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2017 Cadillac CT6

Consider the Cadillac CT6 a down payment on the GM luxury brand’s future.

The CT6 replaced the XTS as the division’s full-size flagship in the 2016 model year. Its lightweight body and downsized engines are framed by an elegant, spare design, and it’s graced with great handling. It has its challenges in its sound-alike name and styling themes, but it’s the car GM hopes will be able to finally tackle the thorny problem of S-Class, 7-Series, and A8.

For 2017, the CT6 gains a plug-in hybrid model we’ve yet to drive. Until then, we’ve rated the CT6 an 8.0 out of 10, with kudos for its exceptional back seat and its sleek design, as well as its grippy handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Style and performance

The CT6 is the most mature piece of Cadillac styling we’ve seen, but it must be seen to be loved. At first glance it’s impossibly close to the current mid-size CTS sedan, but that impression dissolves when they’re seen in the flesh, next to each other. The CT6’s details are similar, from its blade-styled LED lighting to its sharp sheet-metal creases. The CT6 plays out the same theme on a longer wheelbase, which gives it both an athletic stance and a classic, old-school long hood and trunk directly in opposition to its more curlicued competitors.

Light weight pays off in the Cadillac CT6; a twin-turbo V-6 pulls out V-8 performance, and handling is remarkably able. The CT6 comes one of three engines, all mated to 8-speed automatic transmissions. The base turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 makes 265 horsepower and comes with rear-wheel drive; there’s also a 3.6-liter V-6 with 335 hp, and a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that produces 404 hp, both with all-wheel drive.

All benefit from better power to weight than they might, since the CT6’s body is made from a mix of metals and scoured clean of excess mass. It weighs just 3,657 pounds in base trim, about 1,000 pounds less than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, though the top models are merely 225 pounds or so lighter.

Turbo-4 CT6 sedans are the most surprising to drive. They’re the most agile, the lightest on their feet, the closest thing to a full-size sports sedan. But the CT6 is still a long-wheelbase car, and a wide one at that. There’s simply too much car here to deliver truly sporty handling. The size makes itself known in models with the twin-turbo V-6; they’re truly fast, but with a lot of weight on the nose, they tend to understeer, which is why Cadillac offers a rear-steer system to help the car turn in better.

The CT6 is a taut, sometimes overly stiff performer. Magnetic dampers give it a firm grip on body motion, albeit with less dynamic range than a more typical air-damper setup. Its electric steering has lots of weight in all modes, but it’s a pleasant sort of heft.

The CT6 is fairly thrifty in turbo-4 form, but the plug-in will be a welcome addition to boost its best 25-mpg city EPA ratings.

Comfort, safety, and features

The CT6 has exceptional room, especially in back, but it’s less plush that some rival luxury cars. The CT6’s interior is Cadillac’s finest cabin yet, and it is rife with high-quality materials. The design follows the spare philosophy, maybe to a fault in a day where the S-Class wears gorgeous arcs of chrome and glows with ambient LED rainbows.

Space isn’t a problem at all. Front seats could use softer cushions and a wider range of adjustment, but the rear seat is vast for two passengers; a third will perch uncomfortably on a high middle seat.

No crash-test scores are in, but the CT6 comes with a standard rearview camera and offers lots of optional safety features like forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and surround-view cameras. Its industry-first rear camera mirror takes some getting used to, but offers a peek (backward) into the future.

In base form the CT6 is a luxury bargain; with all the boxes ticked, it overlaps with more lushly outfitted German sedans. Standard power features, high-end audio, and in-car wireless data connections can be augmented with massaging rear seats, tony leather treatments, and a 34-speaker Bose Panaray audio system.

The CT6 also comes with the latest version of the CUE infotainment system, complete with a 10.2-inch, high-definition touchscreen, and a touchpad that can recognize handwriting in a search for addresses or points of interest. Still, we’ve almost always defaulted to its flawless implementation of Apple CarPlay: it’s a smart offering and the safest, most streamlined way we know of to stay connected while driving.

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