It’s no secret that Cadillac has wanted to step away from the old-person car reputation that had built up over decades of bad decisions and somehow land in the cool, hip and high-contrast world of urban-chic luxury buyers. But, you could open any Cadillac review over the past 15 years that way: it seems like the brand is perpetually in comeback mode. Now, the Cadillac CT6—the current flagship—is the car that Cadillac is betting will help truly change its image. And it just might.
(Full disclosure: Cadillac wanted me to drive the very high-tech CT6 Platinum so badly that it let me fetch one from a garage in Manhattan, with a full tank of gas. Also, I used to work at a PR company that had a Cadillac account, which I quit after a few months. Take that however you will.)
My colleague Mike Ballaban drove a base model CT6 back in August and was unimpressed with how much car you didn’t get for your $65,000, when a fully loaded Volvo S90 costs $65,040. And he’s right. If you’re going to pony up for a CT6, just go all out and buy the top-of-the-line Platinum AWD model, because anything less just isn’t worth it.
My first thought upon clapping my eyes on this CT6 was that it is a huge car. At a hulking 204.1 inches long, it is actually four inches longer than the Lee family 2011 GMC Acadia. Which has three rows of seats and can sit seven. All that legroom and trunk space has to come from somewhere, I suppose.
I don’t think it’s a particularly beautiful car, either. It doesn’t have the elegance of a Jaguar or the aggression of an AMG Mercedes. But its lines are clean and inoffensive and it will probably age pretty well. My overall impression was of vast planes of one white body panel. I’m actually not sure if the car is noticeable because it has “presence” or because it is merely big.
It looks like a Cadillac. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s handsome.
With the Platinum package, you get a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that makes a hair over 400 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that has a manual setting.
I tried it, once. It didn’t stand out much in particular. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my hands were just slightly too small for the distance between the wheel and the paddle shifter. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was driving a big Cadillac and I just didn’t feel like shifting.
Everything rides on the dreamy Magnetic Ride Control, which swallowed up Manhattan’s worst bumps and potholes like they were delicate sweetmeats. I was worried that it would feel like a big boat while in motion, but surprisingly, the ride quality was supple and MagRide takes care of any body roll you may encounter. The steering tightened up nicely under speed and I imagined the car to be like a big white ghost, silently gliding along the roads.
In fact, as soon as you start driving the CT6, it does shrink around you. I know that is a cliché that gets used all the time, but it was especially true for this car. It behaved like a much smaller car and the only time you will notice its girth is when you are trying to navigate a crowded parking lot.
I could never understand why the base CT6 has a little 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. Does that even seem proportional to you? The 3.0-liter twin-turbo should be the base engine. From there you can introduce a hybrid and a V8 variant, but that 400-HP V6 has to be the minimum. With that power, the CT6 is agile, quick and responsive.
Of course, 400 HP isn’t the only reason that I requested the Platinum package. A car with 4G LTE WiFi capabilities, HDMI inputs and two 10-inch screens for the adjustable and massage-enabled backseats? Hell yes, especially since I had a long road trip ahead of me.
On the highway, with the driver’s seat massager going, the 34-speaker Bose Panaray sound system playing and the heated steering wheel toasting my hands, I felt very spoiled indeed.
Kicked back in the rear seat, with his massagers going, my brother coded serenely on his laptop and took intermittent naps. Later, he’d tell me that the CT6 was the most sleep-in-able car that he’d ever ridden in. Up front, I had to agree, but having a car so comfortable that the driver starts nodding off is a bit of a problem.
As mentioned above, there are two 10-inch monitors that slide up from the backs of the front seats to be enjoyed by rear passengers. In the magic center armrest, you’ll find two pairs of headphones, two USB ports, an HDMI port. There is als a Blu-ray/DVD player and a household AC adapter. You can play the on-screen entertainment through the car’s sound system if you want and you can also view the back seat entertainment on the front center screen while the car is in Park. Let me tell you: Avatar is pretty incredible this way.
I’d go so far as to argue that the best part of the CT6 is the interior. I’ve never been in a car that feels like its designers spent more time and effort on the interior instead of on the engine and the exterior.
Everything feels exquisitely thought out. There’s a little slot for your phone. The center armrest compartment opens both ways. When you cut the steering wheel all the way to the right or left for a turn at night, an extra light comes on and lights up the direction that you’re turning to.
There was also the rear-view mirror camera thing which is wild and definitely took some getting used to. My eyes were already focused for distance when I looked at the camera and I had to quickly recalibrate. It’s wonderful during the day, but becomes pretty useless at night, as there isn’t much in the way of a light source for the car’s cameras to see by. Also, if a raindrop just happens to obscure the lens, then you lose about half of your view.
It also has a night vision feature, which replaces the center dial of your dashboard when it gets dark enough out to see with the headlights. The location of the night vision screen confused me. It’s definitely meant to help you keep an eye on what’s coming ahead of you, but that would mean that you’d have to drive while watching the center dial at the same time.
Most of the features are good and useful. Others got gimmicky as time went on, like the massage seats and the night vision. But I appreciated that they were there all the same.
So, does sitting in the CT6 with the Platinum package feel like driving around in an old person’s Cadillac? Definitely not. All of the gauges are digital—the glovebox opens with a press of a button—for crying out loud. The interior design is modern and tasteful. It does not scream of overcompensation and brand insecurity. All the on-board tech really drive home the point that this is a younger person’s car.
And you know what else? I liked it better than the Mercedes-AMG S63. Yeah. Really.
The Mercedes felt like it was trying way too hard. It was like the S-Class started with a basic set of stuff and then the Mercedes people just kept piling on whatever they could find in their house, for no other reason other than because they could. A mood light switcher? Sure! An in-car air spritzer? WHY THE FUCK NOT. Hmm, also 577 HP. Yours for $170,000. Minus those three items, the CT6 is basically the same car. Basically.
Who is actually going to buy this car? The Platinum AWD package by itself brings you to $87,495, but then my test car had blingy wheels and spangly paint and a little spoiler thingy, so it came out to $91,580.
Cheaper than a loaded up German competitor—and you do get a whole lot of engine and tech for that price.
I’m thinking that a CT6 Platinum owner (and I repeat, this is the only trim anyone should be considering) needs to be someone who can a.) afford the car in the first place, clearly and b.) actually be tech-savvy enough to make use of the car’s features. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of money. They’ll probably need to have somebody to drive around (or somebody to drive them around) so those incredible back seats don’t go to waste, either.
I’m of the opinion that a brand has to have a good product before it can launch any sort of campaign. The CTS-V and the ATS-V are great cars in their own regard, but they don’t seem to fit the image that Cadillac wants—they’re too sporty, too “German-slaying.” They only appeal to crazy, track-day nutjobs, not so much a more mainstream luxury buyer who couldn’t care less about lap times.
With the CT6 Platinum, Cadillac has created a car that feels comfortable in its own skin. This feels less like a comeback and something from a company that knows exactly what it’s doing. We’ll see if buyers are convinced.
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
Power: 404HP at 5,700 RPM / 400 lb-ft at 2,500 RPM
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
0-60 Time: 5.3 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 150 MPH (electronically limited)
Curb Weight: 4,385 pounds
Seating: 5 people
MPG: 18 City / 26 Highway (from EPA)
MSRP: $87,495 Platinum AWD, $91,580 with paint, rims and spoiler