Think Cadillac, and you may begin to visualise a 1959 Eldorado with its outrageous tailfins and rear overhangs that stretched virtually the length of a football field. But here’s some stuff you may not know about the brand…
Did you know Cadillac was the first manufacturer to mass-produce cars with enclosed cabins? Or that it was the first carmaker to introduce the electric starter, electric lights, the mass-produced V8 and the counterbalanced crankshaft (to minimise engine vibrations)? The 1922 Type 59c could also fill up its own tyres as the car was equipped with a self-powered air compressor.
And here’s another gem: the first US presidential bulletproof limo was actually seconded from a certain Al Capone. The 1928 Caddy in question — armour-plated to protect Capone from rival gangs — was impounded by the treasury department when the notorious gangster was dispatched to Alcatraz prison. And so it came to pass that President Franklin D Roosevelt rode in the ex-Capone Cadillac on his way to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on the evening of December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbour).
Cadillac clearly has heritage. Why is it, then, that the American luxo brand has been unable to roll out a world-class limo for the past several decades? Sure, it’s given us plenty of cushy-riding land barges, but nothing that would cause the German prestige purveyors to lose any sleep.
Is the CT6 the first sign that things are changing? In many ways, yes. The all-new Cadillac flagship has much going for it, and it undercuts the Teutons significantly on price, with the entry model kicking off at Dh235k, and the range-topper with all the bells and whistles asking for a none-too-extravagant exchange of Dh287k. That’s not much more than half the ask for an equivalent Audi A8, BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class.
In case you’re wondering about the curious alphanumeric moniker, you’d better start getting used to it, as a combo of letters and single digits will from now on be used to identify each new Cadillac model. The saloons will all be prefixed by “CT”, while the SUV models will wear “XT” badges. In each case, the numeral at the end will denote the size of the vehicle and its positioning within the hierarchy. Pretty much the same philosophy Audi and Volvo use… and now Infiniti, too.
Cadillac’s PR bods say the new naming protocol will be less confusing than the current alphabet soup comprising ATS, CTS, XTS, etc. The only exception will be the Escalade, which will always be known as, er… the Escalade.
Getting back to the CT6, it’s underpinned by Cadillac’s all-new Omega architecture, which is a clever lightweight composite of aluminium (62 per cent) and steel (38 per cent) that results in the vehicle easily thrashing its Audi, Merc and BMW rivals when it comes to the battle against the bulge. The entry-level CT6 tips the scales at a trim (for its dimensions) 1,781kg, while even the fully loaded version weighs in at a not-too-lardy 1,853kg. That’s impressive, especially as Caddy hasn’t resorted to an Audi-esque all-alloy platform.
Two engine variants will be offered in our region — the familiar 335bhp 3.6-litre V6 that also features in the ATS and CTS, plus a new 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that cranks out a beefy 404bhp and 542Nm of twist. It’s a respectably potent unit — I’ll get to that in a sec — but it also has the requisite green credentials to keep the tree-huggers happy, thanks to cylinder deactivation and auto stop-start functions. An eight-speed auto is standard with both motors, as is all-wheel drive. Rear-steer is also offered as an option.
The CT6 is a tad shorter than the German long-wheelbase limo brigade at 5,182mm from stem to stern, which means it’s not quite as cavernous in the rear compartment as the Teutons. That said, the rear seats are offered with electronic recline and massage functions, so the ambience is suitably opulent for royalty and oligarchs.
Our first drive at the media launch takes place around the vicinity of Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island, which means there’s absolutely nothing in the way of interesting roads to be tackled. So the best bet is to simply cruise and evaluate the car’s comfort and refinement, which is its core reason for existing in any case.
First things first: the Bose Panaray audio in the range-topping CT6 is simply the best sound system you will encounter in any car currently on sale — and I’m not exaggerating here. With 34 speakers scattered throughout the cabin, the Panaray system’s ability to render the most minute melodic nuances — as well as cabin-quaking bass — is mind-blowing. If there’s truly a standout feature in the car, this is undoubtedly it.
Where the audio system is positively symphonic, the twin-turbo V6 is fairly workmanlike. It’s respectably smooth and torque-endowed, but it doesn’t sound particularly good… or bad. It’s simply noise. Although commendably quiet at a steady cruise, the motor gets a bit raucous under load. The eight-speed auto is also not quite as creamy smooth as the seamless transmissions that the German brigade are equipped with. The eight-speeder is occasionally a bit clunky and can get confused by sudden throttle applications.
But while the drivetrain as a whole falls marginally short — and I really mean by a small margin — of the Teutons, the CT6’s Magnetic Ride Control-suspended chassis is a match for any of them. It irons out pretty much every road surface imperfection we traverse — not that there are many of these — but it does so without completely detaching you from the driving experience. The steering is precise and well-weighted, and the Caddy feels reasonably nimble for an almost-5,200m long device — optional adaptive rear-steer plays its part here — which means the CT6 is quite an enjoyable car to pedal. But don’t hold out for a go-faster ‘V’ version because there ain’t gonna be one. Company execs say there’s simply no demand for such a variant in this segment.
A fair percentage of CT6s will be used for chauffeur-drive duties, and it’s not bad news here because the rear seats are quite agreeable. As mentioned earlier, there are recline and massage functions (I can vouch for the knot-kneading efficacy of the latter) in the up-spec models, as well as 10-inch infotainment screens mounted in the front seatbacks.
The only gripe I have is that there isn’t sufficient space to wedge your feet under the front seats (headroom is tight for taller folks, too), so you can’t entertain notions of a full sprawl.
You’ll be more comfortable in the rear compartment of a long-wheelbase 7 Series or S-Class, but bear in mind that either of these commands a substantial price premium when specced to the same level as the Caddy.
Among the CT6’s surprise-and-delight features is an industry-first virtual mirror system that displays an image captured by the rear-mounted camera on the overhead mirror. It works, but I find the displayed image strangely artificial, so I opt to pivot the unit (as it also contains a mirror) and rely on a conventional reflection.
Another first is the surround-view video recording system that can capture and store front and rear views while driving. I suppose this could come in handy if you’re involved in an accident and are trying to prove that another motorist was at fault. There’s nothing like hard evidence to convince law enforcement authorities.
The CT6 is also offered with enhanced Night Vision that helps identify people, large animals and more via heat signatures on a display in the driver-information centre, and there’s a new Pedestrian Collision Mitigation system that activates automatic braking to prevent mowing down errant jaywalkers. There’s lots more tech — too much to mention here, but suffice to say the CT6 doesn’t give away anything to its rivals in the electro-wizardry department.
The CT6 also shines in terms of the presentation and premium feel of the cabin. You’ll notice good-quality leather and wood — yes, real timber — used throughout, and the layout has a touch of artistry that certainly hasn’t always been synonymous with Cadillac. You’re not going to feel short-changed the instant you slide into the cockpit, and nor are you likely to after a month or two of living with the car.
There are no surprises as far as its exterior styling goes, but the CT6 does represent a slightly more futuristic take on the razor-edged ‘art and science’ design language that’s been a hallmark of the brand for the past decade or so. Expect the same theme to filter down to the lesser models over the coming years.
For now, the CT6 comes across as a polished and well-executed full-size saloon, and it deserves to do well in the limo sales race. The fact that it offers almost BMW 7 Series levels of kit, space and comfort at a 5 Series price certainly won’t do its prospects any harm. All in all, the CT6 is another welcome sign that Cadillac is regaining the form that made it one of the world’s great carmakers back in the day.