Road Test: Cadillac CT6 3.6L Luxury AWD

I’ve been wanting to try out a Cadillac CT6 ever since it was first announced and large, plush sedans started rolling into the inventory at McLaughlin Cadillac. They looked good, and combined with the also reintroduced Lincoln Continental, it seemed both remaining U.S. luxury makes once again had a proper flagship.

Oh sure, for many, the current flagships are the Escalade and the Navigator, but as a big fan of 1950s-1970s Cadillacs, Lincolns and Imperials, I have always, and will always, associate the top models with the vintage Fleetwood Broughams, Continentals and Town Cars, rather than anything truck-based.

Since both cars came onto the market, I’ve thought a modern ‘King of the Hill’ article would be pretty cool. For those too young to remember or not as into Brougham-era luxury as your author, back in the ’70s Motor Trend did several articles comparing the Cadillac Eldorado to the Continental Mark III, and later Mark IV.

So while today’s article will just focus on the Cadillac (I reviewed the 2018 Continental Reserve last November), at some point in the near future I will probably have to do a Battle Royale between these two modern luxury cars, comparing and contrasting. But that’s for another day.

It helped that McLaughlin Cadillac used to service my Volvos, back before I started buying Lincolns-they sell Volvo and Subaru as well. So recently, a 2018 CT6 came in on trade, and I asked my contact at the dealership, Brian Cox, if I could schedule a road test for the website.

I arranged an appointment for the following Tuesday, and so it was on Monday, May 20th, I finally got to check one out up close. This one was Stellar Black metallic over Jet Black leather. Brian thoughtfully ran it through the car wash there prior to my taking off in it. Black looks good on cars, and especially on the higher-end Cadillac models.

But as the prior owner of a black Volvo 940SE, I can tell you they show every single speck of dust, mosquito footprints, and tree sap droplets. So I was appeciative! It’s also why I’ll never own a black car again. Too much effort to keep it looking clean.

Anyway, this particular CT6 had been recently traded in, with all of 6,200 miles, by a longtime customer of theirs. He buys a new Cadillac every year. So this was essentially a brand new car. I looked over the whole thing stem to stern, and saw not one ding. No scratch, no scuff, no mar on the leather seats. It looked exactly as it did when it left the factory. A fastidious owner, for sure.

As I got in, I noticed that when I shifted into reverse, the rear sunscreen automatically retracted to make it easier to see behind you. Nice touch. And as I turned to point the car forward and shift into drive, I felt a pulse in the driver’s seat cushion. Stopped, looked behind me, and there was an Escalade approaching. He waved me on, and I exited the dealership to get onto one of our main thoroughfares-and most congested stretches of asphalt, John Deere Road.

It drove as a Cadillac should. Smooth, quiet and extremely comfortable. There was plenty of oomph from the normally aspirated 3.6 liter V6 as well, delivering 335 hp @ 6800 rpm. I’ll just cut to the chase: This car was wonderful to drive. Fast, smooth, sharp handling. Supremely comfortable. I enjoyed driving it more than its crosstown rival, the Continental. The Continental was fun yet comfortable too, and had a more traditional-lux style interior, but the Cadillac just engaged me more.

Cadillacs seem to have that effect on me. The same thing happened when I tried out an ATS coupe last year. At one point while driving the CT6, on the way back to the dealership, there were a couple of slugs in CR-Vs on the Interstate. I could sense the CT6 sneering at them. Having none of it, I floored it and passed them both while approaching Ludicrious Speed. I was feeling so fine, so arrogant perhaps, that I was tempted to open the sunroof and flip both of them off as I passed the feckless snails. Oof. I would get in SO much trouble if I owned this car! Tickets, insurance through the roof, the whole nine yards. It’s like the CT6 was goading me, encouraging me. “Faster Klockau, faster! Dammit, let’s freaking GO!”

But man, I was really in the zone driving the car. It had lots and lots of intersting gadgets to try out, including a dual panel sunroof with individual sliders and power sunshades. The aforementioned sunscreen in the rear window had a separate button. Heated and cooled seats, of course. Power opening/closing trunk.

The seats were quite comfortable, though perhaps not quite as grand as the heated, massaging seats I experienced in the Lincoln Continental last year. That is my all-time favorite automotive throne! But that’s not to knock the Cadillac’s seats, they were excellent as well. I just preferred the Lincoln’s driver’s seat.

And I have to say, it’s nice driving a car where you can see a great deal of hood through the windshield. Of course, I see a similar view from my Town Car each morning, but it’s an old car. New cars, by and large, have hoods that are often wider than they are long. My Volvo V50 was like that. Get in, look out, and it’s like you’re in a VW bus! Not so in the Cadillac.

And this particular baby would have been quite the deal if I was so inclined. A near $70,000 car a mere twelve months ago, they had her listed at $49,000. Later I went on their website, and it was showing an internet price of $44,901. That’s still a lot of money, but for an essentially as-new car with less than 7,000 miles? That’s a deal!

It was enough to make me very temporarily consider it. But there were several demerits. First, it was black on black, and while I might be able to deal with black paint, I loathe black and gray interiors.

Give me tan, beige, off-white, heck, navy or red on the handful of cars that have them available. But black interiors get way too hot in our Midwestern summers. And it’s like sitting in a cave. Although the beautiful wood trim in the CT6 helped a great deal!

Two, I still like both my cars. Three, I’m more inclined towards an XTS if I go Cadillac next time.

The recent facelift turned me off at first, but now I am liking them more than the earlier XTSs. I’m particularly fond of them when painted in Adriatic Blue. And with the two tone off-white and black interior.

Of course, sedans are on the downswing in 2019. Everyone wants a crossover. Just like everyone wanted an Explorer or Blazer 4-door in 1991. Just like everyone wanted a Caravan or Voyager in 1985. Just like everyone wanted a Monte Carlo in 1973. Fads come and go. In fashion and in film and in automobiles. The CT6 itself almost got axed earlier this year, but won a reprieve at the 11th hour.

If I had a four-car garage and lots of disposable income, I’d special order a new CT6 and Continental today, because odds are, neither will be in their respective lineups in five years. Crossovers have yet to peak, at least in my estimation, so expect lots of them in traffic for a while. Just like the convertible in the mid-’70s, demand for sedans will likely fluctuate up again, and crossovers down, once people start looking for something different. It’s only a question of when. It may be a while.

But for now, you can still waltz out to your Cadillac dealer and try one out. I heartily encourage you to do so. Cadillac seems to be shifting to more crossovers and less sedans. Both the ATS and CTS are being essentially replaced with one model, the upcoming CT5, and the final front wheel drive XTSs are sitting on dealer lots right now.

The XT5 and newly arrived XT4 are the hot items now. But if you want to go back in time, just a little, try one of these out. They are as close as you can get to the classic chrome-encrusted Fleetwood Broughams and Brougham d’Elegances and Fleetwood Talismans of yore.

Note: Special thanks once again to McLaughlin Cadillac and Brian Cox for putting up with me, loaning me a car, and in general providing an excellent evening! -TK

37 Replies to “Road Test: Cadillac CT6 3.6L Luxury AWD”

  1. John C.

    It is interesting to contemplate a luxury Cadillac with a 6800 rpm horsepower peak, past the redline per the tachometer. Shows to me the folly of dropping the pushrod aluminum V8 that allowed modern Cadillacs to have the traditional feel that set them apart from competition. Does anybody think that this change was pushed for by the guy that buys a new one every year? Of course not, even if he enjoys screaming along at 7000 rpm, he won’t want to think that his engine is shared with 3 row crossovers and Impalas. No doubt it was a big fight to keep proprietary engines in 80s Cadillacs through the big modernization, Lincoln and Imperial didn’t. What a mistake then to grant Cadillac tiny number platforms just as they took away the engine with the distinctive feel. A 4.9 with 300+ pound feet of torque from low rpm would have been great in a CTS and in a CT6. Definitely something different from the other guys.

    • Drew

      That’s a good observation, John…and I fully agree. I’m not a fan of smallish engines having to work their guts out in order to overcome the mass of a larger vehicle. But I’m old and out of touch.

    • Carmine

      I have a 3.6 DOHC engined car and at no time am “screaming along at 7000 RPM” FYI……Because you know. there are things like gears and transmissions etc…..

      • John C.

        Not surprised, I rarely exceed 5000 rpm in my cars. However, that is where the 335 horsepower is. You would probably have to hold a lower gear manually to experience the full horsepower, if the electronics allowed it. Wikki has the dyno chart, You will be pressing pretty hard for the transmission to give you a 4000 rpm upshift, which yields circa 200 horsepower, still with less than 90 percent of the old 4.9s torque. The CT6 weighs about the same as the Seville you like(93) and only a few hundred pounds more than the Seville I like (91). In normal driving an old Seville will seem faster. Just like in the old days versus the imports with their V6s. We had them beaten but then gave up and joined them.

          • Carmine

            I can never figure out if you’re just a really bad troll or someone who is just always wrong about everything.

            Have you ever driven a modern OHC car?

            What kind of car do you own, I’m curious.

            If its not a 1990 LeSabre or some sort of Century, then you’re just full of sh*t about everything else you post……

          • CJinSD

            You guys remind me of the first girl I ever lived with . She hated ‘No Woman, No Cry’ by Bob Marley, because she thought it meant that if you avoided women you would never know misery. I liked ‘No Woman, No Cry,’ because I thought it meant that if you avoided women you would never know misery. Actually, the song was Marley singing to some woman telling her not to cry in his tortured, illiterate attempt at English. My takeaway was that just because two people disagree with each other, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t both wrong.

          • John C.

            If she is interested in Caribbean grievance porn songs you might have your girl try”Joshua gone Barbados” by Johnny Cash. With some literacy and insight, he weaves a story of losers being their own worst enemy and saves the trouble of trying to translate gibberish. Where was she on ideal Cadillac power curves? Low where you can use it or up high just dangling up there to tease.

          • Carmine

            I was bored after the first line so I didn’t read the rest but I’ll assume it was dripping with contempt, misplaced smugness and wanna-be intellectualism…… but let me guess, they both suck, all Cadillacs suck, GM cars suck, wash, rinse, repeat, Toyota Uber Alles……go get yourself an “attaboy” out of petty cash from Doreen in accounting for an attempt at being clever.

          • arbuckle

            I’m on Carmine’s side with this one. In a car I’d rather have something that can rev out over 4.9L-style power delivery.
            However, just because it revs doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a V8.

          • Carmine

            I like the 4.9, its a great engine, its almost amazing what they were able to make from the fragile, economy minded lo po 120-130hp 4100, it was punchy, thanks to the torque and GM’s old “touchy gas pedal” trick, the same one they would use to make cars with the 2.8 V6 “chirp” tires off the line, it delivered pretty good power, 200hp was pretty impressive, for a little while, but at no time have I ever driven a Northstar or a 3.6 DOHC GM V6 car and thought “man this thing is really a slug off the line” ever. Never ever.

  2. Drew

    Excellent write-up, as usual. I went to the local Caddy dealer over the weekend looking for one of these. The lot had 25 vehicles, NONE of which was a “car”–only crossovers and SUVs. What a disappointment for an old brougham-head like me.

  3. MrGreenMan

    Comparing the steering in your Town Car to this one, has GM made the electronic power assist sufficiently responsive? One of the things that keeps me from considering GM’s products is the steering. If I can still get hydraulic rack-and-pinion, I know I can trust the feedback on snow and ice. In several iterations of the Malibu, it was insufficient – swapping between a Malibu Epsilon II and a W-body caused me great consternation, as the W-body steering (as prickly as the intermediate steering shaft could be) had sufficient feedback for ice and snow. I’m assuming you’ve got the rack-and-pinion and not the worm-gear Town Car; please advise, or please include a comparison between the Continental and this one in your head-to-head. Thanks!

  4. Glenn Kramer

    Interesting article and it points out the dwindling sedan market which is marooning those of us who are car-centric. The problem with fads is they generally take out what came before, this is what’s happening now with sedans. I wonder how much longer the CT6 and the Continental will be around without a mass market platform to absorb costs.

  5. CJinSD

    Is that really a 2018? That would mean that Cadillac just copied the Nokia-by-way-of-BMW shifter for 2019 that BMW has been using forever. I also don’t see the ‘iDrive’ knob on this one that the ones on have.

    • Carmine

      The one Tom drove has a scroll pad on the console that you can use as a “mouse” for the CUE system, I’ve played around with one a few times, it was pretty easy to use. You can see it on the console in the interior photos.

  6. MrFixit1599

    A couple months ago my Wife and I were looking at getting a different car. We had a Hyundai Elantra that neither of us liked, but we got a great deal on it, and it was reliable. I spend most of my time working on the road, so I was leaving some of the decision up to her. She wanted a coupe with a back seat. The kids are all grown, and have their own cars, so that’s fine. Options are slim. I wanted a Mustang, she wanted a Challenger, so that didn’t work. Audi was a no go as her VW New Beetle that was lost in a garage fire last fall was a maintenance nightmare, so no VAG products. Neither of us are Mercedes fans. BMW was a possibility, but nothing really caught our eye.

    Then I just happened to drive through the local Ford dealer lot, and there was a Black Cadillac CTS Coupe. I don’t guess I had ever really looked at one, but I thought it was a very good looking car. 2 days later as we were returning home, I “accidentally” drove her past it and her immediate response was WHAT IS THAT!?!?!?!? I had already done some research, and they appear to be fairly reliable. It was RWD only, and I wanted AWD (Wisconsin). I told her to go test drive it if she wanted to, and then if she liked it we would find an AWD one later. Fast forward to getting home that night and it’s sitting in the driveway. Performance package with every Luxury option but rain sensing wipers and memory steering wheel. Originally a lease in Kentucky, then South Carolina. Only spent one winter in Wisconsin, and after oddly enough running into the previous owner, was never driven in salt. The depreciation on cars that apparently aren’t remarkably desirable to everyone is shocking. 5 years old and I got it for around 1/3 of original MSRP. I don’t know if that’s a great deal, but it was the right car at the right time for us.

    Owning a black car, let alone a Cadillac had NEVER been on my radar, but there it is. Love that car. The 3.6 seems like a great engine, it’s much faster than I expected it to be. I don’t even want to think about how fast a CTS-V is. In the couple months I have had it I have seen 6 others, and I travel all over the country every week.

    Granted the back seat is a non-accessible cavern for anyone other than very small grand children, the trunk opening is laughably small, and gas mileage with me driving is not good, but man is it a fun car. I just had no idea Cadillac made a car that was interesting and fun.

    The owner of the company I work for bought a used CT6 a year or so ago, and he claims it his favorite car he has ever owned. Previous cars include LS400, a Jag, 73 Merc SL 430 Vert, 76 Beetle Vert, Ford Edge, several Excursions, etc.

    • Jack Baruth

      I drove and was impressed by a 3.6 coupe about six years ago. Just wish it looked more like the ATS coupe.

      • MrFixit1599

        After finding the CTS coupe, I started looking at ATS coupes. My son is of the same opinion. He is looking into trading in his FoST on an ATS sedan. My wife and I are of the opposite opinion. I love the ridiculous look of the CTS coupe compared to the sedan, versus the less discernible difference in the ATS coupe/sedan from a distance. I find it hilarious that Cadillac designed the coupe in the first place, since it’s a completely bespoke platform from the A-pillars back. As best I could find, they built around 6,000 or so a year for 4 years. I also found it odd that, per Wikipedia, Cadillac continued building the CTS coupe through 2014, and the V version through 2015 even though the CTS was redesigned for the 2013 model year for the sedan. I know model years can be odd, but that’s a 2 year span, not 6 months.

        I have to assume that either Cadillac started an entirely brand new production line for the 2013 CTS sedan, or the coupe and possibly wagon were built on their own production line separate from the sedan. It all seems like a not very profitable way of doing things, but first of all it’s GM, so who knows. Secondly, I have not spent a ton of time in automotive manufacturing plants, but I am in other manufacturing plants every day, and it seems very inefficient to me. Maybe the built them for another year or two to cover the costs of development?

        • Carmine

          They were all built on the same line at LGR-Lansing Grand-River, next to the old Oldsmobile World Headquarters, its a flex plant, it can build several The coupe, sedan and wagon were all Sigma cars based on the same architecture, it would be no different than when coupe, sedans and wagons went down the same assembly line for years in the past.

          The 3rd gen CTS and ATS were Alpha cars but they way they were assembled wasn’t that different from the prior Sigma based cars, the LGR plant also made the 2005-2011 STS there too.

          Oshawa was a flex plant where FWD Impalas, RWD Camaros and BOF Silverados were all made in the same plant.

  7. George Denzinger

    Count me as a fan of the Art and Science styling. The recent release of the CT5 has me wondering how well A&S will work in the future, however. Regardless, this CTS does have all the things that I’ve loved about Caddys for the last 40 or so years. I’m not in a position right at the moment to buy one and I envy the folks who can.

    I’m a bigger fan of the ATS actually, as it’s more the size of car I prefer, but if I could roll the big money, this would be the Cadillac I’d go for. Thanks for the ride, Tom.

    • George Denzinger

      Dammit! The alphabet soup got me again. I wrote CTS but meant to type CT6…

      If there was one thing I wish Cadillac would do, is to actually NAME cars. The alphanumeric jumbo of letters and numbers trips me up every time.

  8. Dan-O

    Great write up, and one that gave substance to my hope that the car was good, even if affording it is not in the cards until years down the road…and I get to the point of voluntarily driving an automatic transmission’ed vehicle over manuals (at least while I still can–if I have a family then bring on the minivan, I’ll be fine).

    I love the proportions of the CT6. Long, low, and angled where you need it. Proper RWD long hood and shorter rear deck. Like everyone else, a smooth V8 as standard should be a given, and certainly never a (turbo) four. That’s just sacrilegious. I’ve driven the 3.6 in lesser trims in a ’14 Traverse (parents car) and a few V6 Impalas (rentals) in the last year or two. Very impressed. The Traverse has been dead reliable and somehow easy on brakes. The Impalas accelerate very quickly and are library quiet at 80 mph on decent freeways. Handling and interior appointments are nice as well. All that to say, having the 3.6 be good in a CT6 makes sense, and I’d be fine driving one. Mostly because I have a freaking Cadillac! It’s big, bold, yet smart and well appointed. Black interior for me, and a dark blue, red, or black for the paint.

  9. scotten

    I bought a used 2014 CTS V6 and got rid of it within a year. It was a great car, but in warmer temperatures – when you’d wait at a traffic light – the fuel delivery (and idle speed) would drop severely and the whole car would shake like a late 60’s muscle car. The local Cad dealership wouldn’t do anything to fix it.

    I finally did a lot of digging and found this was a common issue with this engine in the CTS & some other guy got his car lemon’d and bought back. Lemon law only applies to new cars so I was SOL.

    That, combined with the crappy dealership experience, leaves me leery to any Cadillac.

  10. Dan Reitman

    My dad has had his 2017 CT6 3.6 since new, in a beautiful shade of Emerald (I think) Green on Black. EG is gorgeous, sure as it’s nearly impossible to keep clean. Dad is not a Car Guy per se, and has had all manner of full-sized Ninety-Eights, LeSabres, Fleetwood Broughams, Town Cars, Deville’s/DTS’s, before finally getting the CT6, which he says he enjoys, but admits to missing the more plush feeling of his older steeds. I’ve driven the Caddy a bunch and am continually amazed by its athletic poise. At the risk of stating the obvious, this thing does not turn in like a DTS. I used to drive an E46 3-series and the CT6 really, honestly, just drives like just a bigger version of that. The interior is indeed cave-like in black, and count me in with the angry masses who dislike CUE, a misguided – if elegant – solution to a problem that never existed. Pops, being a proud luddite and to his credit, happily dismisses CUE as just another type of consumer technology he doesn’t care for. Anyway, glad to hear the Caddy has been granted a reprieve. CUE issues aside, the CT6 definitely has me considering picking up a something like a newer CTS 3.6 (with the 8-speed) for myself.

    • Carmine

      The CTS is another excellent driving car, it would be tough choice between the current CTS and the CT6 for me. I like them both.

      • Dan Reitman

        “The CTS is another excellent driving car, it would be tough choice between the current CTS and the CT6 for me. I like them both.”

        I have yet to drive a CTS, but figure it drives very similar. I actually find the CT6 a more striking and appealing design, but wouldn’t need or want the extra length.

        • Carmine

          It would be tough to choose between both, almost all of the features are the same but the CT6 has a few things in the top spec range that you can’t get on the CTS like NightVision, Supercruise and 4 wheel steering.

    • Baconator

      Yeah, Cadillac is tuning its suspensions as well as anything on the market these days. Better than BMW, even, now that the Bavarians have become obsessed with dubs and run-flats instead of actual contact at the tire patch.

      Cadillac’s interior quality still fails to satisfy, as does the steering feel. But their shock-and-spring engineers should all be promoted to the C-suite as far as I’m concerned.

      The onslaught of crossovers and EVs probably means that Cadillac won’t be putting their best development resources into their sedans for much longer. A shame, really – they were one model cycle away from finally beating the Germans at the sports sedan game.

      • Dan Reitman


        Ha, totally agree re: those C-suite promotions. Re: EV’s, perhaps some nifty PHEV or EV technology will find its way into a future RWD GM sedan. Here’s hoping anyway.


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