New Car Previews

Preview: 2016 Cadillac CT6

This is the car that Cadillac has been waiting for. Since 1999, when the Evoq debuted in all its cutting Art & Science design. Since 2001, when the CTS burst onto the luxury segment with that same design language to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll anthem. Since Cadillac express that Art & Science as a flagship luxury sedan as the Sixteen concept in 2003. Since 2013, when GM chose the grand stage of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to present the Elmiraj concept, a reimagining of the luxury sedan flagship with Cadillac’s evolving design language.

No more looking back. This is Cadillac's present, and its presence is unmistakable.

This is Cadillac's present, and its presence is unmistakable.

What you see before you is the fulfillment of Cadillac’s potential and the ultimate expression of the brand. The Cadillac of Cadillacs, if you will. Though the Escalade has carried the torch for the brand in the public eye for some time now, there is a grand tradition of large, powerful sedans from Cadillac, and with the 2016 CT6, Cadillac aims to reignite that tradition and compete with the world’s very best, the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8 and Lexus LS. It is also the centrepiece of Cadillac's future sedan that will mark the eventual departure of the XTS and realignment of its car lineup from top to bottom.

As such, the CT6 is the template for future products so its technology and underpinnings are the foundation for the brand moving forward. Working our way from the inside out, the CT6 development started with the aim of having a world-class structure, and to that Cadillac put its 12-billion dollar slush fund to good use engineering an aluminum intensive lightweight frame that required entirely new manufacturing methods to execute. Nonetheless, it promises impressive results, targeting a curb weight under 1,700 kg in production form, which would it lighter than not only the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, but also the aluminum veterans Audi A8 (1,980 kg) and Jaguar XJ (1,884 kg). This is particularly impressive as the CT6 offers a longer wheelbase than any of the standard wheelbase versions of the aforementioned vehicles and greater overall length, though not as much as long-wheelbase trims.

This light weight allows for a surprising base engine: the 2.0L turbo that we more commonly see in the compact luxury segment, though when you consider that the Mercedes-Benz C 300 4 Matic weighs in at 1,625 kg, about one average human less than the CT6's target, it doesn't sound so unreasonable. The 2.0T is currently estimated at 265 hp, but in the CTS this engine already runs 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, so I expect at least that if not more. Where the 2.0T can't be faulted is its smoothness, as Cadillac's is one of the smoothest 2.0T engines on the market.

The 2.0T will be joined at launch by two V6 engines. While "3.6L V6" sounds pretty familiar in the GM engine catalogue, GM representatives at the event were adamant that the design is entirely new (one engineer tried to highlight this fact by showing the one carryover piece - a bolt) and bound to be exclusive to the Cadillac brand. With direct injection and variable valve timing, the naturally aspirated V6 will make 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque.

Of course, Cadillac's new 3.0L twin-turbo V6 is the star of the range, making an even 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, yet promising superior efficiency thanks to cylinder deactivation and auto stop-start.

All CT6 powertrains will run through eight-speed automatics, the 2.0T and 3.6L V6 paired with a new unit that weighs significantly less than the current eight-speed in use with other Cadillac products, which will be used for the twin-turbo 3.0L.

Although a rear-drive platform at heart, only the 2.0T will be offered in rear-drive configuration, as both V6 models will be paired with a new all-wheel drive system featuring a two-gear transfer case that can quickly transfer torque to the front axles, though there is not mention of torque vectoring. However, Cadillac did make a point of noting that the transfer case can handle up to 958 lb-ft of work, so either a V16 is still in the works or the upcoming V-Series models will be all-wheel drive and very, very powerful.

Complementing the all-wheel drive system is Cadillac's new Active Chassis System, which is a catchall for the adaptive steering, active rear steering, Magnetic Ride suspension and Tour, Snow/Ice and Sport settings for vehicle dynamics. Cadillac CT6 chief engineer wraps it up nicely: “To put it succinctly, every wheel drives and every wheel steers. And with Magnetic Ride Control, every wheel’s dampening is adjusted by the millisecond, for responsiveness and driver control unparalleled in the segment.” So it should drive nice and be comfortable and capable all year round.

The suspension itself also focuses on minimizing weight, using an aluminum-intensive high-arm multilink short-long arm in the front and a five-link independent rear setup that uses "multiple outer ball joints and cross braces for optimal handling and steering precision."

Moving into the car now, Cadillac went the distance to create a thoroughly luxurious car, aiming to match competitors for quality while delivering a unique aesthetic that would stand out and appeal to customers willing to consider a Cadillac full-size luxury sedan. Trying to conquest sales away from the German marques in this segment is no easy feat, but really it's the S-Class and everybody else: in both the US and Canada, the S-Class outsells the 7 Series, A8 and LS combined.

Marketing hype can make even the most mundane interiors sound like the cabin of a luxury yacht, but spending some time inside the CT6 showed that Cadillac has indeed brought a new level of craftsmanship and finer grade of materials throughout the cabin. 

But quality in and of itself is not enough to woo luxury customers these days, and full arsenal of technology and convenience are available in the CT6, from expected driving aids and touchscreen nav, night vision, pedestrian collision mitigation, LED lighting, massaging seats, rear-seat infotainment and legroom for days, self-parking function with braking and steering, welcome lighting, hands-free trunk operation and all the trappings of prestige vehicles. However, Cadillac has also come up with a few innovations and increased the functionality of advanced tech, like a seamless image for the 360-degree parking aid camera and Rear Camera Mirror, which uses camera images to fill in the image on the rear-view mirror blocked by headrests and limited rear window. CUE gains a touchpad to complement the main 10.2-inch touchscreen, GM's 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charging.

I'm sure I've missed a few technologies of interest, so we will copy some feature lists from the press release for you to pore over.

Finally, the design. You can decide for yourselves whether you think this will be a success or failure, but I will at least weigh in with my brief thoughts. While it doesn't have the same panache or presence as the Elmiraj concept that I hoped it would more closely resemble, it is an elegant and distinguished sedan, much like the current generation CTS, with beautiful proportions of a long hood, fairly upright grille and tail and short rear decklid with the cab sitting over its rear haunches to emphasize its rear-drive platform. The details fill in the design, with satin metallic grille, a tasteful ornament and subtle surface accents that have softened over the years. However, I take exception to the DRL LED strips, which continue below the bottom of the headlight cluster like somebody's pen slipped in the original design sketch and nobody noticed.

Quick Specs: 2016 Cadillac CT6
Engines: 265 hp 2.0L turbo I4; 335-hp / 284 lb-ft of torque 3.6L V6; 400-hp / 400 lb-ft of torque 3.6L V6
Transmission: 8-speed Hydra-Matic 8L45 automatic (2.0T I4/3.6L V6); 8-speed Hydra-Matic 8L90 automatic (3.0L twin-turbo V6)
Configuration: front-engine, rear-wheel drive, optional all-wheel drive
Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 5,184 / 1,879 / 1,472 / 3,106 mm
Curb Weight (est.): less than 1,700 kg
Assembly: Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Hamtramck, Mich.
Availability: Late 2015

From Press Release:

• True 360-degree camera view around the vehicle, displayed on the Cadillac CUE screen, helps reduce blind spots around the vehicle
• Enhanced Night Vision helps identify people, large animals and more via heat signatures on a display in the driver information center
• Rear Camera Mirror is the industry’s first application of full-display technology, combining camera technology with the conventional inside mirror to project an unobstructed view in the mirror
• New Advanced Park Assist integrates automatic braking into automatic parking
• New Pedestrian Collision Mitigation technology provides pedestrian detection indications, alerts and automatic braking to avoid collisions
• Large, 10.2-inch-diagonal CUE interface screen with 1280 x 720 HD resolution and console mounted touchpad. The capacitive-touch screen reacts faster when scrolling and recognizes handwriting for address/points of interest search. The touchpad allows control of CUE features while resting an arm on the center console rather than touching the screen
• Wireless phone charging and OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot.
• Standard Indirect Fire light-emitting diode front lighting system offers state-of-the-art, more efficient illumination for a distinctive appearance that is both technical and expressive in its character and personality
• Extended comfort seats offer a refined, luxurious appearance. Features include premium Opus leather, five massage programs, reclining rear seats and Cadillac’s first application of woven-in-seat heating elements
• All-new Articulating Rear Seat package offers new thresholds for comfort and luxury, with approximately 83 mm (3.3 inches) of adjustable seat travel, lumbar adjustment, tilting cushions, massage feature, heating/cooling features and armrest with media controls, including HDMI and USB ports
• Comprehensive rear seat infotainment system with articulating 10-inch-diagonal screens that retract into the front seatbacks, along with connectivity for brought-in devices
• Quadzone climate system, which employs a secondary full-HVAC system that allows passengers to personalize temperature and airflow for each seating position, along with ionizing air purification
• Cadillac-first Bose® Panaray® audio system features 34 strategically placed speakers for exceptional dynamic range and clarity, including the first automotive application of design and technology elements from Bose home entertainment and professional audio products
• Concierge welcome lighting that illuminates the outside of the car as the owner approaches, based on the signal from the passive entry fob
• Hands-free power deck lid operation
• Generous rear-seat legroom – 1027 mm (40.4 inches) – and segment-best interior storage, including 2.2L centre console storage volume.