There was a time when the phrase “the Cadillac of” carried serious weight. It was a signifier of greatness, the epitome of class, style and technology.
This was, you may recall, before the oil crisis of the 1970s, before “The Caddy That Zigs,” before Detroit became more synonymous with ruin porn than auto-making. Now it’s 2016 and — by golly — if Donald Trump deserves some critical reappraisal for horrible things he did in the ’80s (he doesn’t, but he’s getting it anyway), then America’s luxury brand certainly deserves a do-over, too. No one has worked harder to right the wrongs of the past and recapture its former glory since skirting the abyss following the 2008 meltdown than Cadillac. The CT6, their new flagship sedan, is the latest embodiment of those efforts. And those efforts have paid off.
From its purpose-built 34-speaker Bose sound system to the precision aluminum spot welding on its frame, the CT6 is all about attention to detail. This car, Cadillac’s brass insist, is a look into not just the future of the brand but the future of luxury automobiles as a whole. Gone are the tank-like steel bodies of yore, replaced with a frame architecture that’s both stiff and light. The CT6, its designers boast, is only slightly shorter than a Mercedes-Benz S Class, but weighs in at 1,000 lbs less. Its engine, too, defies the bigger-is-better mentality of the Fleetwood era: the meatiest available power plant is a twin-turbo V6, the smallest a turbocharged four cylinder. The result, they proclaim, is a car with both plenty of legroom and the agility of a sports sedan.
On a winding stretch of mountain road in the California interior, with the CT6 dialled into sport mode, it’s clear that all those claims and pronouncements by Cadillac executives aren’t just wishful bluster. The twin-turbo V6 provides plenty of power in the straightaways, while four- wheel steering adds remarkable assuredness in cornering. The ride is stiff, the steering just heavy enough, the leather-swathed cabin tranquil at speed. The Platinum Edition, with such niceties as quad-zone climate control, articulated massaging rear seats and a pair of HDMI-equipped infotainment screens secreted in the front headrests, caters to high-rolling passengers (hello, Chinese market), but it seems a shame to ride in the back seat when you could be driving.
The CT6’s biggest revelation, however, comes in the form of the rear-wheel-drive turbo four-cylinder model, which provides more than its share of thrills on twisting mountain highways. If competing with BMW, Audi and Mercedes on their own terms was the directive, the CT6 might well prove a worthy contender. Either way, it’s the first full-size car in a long time that’s worthy of being called the Cadillac of anything.
ENGINE: 2.0L TURBO WITH RWD; 3.6L V6 WITH AWD; 3.0L TWIN TURBO V6 WITH AWD
POWER: 404 HP; 335 HP; 265 HP
GEARBOX: 8-SPEED AUTOMATIC
PRICE: $61,245 – $94,620