Review: 2018 Cadillac CT6
  • Car Review

Review: 2018 Cadillac CT6

By David Undercoffler | April 4, 2018

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? We’d consider it
Price range: $55,090 – $91,685

Key takeaways

  • The Cadillac CT6 is a mid-level, large luxury car that excels in its sporty handling and build quality.
  • The twin-turbo V6 that we tested is plenty powerful but not overwhelmingly so.
  • The CT6 is priced at less than German flagship sedans but also offers less opulence and power; you get what you pay for.

What is it?

The CT6 is Cadillac’s flagship sedan, and Cadillac is General Motors’ flagship brand. But despite sitting atop Cadillac’s sedan lineup, the ‘flagship’ title can be a little misleading. That’s because its engine options, build quality and pricing put it one step below true luxury flagship sedans from brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Jaguar.

That’s not a knock against Cadillac or the CT6, just a morsel of context for the car. Instead, its closest competitors are a disparate group that includes the Genesis G90, Acura RLX, Lexus LS 500, Lincoln Continental, Volvo S90 and Infiniti Q70L.

There are five powertrain options on the CT6, giving it its considerable price spread.

The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 265 horsepower. It is rear-wheel drive only and comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It comes in base and Luxury trim levels.

Next is a 3.6-liter V6 (non-turbocharged) engine that has 335 horsepower. It comes with all-wheel drive and comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s available in four trim levels: base, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum.

After that is a plug-in hybrid model that uses the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the base CT6, but then it adds to that a pair of electric motors for a total of 335 horsepower.

This plug-in model has 31 miles of all-electric range and can recharge fully in four and a half hours using a 220v outlet. Like its base sibling, this PHEV is rear-wheel drive only and it comes in a single trim level.

The most powerful V6 in the CT6 lineup is the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter engine that makes 404 horsepower and comes with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s available in Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum trim levels.

At the top of the CT6 heap is the new V-Sport version. It uses an all-new 4.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine recently developed for Cadillac only. It has 550 horsepower and it's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

We spent the most time in a loaded CT6 Platinum with the high-end turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with all-wheel drive, though we also spent some time in the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder version.

What’s good

TLDR: Handles with aplomb, promises an excellent interior and build quality.

The handling. Though Cadillac isn’t explicit about it, the CT6 has a sporty character that you might not expect from a sedan this size. The entire car feels taut and responsive on the road without being excessively harsh or uncomfortable. The power isn’t breathtaking, but it’s enough to enjoy the CT6’s excellent handling. And our loaded test model had GM’s sublime Magnetic Ride Control, an optional suspension system that continuously monitors road surfaces and adjusts instantly. We’ve never had a bad experience with it on any vehicle we’ve tested, and this was no exception.

The interior. Cadillac designers did an impressive job balancing form and function, something they -- and other luxury brands -- haven’t mastered in the past. The CT6’s insides look good from a design standpoint but, more importantly, the features and amenities are easy to use and the dashboard, instrument panel and center console are intuitively laid out.

The build quality. Slam a door shut, adjust a seat, toggle a switch. All of it feels solid and well-constructed. Unfortunately, this still isn’t a guarantee in the luxury space (see: Lincoln Continental).

What’s bad

TLDR: Can’t match the sophistication of more expensive rivals, exterior styling is dull, base engine is weak.

The build quality. Yes, it’s good and bad. While the quality itself is excellent on the CT6, it suddenly feels inadequate when you put it against a Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series or Audi A8. Yes, those cars cost more when you compare them feature-for-feature, but they do overlap somewhat in price; a more basic S-Class costs as much as a loaded CT6. But the veneer of true, pure luxury on the Mercedes is leaps and bounds above the CT6.

The exterior styling. Make no mistake, the CT6 isn’t a bad-looking car. But we wanted more swagger and panache from a flagship. Cadillac is trying to lure in younger buyers, and this model’s conservative looks won’t do that.

The base model’s power. While dropping a small turbocharged four-cylinder engine into the CT6 sounds good on paper (it gets good fuel economy, and it helps Cadillac keep the base price low), the reality is less so. The engine’s 265 horsepower just isn’t enough to adequately move the sedan around like it should. Skip it and at least opt for the 3.6-liter V6.

5 stars of execution

Safety? No

  • The CT6 didn’t fare as well as we’d hope in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, particularly in the small overlap tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to test the CT6.
  • Despite a starting price of $55,000, features like pre-collision braking and lane-keep assist aren’t available on the base CT6 with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Ditto for the base $57,090 version of the 3.6-liter V6. You have to spend at least $62,190 to get these features and others, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Those features are standard on cars costing half as much.

Value? Yes

  • Despite the lack of meaningful, standard safety tech, the CT6 is a strong value, The mid-level 3.6-liter V6 in the Luxury trim can be had for $62,190 and comes with nearly every luxury amenity you could want. The twin-turbo V6 has all of that plus more power for $66,190.
  • This is the CT6’s ace in the hole compared to flagships from Audi, Mercedes and BMW and the reason why comparing it to them is largely unfair; it costs tens of thousands of dollars less.

Efficiency? Yes

  • Cadillac engineers worked hard to keep down the weight of the CT6. Not only does this help its handling but it also helps the car use less gas.
  • Our 404-horsepower test car is rated by the EPA at 18/26/21 MPG for city/highway/combined. While those numbers aren’t headline worthy, they’re respectable for a car as big and as powerful as the CT6.
  • CT6 fans really concerned with fuel economy do have the plug-in hybrid model to consider. It pairs 335 horsepower with an EPA rating of 25 MPG combined, which is commendable.

Driving experience? Yes

  • As we mentioned, the handling on the CT6 is excellent. The car seems to shrink around you when you toss it into turns, and its very easily maneuvered around town and in tight parking situations.
  • Our test car also had the aforementioned Magnetic Ride Control, which does an incredible job of eliminating the chatter of rough roads, deep potholes and unexpected bumps without feeling soft or vague.
  • Our only complaint was the engine. The 404 horsepower on our high-end test model looks like a healthy number on paper, but the car never felt as smoothly powered or effortless in acceleration as we’d want at this price point.

Execution? Yes

  • Overall, this CT6 is a strong step forward for the Cadillac brand.
  • It’s not on the same level as the esteemed German flagships but neither is its price.
  • The CT6 is a unique mix of size, handling and amenities in the luxury car segment, and for this reason, it deserves consideration.

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The most basic CT6 with the underpowered four-cylinder turbo engine starts at $55,090. We recommend skipping this version; it just needs more engine to move it.

The middle child is the 3.6-liter V6 model with standard all-wheel drive. This is the model we’d opt for, but we’d add the Luxury package for a total out the door of $62,190. This gets you all-wheel drive, a touchscreen navigation system, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, forward collision alert, lane-keep assist, heated front seats and heated steering wheel and 19-inch alloy wheels.

The most powerful V6 engine -- the 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged version -- starts at $66,190 and includes all of the features on the Luxury package. If you’re looking for all of the extra power this model can give you, it’s also a trim level we’d recommend.

Our $89,290 test car had this engine and the Platinum trim level, which includes nearly every conceivable option: Cadillac’s Super Cruise hands-free cruise control system, a panoramic moonroof, 20-way heated, cooled and massaging front seats, reclining and heated rear seats, a 360-degree camera with recorder for security breaches, night vision and a rear entertainment system. While all of these features were nice, $90,000 is a lot of money and it can buy a lot of car. So we would skip the CT6 if this is your price range and opt for something German.

Pricing on the twin-turbo V8 V-Sport model hasn't been announced as of this publication.

Also consider

The Lexus LS 500 is perhaps Cadillac’s strongest competitor in this full-size space. It offers more exciting exterior styling, a smooth and powerful engine and an excellent luxury experience. The Lexus GS is the next step down in size and it’s a reasonable alternative but it’s getting old at this point.

The Genesis G90 (Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury division) is an excellent car and starts at around $69,000. This car is worth a look if you’re interested in the Cadillac. It isn’t as sporting to drive, but it offers a lot of luxury for the price.

The Lincoln Continental may overlap with the Cadillac, but skip it; its build quality and general execution can’t match that of the CT6.

BMW, Audi and Mercedes all offer smaller luxury sedans that overlap with the Cadillac’s price. If you’re more interested in comparable amenities than comparable size, the BMW 5 Series in particular is worth a look.

Final thoughts

This big Caddy is appealing if you choose the mid-grade model and your priorities are a large luxury sedan that packs a good value and can handle well. If you can sacrifice a little size however, the German rivals (Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class) are still better all-around luxury choices.