Earlier this year Cadillac debuted its long-awaited flagship sedan, the CT6. This is the sedan that everyone in the industry has been waiting to see; the car that was going to firmly place Cadillac in the same league as German rivals. With an all-new, advanced chassis and a few innovative features in tow, the car appears impressive at first glance. Then you experience the car in person only to realize this is another case of Cadillac completely falling short of expectations, maintaining the brand as the second class citizen in the global luxury vehicle world.
In the effort of full disclosure, let’s go ahead and clarify that not that long ago this author was a Cadillac owner (ATS, to be exact). The brand is far from unfamiliar, however the recent LA Auto Show was my first time experiencing the new CT6 hands-on. My expectations for this car were fairly lofty – it is the pinnacle product of a brand that seems dead-set on being taken seriously in the luxury world. Not to mention the rumors and speculation leading up to this car painted it in an equally high regard.
I can recall first hearing about this project several years ago. It wasn’t long after the ATS was revealed that rumors of a new big Caddy sedan began to flow, with the codename for the project being “Omega” – indicating to those of us in the know that the project included a new chassis. GM’s use of Greek letters to denote vehicle architectures gave that away fairly quickly.
Rumors continued to propagate about the car and how it was going to be a no-excuses effort with extensive use of aluminum on the chassis itself to rival the big Germans. Then the rumors of the car’s alleged features began to surface; such as a “super cruise” system and the return of night vision to Cadillac (both features have yet to surface, but I bet they do shortly). All indications led to a flagship sedan that was beginning to sound like a legit player, though the car was still technically unconfirmed by GM.
Unconfirmed, at least officially. In late 2013 I was at GM’s Warren Tech Center for an unrelated media program that was highlighting the company’s prototyping technology. During a demonstration of GM’s impressive 3D printing abilities, they showcased a buck of a front suspension setup. Upon closer inspection I noticed that said buck had the label “O1SL” on it, denoting it as an Omega based Cadillac sedan. Ah, there’s our unconfirmed confirmation. Note that one of the hosts quickly turned the label around after realizing from my stare that it wasn’t so cryptic.
That 3D printed suspension confirmed a couple things. First, it confirmed that it was an expensive product due to the mutli-link, complex setup. Secondly it confirmed it was a fairly big car. In hindsight the slight flub did not really tell us anything new, it just confirmed the obvious in a somewhat humorous manner.
At any rate, we don’t have to speculate any longer since the car is official. From the specifications sheet perspective, the car is quite respectable. There’s a twin-turbo V-6 with 400 horsepower, rear steering and an insanely light-weight chassis for a car of its size. In fact, if the smaller Alpha chassis (underpinning the ATS and CTS) is any indication of the Omega car’s ability, it’s probably a very impressive car to drive. Though the lack of a V-8 option is a major demerit to a car that should theoretically compete with the S-Class and 7-Series.
Visually the CT6 isn’t bad either. The car is attractive enough in photos with some killer lighting treatment up front and a cohesive design that has become a pillar of the Cadillac brand. However, design is where the CT6 starts to fall short, which has unfortunately become commonplace with recent Cadillac models.
Navigating through the LA show floor the CT6 hardly stood out. Dressed in a pearl white paint, the car had the presence of a premium car but hardly enough. From a brand that has recently derived concept cars with radical designs such as the Elmiraj and Ciel, the CT6 simply looks anonymous. It’s a good design that hardly merits being the long-anticipated Cadillac flagship.
Inside the CT6 is a similar story, only substance begins to wane as well. The interior design is attractive enough and arguably a step in the right direction from other previous Cadillac interior designs. The theme is very horizontal, which is an interesting contrast to the brand’s very vertical exterior themes and, like the exterior, it looks good from a distance.
Polarizing is a trait found in the interior of this car as a whole. On one hand you reach over a feel very high quality leather and carbon fiber (or wood) trims, but the same hand may ultimately reach buttons and knobs found in most Chevrolet models. The memory seat buttons and window switches, for example, are all borrowed from the Chevrolet parts bin. Parts commonality isn’t a source of negligence on its own, however these items look out of place in a car of this league. Plus, I’m sorry Cadillac, but BMW and Mercedes don’t share parts with the common folk vehicles.
Even some of the Cadillac exclusive items inside the CT6 are questionable. The 10.6-inch touchscreen feels like you’re touching a one of those digital signature pads at the Walmart checkout. Oddly, this is a major step back from the glass displays found in today’s ATS and CTS.
Perhaps it comes without surprise that the CT6 does have an ace up its sleeve compared to the competition. It’s an ace Cadillac has been using for awhile now to justify a general lack of competitiveness and severe deficit of brand equity: price. The CT6 is at minimum $30,000 cheaper than the S-Class and 7-Series, so perhaps shortcomings are not really…shortcomings?
Here’s the thing about this car: it’s probably really great. Cadillac can execute a great product, however the CT6 is not the flagship we all thought it was going to be. It’s a very calculated car that is bridging the gap between XTS and the real full-size luxury sedans of the world. At GM they call this market “white space” and are often proud of targeting it. Unfortunately, with a car in this league anything short of a bull’s-eye is a miss. The CT6 is simply the rear-wheel drive version of the XTS – an overanalyzed, calculated attempt that hits the market mean instead of elevating the brand where it is intended to be.