2016 Car of the Year runner-up: The luxury-redefining Cadillac CT6

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That’s some Cadillac!
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Hollis Johnson

Editorial note: Business Insider just named its 2016 Car of the Year, the Acura NSX. This week, we’re re-running our reviews of the five cars that almost beat out Acura for the honor.

The history of the premium sedan is one of national values on display.

American four-doors were always supposed to be plush and easygoing, rolling living rooms. The Germans went for performance, in the case of BMW’s ultimate driving machine, or durable opulence for Mercedes. Lexus transferred beloved Japanese reliability to the luxury realm. Others, like Volvo and Peugeot, sought to project Swedish and French ideas and capture different types of affluent customers.

That’s all changing now, as automakers strive to appeal to a broader world and move into markets where American-ness or German-ness don’t resonate as effectively as they once did.

Nowhere is this more evident that with Cadillac. The brand moved its sales and marketing operations from Detroit to New York in 2015, to be closer to the pulse of the global luxury market, and as new models are launched, General Motors’ top brand is shifting away from the edgy, “art and science” designs that characterized it for over a decade.

We had the chance to experience Example A of the new “Dare Greatly” era at Caddy: the CT6 flagship sedan, which was first rolled out at the 2015 New York Auto Show. The $82,000 car (as tested) was delivered to us at night, so we could check out its new night vision technology. Over the next few days, we drove it around suburban New Jersey and on the mean streets of its new home, NYC.

Here’s what we thought:

Photos by Hollis Johnson.


Our CT6 arrived in “crystal white tricoat” paint, a luminous, pearly white that’s familiar to anyone who has seen Caddy’s “Dare Greatly” TV spots.

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Hollis Johnson

The CT6 is Cadillac’s flagship vehicle. But its design language is more subdued than we’ve seen in years past, as the division moves away from its edgy “art and science” styling agenda, made famous in the mid-2000s.

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Hollis Johnson

As with all luxury brands, the faux-heraldic Cadillac shield has become more abstract. Caddy has also ditched the wreath for its logo, a big change to a longtime visual element.

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Hollis Johnson

The CT6’s proportions, front to back, are pleasing — the sedan forms a gently sloping wedge, with slabs fore and aft.

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Hollis Johnson

These headlamps, which are narrow and sharp with an elegant LED strip extending to the bottom of the front bumper, are among the CT6’s best features.

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Hollis Johnson

The rear end of the car hangs a bit beyond the back wheels, but that’s a concession to the ample trunk.

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Hollis Johnson

The tail lights are symmetrically allied with the front, but on balance they’re more low-key.

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Hollis Johnson

The quad exhausts pipes mean business, but they aren’t obnoxious. The CT6 is the most restrained new luxury sedan we’ve seen in awhile.

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Hollis Johnson

The exterior details, in total, exude a high level of quality.

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Hollis Johnson

Okay, so the exterior isn’t all that dramatic, and it certainly doesn’t recall the exotic Caddy’s of years past. The interior is equally tasteful. Our test car combined cinnamon leather with jet-black tones.

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Hollis Johnson

This is one of the nicest driving positions you’ll find on any premium sedan in 2016.

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Hollis Johnson

Metallic Caddy chevrons adorn the comfortable front and rear seats.

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Hollis Johnson

The view from the back seat, showing the cluster of overhead controls, which include OnStar, GM’s stalwart connectivity technology. OnStar is now also equipped with 4G LTE Wi-Fi. The rear-view mirror, by the way, can be placed in a camera mode, to provide an image rather than a reflection of what’s behind you.

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Hollis Johnson

The general vibe for the spacious CT6 interior is premium minimalism.

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Hollis Johnson

In keeping with a trend in the auto industry, there’s a panoramic sunroof that prevents the back seats from feeling cave-like.

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Hollis Johnson

The CT6 isn’t the first Caddy we’ve checked out, so we were prepared for this exceptionally user-friendly steering-wheel-and-instrument-panel setup.

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Hollis Johnson

This is the only full-on Cadillac badge on the inside.

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Hollis Johnson

The main instrument cluster is digital and can be customized, and it serves up a wealth of information without being distracting.

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Hollis Johnson

The gauges are quietly rimmed in chrome.

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Hollis Johnson

The straightforward P-R-N-D shifter is a refreshing throwback, a welcome departure from the fiddly joystick setups that have become too common in luxury cars. Note the modest cupholders.

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Hollis Johnson

Dual-zone climate controls are simple to use.

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Hollis Johnson

The central touchscreen infotainment system is brilliant. Running Cadillac Cue, I think it’s the best that’s currently out there. It does everything well.

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Hollis Johnson

There a suite of apps that are vehicle-specific, but also third-party, such as Pandora. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available. The 34-speaker Bose Panaray audio system that our tester came with is impeccable, the ultimate in that balanced way that Bose is so good at.

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Hollis Johnson

Let’s fire up the 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 and see what 404 horsepower flowing through an 8-speed transmission with a sporty manual mode can do!

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Hollis Johnson

The all-wheel-drive system makes the CT6 surefooted, and the driving is, for the most part, engaging enough. It’s not like piloting a CTS-V, a Caddy with over 600 horsepower and the attitude to match. But the CT6 is a great combination of cruiser and sort of sport sedan. In Tour mode, it’s relatively muted, but in Sport mode, it perks up. You can flip the paddles yourself, but I stayed with automatic for the most part and enjoyed the fact that I was in a sharp-handling, large sedan that didn’t toss me around. The CT6 is no beast — although this Premium Luxury trim level can do a claimed 0-60 mph in just over five seconds — but the torque-y twin-turbo V6 does a very good imitation of beefier V8.

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Hollis Johnson

The usual high-tech stuff is also present, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic low-speed braking, and lane-departure alert. But the coolest by far is the available night-vision technology, which literally allows the driver to see in the dark.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

When active the system can spot pedestrians well before the driver does. However, it is optimized to pick out large animals, and isn’t troubled by headlight glare from other cars. In comparison with the same system on the BMW 7-Series, the Caddy’s setup was, for me, a bit easier to interpret.

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The CT6 sits squarely at the intersection of luxury and performance. Yes, you can find a far fancier premium sedan, but there’s a clarity and simplicity to the design that should achieve broad appeal among four-door diehards, an important but diminishing demographic. You can also find better performers, but they aren’t as passenger-friendly. This is universal luxury, and Cadillac is taking the lead.

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Hollis Johnson