by Frank A. Aukofer

Cadillac creeps closer to parity against Europe’s high-performance luxury brands with the 2017 CT6 full-size sport/luxury sedan.

Though there likely are some aficionados who yearn for the days of the Cadillac de Ville or Fleetwood, the company now is committed to befuddling the public with alphanumeric designations—just like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Audi.

That’s how it stays hip, while also testifying that the venerable American purveyor of softly sprung land cruisers now delivers models that travel in the same grid with the best from Germany, Japan and Great Britain.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

It started in 2003 with the rear-drive CTS, which gladdened the hearts of American chauvinists because it was the first modern Cadillac to butt bumpers with the German performance sedans.

Since then it has gradually upped its game with overachievers like the CTS-V. But it has not totally abandoned the potbellied gentry who in days of yore drove their Fleetwood sedans majestically up to valet parking at the country club.

The company still produces the big XTS, with a personality that carries hints of earlier times. It comes with front-wheel drive, as had most Cadillac models following the General Motors rejection of rear-wheel drive more than a decade ago.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

Now the pendulum has swung again. To deliver a proper high-performance contender, rear-drive — or, increasingly, all-wheel drive — is mandatory.

The 2017 CT6 qualifies. Depending on the model, it is available either way. Tested for this review was the CT6 Platinum AWD, which parks at the top of the lineup. It had a starting price, including the destination charge, of $88,490. With options, it came with a suggested delivered price of $91,580.

As might be imagined, that sticker covers a lot of stuff, starting with a 404-hp 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that makes 400 lb-ft of torque. The power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

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There’s enough power to move this 4,370-lb sedan to 60 mph in an estimated five seconds — as long as you first turn off the stop-start system that shuts the engine down at stoplights to conserve fuel. Even with all that power, there is a hint of turbo lag when you punch the pedal to downshift and pass at highway speeds.

Handling is enhanced by magnetic ride control and a rear-wheel steering system that makes turn-ins quicker on curving roads. Straight-line cruising, depending on the road, requires steering corrections. Loafing along on a smooth freeway is quiet and relaxing, though the ride can get lumpy on undulating pavement.

The CT6 is a big car, a couple of inches longer than its garage-mate, the XTS, and a few inches shorter with slightly less passenger space than the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Inside, it has ample space for four passengers, who sit on soft leather perforated to deliver heat and cooling.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

The driver’s seat is equipped to deliver en route back massages and the back seats recline comfortably like those in upscale movie theaters. On the tested Platinum model, outboard back seat passengers get their own entertainment screens nestled inside the front seatbacks.

A console containing function controls and cup holders divides the back seats. It can be folded up out of the way to expose a fifth seating position, but it’s not worth the bother. Headroom disappears as you park your bottom on a hard cushion, and a giant floor hump eliminates foot space.

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Overhead, there’s a panoramic sunroof. A large touch screen resides in the center of the instrument panel, controlling a variety of functions with swipes and touches. There are no buttons or knobs, though a pad on the console supplements the touch screen controls.

An unusual feature is a rear-view camera embedded in the inside mirror. It delivers a clear picture and a wide view behind the car. But it is mostly distracting because the driver’s eyes must re-focus every time they shift to glance at the mirror, and double vision often results. Fortunately, the camera can be switched off for a normal view.

Another minor annoyance: the power seat controls are mounted on the doors, similar to those found on Mercedes-Benz models. They are awkward to use, not as intuitive as controls mounted on the sides of the seats.

Overall, the new CT6 comes across with a personality more akin to that of a big sports sedan than that of a boulevardier like the XTS.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Cadillac CT6 Platinum AWD four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 404 hp, 400 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 107/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,370 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/26/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $88,490.
  • Price as tested: $91,580.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Cadillac.

2016 Cadillac CT6, Los Angeles, CA