The all-new 2016 Cadillac CT6 is something of a departure from the automaker's recent emphasis on performance. (The 640-horsepower CT-V comes to mind.)
This full-size sedan making its showroom debut next month is the most luxurious Cadillac I've been in. The workmanship and materials are top notch, the seats are among the most comfortable I've encountered, and the hedonistic features range from backseats that recline and massage to the mind-boggling sound emanating from a 34-speaker Bose audio system.
While this evocation of the 114-year-old carmaker's luxurious roots is apparent, it hardly reprises the wallowing fat cats of yore. The new models are innovative, technologically elite cars that perform well. The technology available in the CT6 ranges from active rear steering and night vision to automatic suspension damping and a system that adjusts the power split to fit driving conditions when the customer opts for all-wheel-drive instead of the standard rear-drive model.
The automaker also claims this is the quietest Cadillac ever, and after driving it at a recent regional show-and-tell, I'd be hard-pressed to disagree.
An important ingredient in the recipe for quietude is the car's structure - the first use of GM's new Omega rear-drive architecture, an exceptionally strong platform that shaves weight by being 62 percent aluminum. Additional weight savings are accomplished with innovative aluminum castings like the braces linking the fire wall to the front-end structure. These single castings are stronger, lighter replacements for dozens of welded and riveted steel pieces.
The net result is a car that is incredibly light for its size. At 204 inches, this is now the largest Cadillac, and yet it has a base curb weight of only 3,657 pounds. That's 1,000 pounds lighter than its Mercedes-Benz counterpart, the full-size S-class, and less than the Mercedes, BMW and Audi midsize sedans.
When you attend Weight Watchers that religiously, good things happen to fuel economy and handling. The base CT6 is rated at 31 mpg on the highway. The car's driving dynamics are superb, even in the models without rear steer and automatic suspension damping. Indeed, the car I drove without the handling aids was superb company in the curves. It was nicely balanced, went precisely where it was pointed, and evinced a laudable lack of body roll. The suspension was fairly firm in "Sport Mode," but was still comfortable.
Essentially, this is a large car that handles like a mid-sizer. It doesn't feel as big as it is.
The CT6 starts out reasonably enough. It begins at $53,495 for the base car and then takes three steps north to the $87,465 Platinum model with all the safety, performance and hedonism gear tossed in.
This Caddy is available with three engines: a 265-horsepower, turbocharged, 2-liter four; a 335-horse, normally aspirated, 3.6-liter V-6; and a twin turbocharged, 404-horse, 3-liter V-6 making its debut in the CT6. A plug-in hybrid and a V-8 model are in the works.
I wondered why GM spent the money to develop this new 3-liter V-6 when it could have just installed a turbo on its existing 3.6-liter engine.
"In China, punitive taxation kicks in above three liters," explained Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac's president.
The twin-turbocharged V-6 is a hoot to drive, but I found the torque-rich 2-liter turbo gutsy enough to be fun.
The CT6's styling "is all about simplicity and refinement," according to Taki Karras, its exterior design manager. He said it is also about evoking the marque's past in a modern way. An example is a curved chrome element in the front fascia. That was inspired by the front of the 1956 Coupe DeVille, which in turn took its cue from the "bent-wing" Corsair, a World War II fighter plane.