Detroit's very own bahn cruiser – 2016 Cadillac CT6

The 2017 Cadillac CT6 enters as Cadillac's new flagship sedan, taking the game to the best of the German competition. We check out the car in Abu Dhabi

Author: Raj Warrior  | Photography: Supplied

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If you’ve been tracking Cadillac and its evolution of the model line-up, a few immediate talking points are staring you right in the face. The first would be its extremely edgy design language that has evolved very nicely from that set almost a decade ago. It is all about the refined sharp edge, exquisite light piping and large wheel bays filled with equally large low profile alloy wheels. The other talking point is the manner in which this quintessentially American luxury brand has single-mindedly benchmarked the three German executive sedan manufacturers for almost every new feature that has come in their cars. From the big move towards rear-wheel drive as the preferred drivetrain layout, to the immense leap ahead in drive dynamics and handling and the equally huge steps that characterise the cabin quality, Cadillac has been all about taking the game to the Germans.

The previous model that pushed this envelope had to be the CTS. It was the first real development of the rear-wheel drive architecture and culminated in the almost insane delights of the CTS-V. While this began on the Sigma platform, later graduating to the Sigma II, the current generation of the car uses the brand new rear-wheel drive Alpha platform that not only accommodates the smaller ATS but also underpins the 2016 Camaro. But for all its adaptability, it was seen as being limited to the category and thus we see the CT6 coming to life on the brand new Omega platform, again rear-wheel drive but better suited to the larger dimensions of the new flagship. While Cadillac officials say that there could be a larger car to join the line-up, current indications are sketchy.

So what’s special about the new CT6 and its new larger platform? For starters, despite the car being larger than the XTS that it replaces, it is much lighter. It’s also lighter than the CTS. This has been achieved by a generous use of aluminium along with high strength steel across the body. The presentation we were given highlighted that teams were encouraged to use the best material for their assigned areas of the body, thus resulting in a hybrid construction that maximised strength while keeping weight down. In some areas, the body even uses high-pressure aluminium castings instead of formed sheet metal. The company points out that 11 different materials are used on the body.

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The light body has been formed into a rather beguiling interpretation of the current Cadillac design language. Due to its broader fascia, the combination of trapezoidal grille and LED headlamps has more room to evolve. Of course the LED piping and the taillights are very signature of the marque, although now the car seems closer to some of the concepts with the low front overhang, a modicum of extra rear overhang and a fairly large wheelbase.

The presentation also dwelled on the three pillars of the CT6 development – agility, indulgence and connectivity. We will touch on the particulars of each of these pillars later and how they set the car apart in the premium E-segment.

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Moving on into the interiors, the car has a nice mix of high quality leather trims, soft-touch plastics, with a significantly different treatment of the cabin space. The large 10.2” central display serves as the homepage of the CUE generation II interface. This time around the systems pairs seamlessly with Apple’s CarPlay as well as integrating Android Auto. The driver meanwhile gets a hybrid digital display that offers a large area between two facing crescents – a space that is large enough to offer truly customised display choices including a tachometer, speedometer and fuel and temperature gauges with the central portion also doubling up as the night vision screen when engaged. While the speedometer is visible, the parts on the left and right of these are independently used to offer system and drive related information (on the left) as well as all phone and entertainment related choices on the right.

Once you pair in the mobile phone you can set up a wireless hotspot and using this you can network content delivery to other occupants of your car as well as stream content to the system. Two independent rear screens rise out from the rear of the two seats to let the rear seat occupants get either common or independent content, including internet.

The comfort levels of the interior are definitely class challenging. LED recessed lights provide ambient lighting and you can select the colour from the dashboard. The seats are heated and ventilated with the heating elements are now woven into the seat. Additionally the seats offer five different massage programs and HDMI and USB connectivity all around. The four-zone air-conditioning is powered by two HVAC units.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

The oddest new feature that you will come across here is the inside rear-view mirror that also serves as a screen for streaming video from a rear facing camera. This is a rather high-resolution display that seeks to circumvent the limited view that the mirror normally offers through the rear headrests and the rear sunshade. The catch is that while the image itself is very clear, the image itself has almost no depth of field, lacking a stereoscopic depth. So you aren’t actually looking at a distant object anymore in the mirror, your eyes are focusing on the mirror itself. We can’t see that getting too popular with the middle aged and older customers who have horrible reading vision. Thankfully, this feature can be switched off and the mirror behaves exactly like an auto dimming polarised mirror would in normal circumstances.

The car gets cameras all around as well, allowing you to switch between view modes that offer close quarters view of the surrounding shrubbery to an eagle’s eye view of the car extrapolated from the mirror level cameras. This, combined with sensors around the car allows the car to offer automated parking as well as rear cross traffic warning. And yes the automated cruise control is evolved to a level, where the CT6 offers a degree of driver automation, with lane following, convoy mode and automatic distance control right to complete braking to a halt.

The other piece of standout kit is the provision of the 34-speaker Bose Panaray sound system, with a tweeter array peeking out from the top of the dashboard and surround sound built around the four independent seats. The Panaray is designed to offer a theatre like array of sound banks, taking care of sound delivery through the cabin. It is only as good as the sounds you choose however although the system does compensate for compressed files. But don’t expect FM radio to sound a whole lot better.

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The interface for the CUE system offers a trackpad that takes scrawled input, giving you haptic feedback as well as allowing touch screen input and voice control. On the other hand Cadillac also features heads up display as standard and this is a laser-fired unit that uses the windshield as a display.

The CT6 brings every trick to the table – lightweight body, very powerful and responsive turbo engines, dynamic chassis and intelligent control, plus the advantage of magnetic ride. You cannot ignore it

Coming back to the agility of the car, the main features that the car brings in are two choices of engine, one the tried and tested 3.6-litre V6 unit and the other an all-new 3.0-litre twin turbo V6. The former is rated at 335hp and a torque of 385Nm, while the latter offers 404 horsepower with a more decisive torque figure of 542Nm. Of course that is to be expected from the twin turbo unit that redlines at 6500rpm. Both of these engines are coupled to eight-speed Hydramatic gearboxes, although they are differently rated – the former is the 8L45 unit while the latter is the 8L90 unit to handle all the extra torque.

Additionally, the car gets AWD as standard and also features active rear-wheel steering with up to 4-degree of movement. Today’s systems are a lot more reliable than the old mechanically linked units, but this one is excellent. It steers contrary to the front wheel in very slow speeds reducing the turn circle significantly, while at higher speeds it turns in the same direction to allow for slides across lanes.

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So here we have a whole lot of dynamics to account for, with electric power steering that has variable assist, variable assisted wheel movement, a fine control on torque delivery through the AWD system that remains rear-wheel drive biased (shifting between an ideal 20-80 ratio to 0-100 as you coast along, to a full 50-50 when needed). The car offers three drive modes – Normal, Comfort and Sport as well as allowing for slippery conditions. And then you get the advantage of Cadillac’s Magnetic Ride Control technology that offers light speed response modulation by its very nature.

However, considering that the car is a modern day Cadillac, it also offers cylinder deactivation, converting the engine to a four-cylinder unit as and when the car is in a no load condition.

Driving Impressions

While most of our driving was on regular Abu Dhabi roads, we did get more than a hint of the car’s performance. Our chosen mount had the twin-turbo unit and responded to the pedal with a sense of urgency. You get a fair bit of kick out of the high torque engine, while the AWD takes care of the homework of actually delivering it sensibly to the wheels. Gearshift is quick and imperceptible, with extremely quick shifts masked by efficient power management. You can opt for full manual control should you chose but that hardly comes about on the road – the system offers a de facto ability to paddle your way through D mode and just putting the shifter in S changes shift patterns and holds gears for significantly longer. And you can feel both the active steering and the magnetic ride control come into their own on the curves. The car handles almost as well as the CTS does despite being larger and in the process does it all with far less noise and judder.

Verdict

In the region, the CT6 is stacked against the traditional E-segment bruisers like the A6, E-class and the 5-series; especially the higher powered ones. However, Cadillac tells us that in the United States the competition is the shorter wheelbase stable above this segment, the A8, S-class and the 7-series. But they are ready to admit that this may not be valid here due to the product mix that is normally offered. However, even considering its E-segment competition, the CT6 offers a better price point when measured feature for feature and serves up a compelling case to get potential owners behind the wheel for a test drive. That is the main reason, we think that the CT6 will make the sort of inroads that the CTS has similarly made against the lower power versions of the E-segment. It is not an immediately winnable game, since very often the badge dictates the final buying decision, but Cadillac is playing a long game here. The CT6 is here to redefine the American competition and it comes fully equipped to do just that.

At a glance

Engine

Twin-Turbo 3.0L DI VVT

Power 404 bhp @ 5700 rpm

Torque 542 Nm  @2500-5100 rpm

3.6L V-6 DI VVT

Power 335 bhp @ 6200 rpm

Torque 385 Nm  @5300 rpm

Transmission

Hydra-Matic 8L90 paddle-shift 8-speed

Hydra-Matic 8L45 paddle-shift 8-speed

Brakes & Wheels

Front 345mm vented with FNC# rotors

Rear 315mm vented, with FNC# rotors

Wheels 20”x8.5:, 19”x8.5”

Tyres 245/40R20, 245/45R19

# FNC Ferritic Nitro Carburized

Suspension

Front high-arm, multilink SLA with direct-acting stabilizer bar

Rear five-link Independent with fully isolated subframe and hydraulic mounts,

Springs and Dampers  coil-over twin-tube shocks; available Magnetic Ride Control

About Raj Warrior
Raj Warrior is the managing editor of Automan Magazine and has been a part of the Middle East’s automotive landscape from the past 15 years. He has run top rung car magazines in India and Oman and is often referred to as the Automan of Oman. With a background in mechanics, mechanisms and software programming, he is able to visualise the intricate workings of the modern automobile and brings a mix of technical and lifestyle based assessment to his writing. He is also an avid Photographer, often shooting the cars and motorcycles he tests for the magazine. As comfortable on a motorcycle as he is in cars, Raj is driven by his love affair with all things on wheels and brings his passion to all his automotive ventures. Raj has chosen Oman as his home base because he loves the country, its friendly people and its great driving and riding roads.

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