If day one was for the passenger, day two was for the driver. Like the rock stars we aren’t, journalists didn’t have to deal LA traffic on the drive day. Instead, Cadillac flew us by helicopter to rural San Diego county to drive the CT6 away from city traffic.
Aluminum and steel
Like the ATS and CTS, Cadillac has thrown some impressive engineering expertise behind the CT6. This car uses the lightweight principles Cadillac employed for those cars and takes them a step further.
The body structure combines aluminum and steel, and Cadillac says that makes it lighter than an all-aluminum car would be. That’s because steel insulates against sound better and therefore Cadillac needed to add less sound deadening material.
The result is a car that, in its lightest form, weighs in at just 3,657 pounds. That’s about 1,000 pounds less than the S-Class and 100 pounds less than the size-smaller 5 Series and E-Class. Of course, that’s only with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. Models with the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and all-wheel drive weigh in at 4,085 pounds. That’s still 225 pounds lighter than the lightest 7-Series, but it means the CT6 doesn’t exactly spar against the welterweights.
Dynamic and luxurious
Given its modest weight, I was expecting the CT6 to act like a larger version of the CTS once I got out on San Diego county’s twisty backroads. I was wrong. There is simply too much car here to deliver the sporty handling of one of the best mid-size sports sedans on the planet. Instead, the CT6 combines a capable dynamic character with on-road comfort.
Cadillac is launching the CT6 with a trio of direct injection engines, all mated to eight-speed automatic transmissions: a turbocharged 2.0-liter in-line four making 265 horsepower, a 3.6-liter V-6 with 335 horsepower, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that produces 404 horsepower. A plug-in hybrid will be offered early next year.
The purest expression of the CT6’s weight savings ideology is actually the 2.0-liter, rear-wheel-drive base model. With 428 fewer pounds to carry around, this version feels the most agile, the lightest on its feet, and the closest thing to a full-size sports sedan. The four-cylinder provides good power, too. Cadillac quotes a 6.1-second 0 to 60 mph time and that feels right to me.
The new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 delivers strong, smooth power, cutting the 0 to 60 mph time to 5.3 seconds. However, it also adds more weight over the nose. That makes turn-in a bit slower and gives the car a tendency to understeer when pushed into corners. The lighter base model rotates a bit better and so do models equipped with the optional active rear steering system (part of the $3,300 Active Chassis Package), which can apply 3.5 degrees of opposite steering angle to the rear wheels to virtually shorten low-speed turns.
From the driver’s seat, all CT6 models have the vault-like, hunkered down ride quality of the top full-size luxury sedans, though the suspension is a bit firmer than you’ll find in the 7-Series and certainly firmer than in the S-Class. Similarly, the steering is heavier and more direct than you’ll find in the CT6’s full-size rivals.