Review: 2016 Cadillac CT6 Platinum AWD

We test out Cadillac\'s latest flagship sedan.

There was a time when Cadillac was the standard of the world. Then the company went and made cars like the Cimarron, shattering the company's image as a flagship luxury vehicle maker.

But Cadillac began to claw its way back to relevancy in 2003 with the launch of the first-generation CTS. Although not a perfect car by any stretch of the imagination, the original CTS set the foundation for Cadillac's comeback.

Now more than a decade removed from that first CTS, Cadillac has built back its reputation to the point where the company is ready to launch a range-topping luxury sedan — the all-new CT6. But is the CT6 good enough to reclaim Cadillac's position as the standard of the world? Come with us to find out.

What is it?The CT6 is a full-size luxury sedan that tops Cadillac's passenger car range. The CT6 is rear-wheel drive-based, but that configuration can only be had with the base 2.0L four-cylinder engine. Models equipped with Cadillac's 3.6L V6 or 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 ship standard with all-wheel drive.

The CT6 is available in three different trim levels — Luxury, Premium Luxury and Platinum. For our evaluation of the CT6, Cadillac sent us a top-spec Platinum-equipped model.

No matter the trim, the CT6 offers a spacious and luxurious interior. But spring for the Platinum trim and you'll get some high-end touches like power-adjustable rear seats, massaging front seats and leather-covered everything.

What's it up against?Although positioned as Cadillac's flagship sedan, the CT6 isn't a true flagship vehicle. Instead of mixing it up with vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series, the CT6 is actually priced closer in base form to the Acura RLX and Infiniti Q70. Given that price point, it's possible that buyers could be cross-shopping the CT6 will smaller sedan like the Mercedes E-Class, or even Kia's K900.

How does it look?Pretty much like every other sedan in Cadillac's lineup. That kind of familial resemblance isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we far prefer a trickle down effect rather than Cadillac's trickle up approach.

Just what do we mean by that? Mercedes launched its current sedan design language with the flagship S-Class before spreading it to its less expensive C- and E-Class models. In the case of the CT6, it's general design language was derived from the entry-level ATS and the mid-level CTS. So while a C-Class customer is buying into the mystique of a $100,000 flagship, a CT6 buyer is left to wonder why their car was designed to look like a car that can be had for $33,000.

But that quibble aside, the CT6 is still a sharp-looking sedan, particular when finished in black metallic like our tester. Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the CT6's styling is its impeccable proportions. The CT6 is a large sedan, but it doesn't appear huge from the outside. Part of that is down to its swept-back C-pillar and short deck lid. Those elements shrink the CT6's visual appearance while still providing a surprising amount of passenger and cargo room. Quad-exhaust outlets give the CT6 just the right dose of sport.

And on the inside?The inside of the CT6 is a curious mix of high-end materials and some switchgear that feels more like it belongs in a Chevrolet. And, at least in the case of our tester, the CT6's cabin features a dizzying array of materials.

But let's start with the good. The leather in the CT6 Platinum is top-notch and covers nearly every square inch of cabin surface — even the areas on the sides of the dash that are hidden when the doors are shut are covered in soft hides. Both front seats are Cadillac-comfortable and offer heating, cooling and a massaging function for driver and passenger.

But the second row is arguably the best seat in the house. Leg room is vast, and there is plenty of head room for those well over the six-foot mark. Although the CT6's back-row lacks massaging seats, it does offer heated outboard seats and power adjustments. Throw in a pair of 10-inch high-definition screens and suddenly the CT6 feels a lot like a private jet. Trunk space is just as lavish, with more than enough cargo room for four people to get away for the weekend.

But it's not all good news in the CT6. Cadillac's angular design language works for the CT6's exterior, but it's not nearly as aesthetically pleasing on the interior. We wouldn't call the CT6's interior ugly, but it's just not as nice to look at as an S-Class or the new Volvo S90.

A little more material cohesion would also go a long way in the CT6. Seats in our test car were finished in Very Light Cashmere with the dash and door tops using a slightly darker shade of brown. However, the dash and door tops were a couple shades off in our tester. We're not sure if it was intentional or accidental, but either one is an oversight. Likewise, our CT6 had two different kinds of wood trim and an Alcantara headliner, which put us on the verge of material overload.

We also found issue with the CT6's switchgear. Although easy to use, the various switches and toggles in the CT6 feel like they're made from cheap plastic. Some kind of knurled metal would have been a better choice, even if it meant adding a couple more bucks to the bottom line. The digital readout on the CT6's HVAC panel is also a little low-rent for a flagship vehicle.

Likewise, the CT6's digital gauge cluster provides good resolution, but the overall design doesn't scream high-end. We far prefer the all LCD panel in the S-Class to the CT6's part-physical, part digital display. We did, however, grow fond of the CT6's camera-based rear-view mirror after a week of use.

Cadillac's infotainment system, known as CUE, still needs a bit of refinement. Although better than in years past, a few quirks remain, including menus that suddenly appear when your finger gets close to the screen, making it difficult to select the button you actually want to. We also can't stand the slider that has replaced the volume knob.

On the plus side, you can avoid most of CUE's quirks thanks to the implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which come as standard. During most of our time behind the wheel we found ourselves using the latter, although it should be noted that navigation via Google Maps doesn't utilize the car's head-up display; you'll have to stick with the car's embedded navi if you want to use that. But does it go?The engine in the CT6 is downsized but far from underpowered. Although displacing just 3.0L, the V6 under the hood of the CT6 makes a substantial 400 horsepower and 404 lb-ft of torque. Those figures translate to ample oomph, no matter if you're pulling away from a stop light or overtaking traffic at highway speeds. The CT6 3.0TT is flat out fast, and we can't wait to see what Cadillac's rumored turbo V8 will feel like in the big sedan.

An eight-speed automatic transmission helps divvy that power with shifts that are smooth and fast. A manual mode is available via premium-feeling steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters — we wish Cadillac would have saved that real metal for the aforementioned HVAC toggles.

All CT6 3.0TT models ship standard with all-wheel drive, which should make the sedan more appealing to those residing in colder climates.

Those with fond memories of the Cadillac Fleetwood will be disappointed by the CT6's ride. Even with its Magnetic Ride Control switched to its softest setting, the CT6 rode much stiffer than we expected. That's a disappointment as we love the MRC system in virtually every other vehicle General Motors produces with it.

On the flip side, the CT6's stiff suspension setup does make it a sharp handler. It's clear that Cadillac was targeting the BMW 7-Series during development rather than the more relaxed Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Although we certainly didn't mind the CT6's sporty demeanor, we bet most buyers would gladly trade some of that canyon-carving prowess for a more compliant ride.

Being a high-end luxury vehicle, the CT6 comes with a full safety suite that includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and a surround-view monitor. But not all safety systems are created equal; we found the lane keep assist feature in the CT6 to be pretty lax, allowing us to bound out of our lane with little in the way of vehicle intervention.

The CT6 3.0TT is rated at 18mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway, netting a combined average of 21mpg. We found the CT6 to be much thirstier than advertised in the city, with averages in the 14-16mpg range. The CT6's highway rating, however, seemed to be spot on.

Leftlane's bottom lineThe Cadillac CT6 certainly checks many of the right boxes — it's handsome, offers a lot of luxury features and has a fantastic drivetrain. But Cadillac held back from making a true flagship vehicle in the CT6, and it shows.

If you're after a true flagship (and are willing to pay for it), you'll be better served by the 7-Series or an S-Class. But if you're willing to take a step down, the CT6 is certainly worthy of a look. The 2016 Cadillac CT6 might not be the standard of the world, but it's arguably the standard of American luxury.

2016 Cadillac CT6 Platinum AWD base price, $87,465. As tested, $88,460.Destination, $995.

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