During a shakedown of the unassumingly brilliant Cadillac CT6, one thought kept popping into my head: The CT6 is America’s best luxury car. Elegant, solid and quiet as a tomb, yet also lightweight, agile and a 24-7 delight.
Then I remembered the Tesla Model S. So let's call the Cadillac Detroit's best luxury car
More than the ATS and CTS sedans, more than the hulking Escalade, the CT6 is the modern template of everything an American luxury car should be. It’s the total sedan package that Cadillac has long aspired to, while always falling short in one area or another. Lincoln (cough, cough) should be taking notes.
I’d driven Cadillac’s full-size flagship in southern California and came away impressed. A weeklong test in New York only heightened my admiration for the Caddy. Interestingly, the CT6 seems a quintessentially New York car, suggesting that the brand’s controversial headquarters move from Detroit to Manhattan’s SoHo might pay off after all. (Cadillac, in fact, already sells more cars in New York than any urban market). Caddy knows it needs to win hearts and minds on both coasts, not just in the Midwest and other flyover states. Conservatively dressed, with just the right amount of flash – a Goldman Sachs banker with a Submariner peeking from a monogrammed sleeve – the CT6 looked and drove like it belonged. And it didn’t matter where: Curbside in Wall Street; Chappaqua, the rolling Westchester suburb that Bill and Hilary call home; or DeFonte’s, the 90-year-old sandwich institution in my Brooklyn neighborhood, where the Caddy-favoring Italians behind the counter look straight out of a Soprano’s casting call.
There are no glaring holes in the CT6’s game. We can forgive one design misadventure, a perforated surround for the CUE infotainment screen – the one instance where Cadillac couldn’t resist its longstanding urge to over-accessorize its cabins with busy textures and colors. That clunky note aside, the CT6 is sweet sedan harmony. Here are five things that put the Cadillac on the Motown luxury throne:
- Curb presence, at a level that photographs utterly fail to capture. The CT6 also stays on the right side of classy, avoiding excess chrome and other gauche-Detroit giveaways. The Caddy would make a great Secret Service car, and reminded me of those special agents: Hovering in the background, yet unmistakably present, exuding stillness and strength. Compliments from the Man on the Street abounded -- including at Marymount, my daughter’s all-girls’ prep school on the Upper East Side, where drivers of the afternoon phalanx of Escalades awaiting pampered charges (but not mine!) seemed ready to trade pink slips on the spot.
- Feng shui, American-style, a beckoning interior that's quiet enough for meditation.The CT6’s cabin may not cause sleepless nights at Audi or Mercedes, but its timber, metal, leather and craftsmanship are fully legit for a sedan that starts at barely $54,000. An optional 34-speaker Bose Panaray system sounds appropriately symphonic, and drivers can brag up the industry’s first camera-based, wide-angle rearview mirror. Even the oft-reviled CUE infotainment unit is markedly improved, including the rare fingertip drawing pad that actually works, with a cursor that locks onto radio stations and other icons with pleasing haptic feedback.
- Sugary ride For some luxury cars, the M.O. is to strap on 20-inch (or larger) wheels and tires, throw the old-school ride out the window, and whale on occupants like they were Guantanamo lifers. (The ever-discerning Jamie Kitman nicely summed up the trend) But the CT6 smoothed New York potholes like Tinkerbell sprinkles fairy dust. It’s the kind of magical ride quality that used to be a given in this class, and that’s gone missing in many cars shy of a Rolls-Royce.
- Spicy Performance Despite rampant comfort and a stretch-your-legs back seat, the Cadillac is no overstuffed La-Z-Boy. Weighing nearly 1,000 fewer pounds than a Mercedes S-Class in base trim, and 600 fewer than a BMW 7-Series, the CT6 feels as frisky and athletic as the class standard-bearer, the Jaguar XJ.
- Slam-dunk Value The CT6 shows Cadillac coming to its senses on pricing, aware that many buyers will reject any Caddy that rings the register like a BMW or Benz. My test car had no trouble dusting traffic with a mere 265-horsepower turbo four, and a rear-wheel-drive 2.0T model starts from $54,490 – about $40,000 less than an S-Class. (Now we’re talking). If Cadillac can deliver design, performance and luxury, then added value can be the key that opens Caddy showrooms to oft-skeptical import fans. With a smattering of options including Panaray audio, my 2.0T Luxury model just brushed $66,000. Reach for the top-shelf Platinum edition -- with a lusty 405-horsepower twin-turbo V6, magnetic suspension, AWD, rear steering and night vision – and you’re at $88,000. That wide pricing spread seems another smart play: Four-cylinder CT6’s for bargain hunters, high-end V6 versions to satisfy splurging types, with a robust dealer profit to boot.
- The upshot Big-ass sedans built Cadillac's reputation but then became punch lines, including today's snowbird special, the front-drive XTS. That makes the CT6 an underdog, no matter how much praise it garners. But believe this: Every full-size sedan shopper should take the CT6 for a spin before settling on the usual flagship suspects. Your wallet may thank you, along with the seat of your pants.