The Cadillac CT6: a Great Car for the Wrong Time

For a long time, the top of the pyramid in the luxury market was defined by the full-size sedan. And Cadillac was considered the crème de la crème. Even through the notorious Malaise era, big Cadillac ownership was still considered to be something to aspire to. However, that reputation started to die after the company switched most their large sedans at the time, the DeVille, to front-wheel drive platforms in order to save costs for 1985. Instead of being a range-topping brand, many of their vehicles were obviously rebadged versions of cheaper cars.

Through the 1980s, Cadillac only saw Lincoln as its primary competition, but by the time the ‘90s came around, the sedan offerings from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and even Lexus had far surpassed anything in the Cadillac stable, in terms of quality and luxury. Cadillac tried to keep up with the competition, but ultimately realized their prime customer base of American-brand faithful was shrinking year by year. They ended up going a new direction with the DTS and STS sedans in 2005.

These sedans still didn’t cut it. While Cadillac did see great success and earned high praise with the high-performance CTS-V, the DTS and STS remained unremarkable compared to the competition. The successor to those cars, the XTS, was similarly forgotten, even if it was a competent full-size luxury sedan. Americans were buying German and Japanese luxury, and had largely moved on from Cadillac.

However, Cadillac didn’t move on themselves. Instead, they doubled down and declared they would create a real competitor in the full-size luxury sedan space. The result was the Cadillac CT6.

So did they succeed?

The Cadillac CT6 is now the company’s halo car, so it represents what the company sees in itself. It features a thoroughly modern look along with loads of innovative technology options, and a couple power plant offerings that intrigue, to say the least.

However, the CT6 doesn’t fit neatly in the full-size luxury sedan space. While it’s the top of the line Cadillac sedan like the S-Class is to Mercedes-Benz and the LS is to Lexus, the CT6 is a bit smaller and significantly cheaper than those models; the Cadillac CT6 starts at $63,590 (including destination), where the cheapest Lexus LS 500 you can buy is $76,225. In both size and price, it falls in between most mid-sized and full-size luxury sedans.

While that may make it seem like a bargain, it’s obvious to see where the price difference lies. The quality and interior design, while not necessarily bad or ugly by any means, doesn’t match the nearly bespoke look of the higher-end, full-size luxury sedans. Instead, it generally feels plain and unimaginative, as if it was trying to chase the German minimalist style that had begun to fall out of fashion.

On the other hand, the CT6 does drive very nicely. It feels confident in corners, the suspension insulating you from harsh roads, and the available twin-turbocharged V6 with 404 horsepower will get you to 60 mph in just five seconds. There’s also a CT6-V with 550 horsepower and a load of handling features that’s promised to arrive sometime soon, but is already sold out.

All in all, it drives nicer than most other full-size luxury sedans, but it’s worth questioning if that’s a good thing. The CT6 doesn’t feel like a full-size Cadillac sedan, but rather a larger version of the CTS. Ultimately, there’s very little that makes it feel special compared to the competition, even if it is a good car.

The CT6 does have one excellent feature that shines above the competition: its SuperCruise semi-autonomous driving suite. Unlike many cars with these features, the CT6 doesn’t scan the road ahead, but rather relies on a database filled with information that comes from laser mapping major roads and highways. The result is a system that allows for a more hands-free experience than other rivals, provided you keep your eyes outside the car. The CT6 includes an infrared camera that makes sure you’re paying attention, a feature that’s arguably needed in most other semi-autonomous vehicles.

Regardless of how good it is, the CT6 came at the wrong time. The sedan segment has been dying, while SUVs have risen to take their place. Across the board, we’re seeing sedans being cancelled, with some companies like Ford going as far as cancelling nearly their entire small car lineup in favor of much more profitable SUVs and trucks, with the Mustang remaining the sole car in their collection.

GM and Cadillac are no exception to this trend, and the CT6 is already facing the twilight alongside the compact ATS. Even though it was introduced just three years ago, Cadillac has announced that 2019 will be the final model year for their full-size luxury sedan. Instead, the company will focus further on luxury SUVs, a segment they helped establish with their wildly successful Escalade over 20 years ago. Even though it may not be able to compete with other luxury vehicles, the CT6 was a noble attempt and a marker of what was to come if not for our insatiable appetite for SUVs.

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