The wraps came off of the 2016 Cadillac CT6 last April at the New York Auto Show, but it wasn’t until this week that we got our first chance to slip behind the wheel. Dubbed by division boss Johan de Nysschen as being “prestige luxury reimagined” due to its combination of style, sophistication and “lightweighting” technology, we soon discovered this range-topping full-size sedan packs a lot of the right stuff in a lot of the right ways. 

Living large

Visually the new CT6 embodies what is arguably the most compelling take yet on Cadillac’s Art and Science design language. The sleek, tastefully understated exterior projects a powerful, well-proportioned character set off by a more evocative grille and distinctive front/rear lighting treatments. The CT6’s spacious cabin -- 121.2 cu ft of passenger room -- has a serene ambiance enhanced by active noise cancellation. Premium wood and leather complement upscale metal and carbon fiber accents. Staying true to its re-envisioned 21st century mission statement, the CT6 also introduces a bounty of cool new creature comforts. However, this Cadillac’s most striking departure from tradition lies in the evolution of its dynamic character, a change wrought from the combination of new structure, new powertrains and new suspension.

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Spun from GM’s new Omega rear-drive platform architecture and featuring an incredibly strong and stiff yet mass-minimizing mixed-material core that blends high-strength steel and aluminum in a 38/62-percent split, the CT6 tips the scales in base form at a mere 3,657 pounds. That’s just 17 more than a standard CTS Sedan and nearly 1,000 less than a comparable Mercedes-Benz S-Class 4-door. Despite a bumper-to-bumper span of  204.0 inches -- which slots it midway between the E-Class/S-Class and BMW 5/7 Series  -- Cadillac notes the CT6 has better torsional rigidity than its own compact ATS.

Power to please

Initially, the CT6 will offer three engines, all backed by a paddle-shift 8-speed automatic transmission that incorporates a rev-matching downshift feature. While the mid-line CT6 with a naturally aspirated 335-horsepower/3.6-liter V6 didn’t make our dance card this time, we spent quality time in a pair of its turbocharged siblings. First up was a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder used in the “entry-level,” rear-drive-only CT6 models. Making 265 horses but a stout 295 lb-ft of torque – 11 more peak twist units than the 3.6-liter -- this formidable four dispelled any lingering doubts about its suitability for CT6 duty. Free-revving, smooth and responsive, the engine has plenty in hand to deal with any average driving duty including freeway passing and sufficient kick to elicit at least an occasional smile of delight with its enthusiasm -- not to mention its 31-mpg EPA highway rating.

Those seeking a more intense experience can opt for a new 404-horse/3.0-liter Twin Turbo V6 that makes 400 lb-ft of torque. Decidedly quicker and more responsive, this prime mover virtually eliminates turbo lag and elevates the car’s fun-to-drive index. Like the 3.6-liter, it only comes with all-wheel drive. Our test car -- a top-line CT6 Platinum model -- included the V6-only Active Chassis Package that brings Magnetic Ride Control, active rear-wheel steering and larger 20-inch wheels on lower-profile tires.

Dynamite dynamics

Regardless of engine or driven wheel count, the new Cadillac CT6 proved nothing short of a revelation as we pressed it hard on several canyon roads above Los Angeles. Bolstered by well-weighted variable assist/ratio electric power steering and confidence-inspiring brakes, the CT6 sliced through corners with competence and agility that far exceeded what you’d expect from any luxury sedan with a 122.4-inch wheelbase. While the rear-drive version with a conventional suspension does an outstanding job of tracking cleanly with minimal body roll, the story gets even better with the Active Chassis upgrade that not only enhances both low- and high-speed response but trims three feet off of the CT6’s turning circle. The system’s Tour, Sport and Snow/Ice modes modify steering effort, damping and transmission shift programming as well as the percentage of default front/rear torque bias, which can send up to 100 percent of the available power to the front wheels when surface conditions dictate. If there is a question to be posed, it centers on whether the CT6’s sport-biased tuning, while delivering a good overall ride, might be too much of a good thing for existing Cadillac owners with more traditional preferences.  

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As noted earlier, the CT6 offers a wide array of upscale comfort/convenience/safety touches to further burnish its image. The list expands in scope from the base CT6 with a 2.0 Turbo that opens at $54,490 and the most-affordable V6 that adds $2,000 to that number through Luxury and Premium Luxury trims on to range-topping Platinum-spec CT6 models that command $84,460 (3.6L) and $88,460 (3.0 TT), respectively. Even base CT6s come with the latest -- and much-improved -- CUE infotainment system that has a 10.2-inch screen, Bose audio, OnStar with 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot, well-formed power front seats, dual-zone climate control and adaptive cruise control. From Luxury on up, they either offer or include everything from navigation to Night Vision. Key features also include a CT6-exclusive 34-speaker Bose Panaray premium audio package, 360-degree camera and quad-zone climate control, Head-up display and a panoramic rear-camera mirror. A Rear Seat Package boasts tilt/recline/massage functions at the outboard positions and dual 10-inch retracting video displays. 

Even de Nysschen admits it’s going to take more than just one giant step in the right direction to restore the 113-year-old Cadillac brand to its former global glory. And with the Escalade and aging SRX still accounting for a huge chunk of the division’s total sales numbers in 2015, the new CT6 represents a clear leap of faith. There’s no denying the 2016 CT6 -- which will be followed at some point by a larger and more luxurious flagship -- has the potential to make a difference.

More Cadillac News…

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