Cadillac creeps closer to parity against Europe’s high-performance luxury brands with the 2017 CT6 full-size sport luxury sedan.
Though there are likely to be some aficionados who yearn for the days of the Cadillac de Ville or Fleetwood, the company now is committed to alphanumeric designations — just like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, and Audi. That’s how it stays hip and also testifies that the venerable American purveyor of softly sprung land cruisers now delivers models that travel in the same grid with the best from Germany, Japan, and Great Britain.
It started in 2003 with the rear-drive CTS, which gladdened many drivers because it was the first modern Cadillac to butt bumpers with the German performance sedans. Since then it has gradually upped its game with overachievers like the CTS-V. But it has not totally abandoned the gentry who in days of yore drove their Fleetwood sedans majestically up to valet parking at the country club.
The company still produces the big XTS, with a personality that still carries hints of earlier times. It comes with front-wheel drive, as had most Cadillac models following the General Motors rejection of rear-wheel drive more than a decade ago.
Now the pendulum has swung again. To deliver a proper high-performance contender, rear-drive — or, increasingly, all-wheel drive — is mandatory. The 2017 CT6 qualifies. Depending on the model, it is available either way.
Tested for this review was the CT6 Platinum AWD, which parks at the top of the lineup. It had a starting price, including the destination charge, of $88,490. With options, it came with a suggested delivered price of $91,580.
As might be imagined, that sticker covers a lot of stuff, starting with a 404-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine with twin turbochargers that makes 400 lb.-ft. of torque. The power reaches all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.
There’s enough power to move this 4,370-pound sedan to 60 miles an hour in an estimated 5 seconds — as long as you turn off the stop-start system that shuts the engine down at stoplights to conserve fuel. However, some slight turbo lag appears when you punch the pedal to downshift and pass at highway speeds.
Handling is enhanced by magnetic ride control and a rear-wheel steering system that makes turn-ins quicker on curving roads. But straight-line cruising, depending on the road, requires steering corrections. Loafing along on a smooth freeway is quiet and relaxing, though the ride can get lumpy on undulating pavement.
The CT6 is a big car, a couple of inches longer than its garage-mate, the XTS, and a few inches shorter with slightly less passenger space than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series. Inside, it has ample space for four passengers, who sit on soft leather perforated to deliver heat and cooling.
The driver’s seat is equipped to deliver en route back massages and the rear seats recline comfortably like those in upscale movie theaters. On the tested Platinum model, outboard rear seat passengers get their own entertainment screens nestled inside the front seatbacks.
A console containing function controls and cup holders divides the back seats. It can be folded up out of the way to expose a fifth seating position, but it’s not worth the bother. Headroom disappears when you park your bottom on a hard cushion, and a giant floor hump eliminates foot space.
A panoramic sunroof is overhead. A large touchscreen resides in the center of the instrument panel, controlling a variety of functions with swipes and touches. There are no buttons or knobs, though a pad on the console supplements the touchscreen controls.
An unusual feature is a rear-view camera embedded in the inside mirror. It delivers a clear picture and a wide view behind the car. But it is mostly distracting because the driver’s eyes must re-focus every time they shift to glance at the mirror, and double vision often results. Fortunately, the camera can be switched off for a normal view.
The power seat controls are mounted on the doors, similar to those on Mercedes-Benz models. They were awkward for me to use — not as intuitive as controls mounted on the sides of the seats.
Overall, the new CT6 comes across with a personality more akin to that of a big sports sedan than that of a boulevardier like the XTS.