system. Par for the course with hybrids and EVs, the battery can be partially charged through automatic regenerative braking that produces energy when the CT6 coasts or the driver pumps the brakes.
The CT6 Hybrid comes equipped with a portable 120-volt charging cord, and there’s a 240-volt home charging system, making it possible to fully-recharge the vehicle in about 4.5 hours. Owners can check the car’s battery life via the MyCadillac app or OnStar.
Speed freaks might shun the stat, but on the electric-only mode, the CT6 tops out at 78 MPH. But when the full system’s combined, the vehicle maxes at around 150 mph, and can jam out from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. If you give a shit about performance and 0-60 times, that shouldn’t upset you.
There’s three modes to operate the vehicle in—Cruise, Sport and Hold—though I didn’t make use of the latter during the drive around NYC. Hold is supposed to preserve extra EV range for when you’re in a more dense, urban environment and need to strike a balance of handling with maximum energy efficiency.
Cadillac said it was making significant “technological jumps forward” here, and there’s just about every (now) standard tech-forward feature equipped in the $76,000 vehicle, including night vision, adaptive cruise control, forward collision and a “Side Blind Zone” alert, along with automatic braking.
Wireless phone charging is a bonus for cord-haters, but of course for now is limited to only select brands. (Packing an iPhone 6S, I can’t tell you how good it works.)
For drivers keeping their eyes forward, the CT6 comes with a Heads Up Display (HUD), a feature that’d suit automakers to integrate into more brands down the line.
Say you have directions plugged into the CUE system. The HUD display will shoot out speed, notifications, turn-by-turn directions directly onto the inside of the windshield. It isn’t a new feature to the industry, of course, but preventing drivers from having to look at the center console for their next direction seems like an obvious safety-first solution.
I found the center dashboard to be intuitive, clean and not overbearing. Trunk space is expectedly tight thanks to the battery pack, leaving about enough room for a low-key grocery run for a family. But that didn’t compromise the back row, which offers a surprising amount of room for passengers to get comfortable.
The CT6 plug-in was my first foray with a high-definition rear-mirror camera, a jarring feature for a rube. Underneath the mirror, there’s a tab to flip forward, and on comes a more-complete view of the road behind you, courtesy of a rear-facing camera lens. It’s a bit difficult to get used to, at first, but the benefit is obvious: the lens provides a wider view of the roadway than looking over our shoulder. If you have a back seat packed full of boxes or rowdy kids, it offers a seamless way to make sure you still have an eye on what’s happening around you.
Kicking the car into Sport mode actually provided an extra, noticeable boost, unlike a number of other, less expensive EVs and hybrids that carry the option for mostly cosmetic reasons, such as Hyundai’s new Ioniq, which was more Sport In Name Only than an actual better performance.
The center dashboard utilizes a roughly 10-inch screen to house Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system, which historically has been an obvious sore spot but is new and improved on this car. While I’m not keen on the flat, touch buttons for the center console—and the layout certainly felt busy—it was easy to adjust to.
There’s a unique feature of the CT6 hybrid that’s designed so that when the driver accelerates, the battery only provides energy until the pedal is pressed down halfway. Once you surpass that mark, the engine kicks on. Once the battery’s depleted, the system works as a traditional hybrid.
It created somewhat of a weird driving scenario. If you wanted to quickly gain speed, the transition at the halfway point created a jerking motion; you really feel it working to shift over to the regular motor.
The control for the CT6's regenerative braking also proved to be a bit frustrating, especially in Manhattan’s dreadful traffic. For first-time users, I could see how it’d be difficult to learn how it works. When I drove the Hyundai Ioniq earlier this year, the total control of the regen paddles behind the wheel made for a seamless transition for a newcomer: just toggle up the level to increase how much you want the car to slow down and generate energy; if you want it off entirely, toggle backward until it returns to standard driving. With the CT6, the regen paddles at the wheel were only meant to lock in a setting temporarily; to keep a level in place, you have to pull the shift level into the mode labeled “M.”
I didn’t find the setup all that intuitive. Rather than being able to immediately pick a level and conserve energy while stopping-and-starting through downtown New York City traffic, I had to keep reminding myself to have the shift level set to “M.” Sure, a driver would probably adjust over time, but it wasn’t as quick of a learning experience as it was on the Ioniq, which might be an annoyance to some prospective buyers, given regen braking is one of the obvious selling point for electric powertrains.
While the revamped CUE system s clean, we ran into a hiccup coming back into Manhattan, relegating our pre-programmed route useless. Attempting to rely on the CUE’s map proved ineffective; try zooming in and out, and you wind up nowhere near where you aim. It wasn’t a quick fix for us to change the address, so the clunky mapping service was rendered useless.
No one’s taking a CT6 on cross-country sprints; it’s going to the office, maybe a quick dinner, and back home. So, somewhere in the 30-40 mile EV range for a hybrid makes sense. The CUE system recently received an upgrade, but some of the features still worked a tad clunky, so I’d be looking in the future to see how it improves. To Cadillac’s benefit, they’re aware of the qualms people had. The setup of the regen braking system makes me think there’d be a bit of a learning curve for newcomers to electrified powertrains, but after learning the ropes, it’s a well-rounded vehicle for the luxury market.
That said, Cadillac claims the CT6 hybrid comes standard with a boatload of tech features that its competitors charge several thousand dollars more as options, which could give it a needed edge. Basically: Cadillac has made a hybrid that works. Now it’s just a matter of whether anyone will buy it.
- Engine: 18 kWh lithium ion battery pack, with a 2.0-liter turbo inline four-cylinder
- Power: 335 HP / 432 lb-ft torque at 5,500 RPM
- Transmission: Two motor rear drive electric variable
- 0-60 Time: 5.2 seconds
- Top Speed: 78 MPH EV top speed; 150 MPH combined
- Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
- Curb Weight: 4,530 lbs
- Seating: Five
- MPG: EPA claimed 62 MPGe; claimed combined driving range with 31 all-electric miles miles of 440 miles total
- MSRP: $75,095 base, single trim available only