Debunking the other Caddy stereotype
It’s a four-cylinder Cadillac sedan, and we know what you’re thinking: Cimarron. Well, you can park that rusty old shibboleth over in the corner there, right next to the plastic-fendered Fleetwood Broughams and the bobtail Sevilles and all the other craptastic Caddies that in the ’70s and ’80s marked the brand’s grim downward spiral from The Standard of the World to the Wal-Mart of luxury cars. The 2017 Cadillac CT6 2.0T is a thoroughly contemporary take on the modern luxury sedan, boasting state-of-the-moment engineering wrapped in swaggeringly stylish sheetmetal.
The 2.0T is powered by the entry-level engine in the CT6 lineup, the 265-hp version of GM’s versatile 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. Unlike the 335-hp 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V-6 or the range-topping 404-hp 3.0-liter V-6 with twin turbochargers, both of which come standard with all-wheel drive, the four-banger powers only the rear wheels through the GM eight-speed automatic transmission.
The four-cylinder engine is also only available with two trim levels, standard and Luxury. (The CT6 3.6 is available in standard, Luxury, Premium Luxury, and Platinum trim; the 3.0TT engine can only be ordered with the upper three trim levels.) The entry-level 2.0T is priced at $54,490—$2,000 USD less than a similarly equipped CT6 3.6—while the 2.0T Luxury has a base price of $59,390 USD, or about $6,000 USD less than a 3.0TT Luxury. Our lavishly equipped 2.0T, fitted with options such as 19-inch alloy wheels and the 34-speaker Bose Panaray sound system, stickered at $69,010 USD. That sounds pretty steep for a four-cylinder sedan, until you discover a four-cylinder-powered Mercedes-Benz E300 equipped with all the bells and whistles costs about 12 grand more.
A 204.1-inch sedan riding on a 122.4-inch wheelbase is a lot of car for a four-cylinder engine, but the CT6 2.0T manages the 0–60-mph sprint in a respectable 6.4 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds at 92.8 mph (149.4 km/h). Although you’re always faintly aware the engine is working hard, the better-than-expected performance is thanks to a meaty chunk of midrange torque—295 lb-ft is on tap from 3,000 rpm to 4,500 rpm—short gearing, and impressive attention to lightweighting. As tested, the 2.0T tipped the scales at just 3,893 pounds (1765.8 kg), or about the same as the smaller E300. According to the EPA, it delivers identical fuel consumption numbers to the Mercedes—22/30/25 mpg (10.7/7.8/9.4 L/100km) city/highway/combined.
The smaller engine also means less mass over the front axle—front to rear weight distribution is 51/49 percent, compared with 53/47 percent in the all-wheel-drive 3.0TT—and that means the four-cylinder CT6 feels noticeably more responsive to the helm than its V-6 siblings and nimbler than many other cars of its size. It flows nicely through corners, with decent levels of grip and well-controlled body motions. In fact, the conventionally damped 2.0T rides much better than the all-wheel-drive CT6 3.0TT equipped with the trick MagneRide adaptive shocks, with none of that car’s jarring vertical impacts and jittery tire patter. It’s quieter, too, with much less transmitted road noise coming through to the cabin. But the CT6 2.0T can’t quite deliver the full luxury car drive experience. The problem? GM’s homegrown eight-speed automatic transmission, which is neither as smooth nor as responsive as it should be, a critical issue when coupled to a smallish engine in a biggish car.
The interior, like the exterior, looks impressively upscale and refreshingly original at first glance, but it flatters to deceive. Up close it’s an odd mishmash of materials—leather here, wood there, some carbon fiber, a splash of metal—and there’s still some GM parts-bin switchgear visible and some hard plastic on the lower surfaces. Although it rolls on a wheelbase 6.7 inches longer than an E-Class Benz, and is 1.1 inches wider, there’s no room in the rear for three adult passengers because the seat squab over the transmission tunnel is too high and takes away all the headroom.
There are the little things that annoy, such as the confusing orientation of the steering column adjustment button, which means the wheel never moves the direction you think it’s going to move; or the muscle required to move the shifter through the remarkably clunky and unrefined PRNDL gate; or the fact that when you motor the power seats fore and aft, they shimmy like they do in a Chevy.
Then there’s the stuff that makes no sense. Instead of simply pressing a button, as you do in most other cars, switching between Tour and Sport modes in the CT6 is an unfathomably complex process that could only have been thought up by a GM lawyer. As are all the annoying little messages on the digital dash that not only tell you what you’ve just done, but then tell you to dismiss the message that told you what you’ve just done. Plus the seat belt pretensioner snaps tight across your chest at the slightest provocation.
And then there’s CUE. The haptic touchscreen and capacitive touch switches that control Caddy’s sophisticated infotainment system are still far more difficult and distracting to use than they should be. And for the CT6, GM has added a touchpad interface that’s as finicky and fussy as the mouse control in a Lexus, and simply overlays all that technology with a whole other level of user frustration. CUE crashed completely near the end of our test, leaving us with a blank screen in the center stack. We didn’t miss it much, but we were surprised: We can’t recall the last time such an elemental part of a modern automobile simply stopped working.
GM’s persistence with the hapless CUE system is symptomatic of a curious not-invented-here syndrome that pervades the CT6. This is a car that’s significantly bigger than Benz’s midsize E-Class but has a wheelbase 2.2 inches shorter than the long-wheelbase S-Class, the segment benchmark for flagship luxury cars here in North America, and no V-8 engine on the option list. As such, the CT6 is doomed to be perceived as yet another tweener car from Caddy; it is more than a midsize luxury car, but not quite a flagship sedan, with all the confusion that implies over-perceived value and brand positioning.
It’s almost as if GM stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the Germans define the modern luxury car business, and that challengers have to play by their rules. Even Hyundai understands this: The wheelbase of the new Genesis G90, a car that in many ways delivers a more complete, albeit more conventional, luxury sedan experience than the CT6, is within 0.2 inch of the long-wheelbase S-Class.
There’s a lot to like about the CT6 2.0T. The exterior and interior styling continues the increasingly sophisticated evolution of the Cadillac design language, the chassis and powertrain fundamentals are sound, and the surface technology—the multifunction digital dash, the infotainment system’s capability, the optional high-end sound system—is the stuff a car of this class demands. The CT6 is the most rewarding big Cadillac to look at and to drive in decades.
In the final analysis, however, the overall experience is let down by detail stuff. And when you’re in the luxury car business, the devil is in the details. The Cadillac CT6 2.0T is an exorcism away from greatness.
|2017 Cadillac CT6 2.0T (Luxury)||2017 Cadillac CT6 3.0TT AWD (Platinum)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbocharged I-4, alum block/head||Twin-turbo 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||121.9 cu in/1,998 cc||182.1 cu in/2,983 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||265 hp @ 5,500 rpm*||404 hp @ 5,700 rpm*|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm*||400 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm*|
|REDLINE||6,500 rpm||6,000 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||14.7 lb/hp||10.9 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||12.6-in vented disc; 12.4-in vented disc, ABS||13.6-in vented disc; 12.4-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||8.5 x 19 in cast aluminum||8.5 x 20-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R||245/45R19 98V (M+S) Goodyear Eagle Touring||245/40R20 95W (M+S) Goodyear Eagle Touring|
|WHEELBASE||122.4 in||122.4 in|
|TRACK, F/R||63.4/64.0 in||63.4/64.0 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||204.0 x 74.0 x 57.9 in||204.0 x 74.0 x 57.9 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||40.0 ft||37.1 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,893 lb||4,389 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||51/49%||53/47%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.1/38.0 in||40.1/38.0 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.4/40.2 in||42.4/40.2 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||58.2/56.2 in||58.2/56.2 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||15.3 cu ft||15.3 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.8 sec||1.6 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||3.6||2.6|
|QUARTER MILE||14.7 sec @ 92.8 mph||13.6 sec @ 102.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||117 ft||115 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.7 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)||25.9 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,600 rpm||1,600 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$69,010||$91,580|
|AIRBAGS||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||6 yrs/70,000 miles||6 yrs/70,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||6 yrs/70,000 miles||6 yrs/70,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||19.5 gal||19.5 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||20.0/37.2/25.2 mpg||17.8/24.5/20.3 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||22/30/25 mpg||18/26/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles||187/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.78 lb/mile||0.93 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium|