2020 Cadillac CT6 V8 review: Saving the best for last
It's a shame, really. This Blackwing V8-powered 2020 CT6 truly feels like the modern luxury flagship Cadillac has always wanted to build: stylish, comfortable, tech-rich and effortlessly fast. It's the perfect embodiment of the brand Cadillac has long strived to be. Yet it arrives just as General Motors puts the final nail in the CT6's coffin.
Let's recap: The Cadillac CT6 launched in 2016, with a trio of four- and six-cylinder engines, and a plug-in hybrid version soon followed. A small refresh in late 2018 brought sharper styling and a revised powertrain strategy. Just over a year later, the CT6 is already no longer in production, GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant is now being retooled to produce all sorts of EVs.
The Blackwing V8 is a sweet sendoff for this sedan, available in the CT6 Platinum (which thankfully wears a 4.2TT badge and not 800T, as it would in Cadillac's stupid Newton-meter-based naming structure), as well as the higher-performance CT6-V . Here, it produces 500 horsepower and 574 pound-feet of torque, but if you're lucky enough to score a CT6-V, you'll be treated to 550 hp and 640 lb-ft. Regardless of tune, the V8 mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission and sends its power to all four wheels. Cadillac's Magnetic Ride Control suspension and rear-wheel steering are standard with the V8, both of which allow this CT6 to really cut a rug.
Honestly, I didn't expect the CT6 Platinum to be as good as it is. The V8 starts up with a surprising roar, settling to a babbling burble at idle. Hit the gas and there's a bit of lag before the twin-turbocharged, 4.2-liter engine delivers its full torque at 3,400 rpm. But once the CT6 is up and moving, there's an absolute crap-ton of thrust available whenever it's needed, with even more oomph just a downshift or two away.
The automatic transmission is one of the better tuned 10-speed units I've tested -- mostly. It's smooth and refined, and isn't constantly hunting for the right gear. That makes it ideal for the sort of city and highway driving this car will do 98% of the time. When putting this CT6 in Sport mode, however, the gear-changes prove way too slow to be a match for my more spirited driving style. Paddle shifters let you choose your own adventure, but they're set oddly far inside the steering wheel, and even when manu-matically working through the gears, the transmission is no more responsive.
Still, that's my only gripe with how this CT6 drives. The steering has excellent weight, and MRC keeps the sedan's body composed at all times, filtering out the jostles of highway expansion joints while reducing body roll when heading off the interstate in search of my favorite canyon road. At 5,617 pounds, the CT6 Platinum is a hefty boi, but it never feels cumbersome or lumbers its way through a corner. You'll be shocked at just how quickly you can tackle your favorite curves, the CT6's rear-wheel steering virtually shortening its wheelbase as the chassis rotates through a bend.
The CT6 is quiet and composed all the while, with little in the way of wind or tire noise permeating the cabin. You can definitely hear that V8, though, and it's got a wonderful aural quality -- so much so that I prefer to drive this thing with the windows down, just so I can hear that bellowing beast.
Laying into the throttle understandably comes at the expense of fuel economy. The EPA says the 2020 CT6 Platinum should return 14 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, which makes this car subject to a $1,300 gas guzzler tax. Me? I'm seeing about 18 mpg in mixed driving.
When you decide to settle down and let the car do the heavy lifting, the CT6 Platinum comes standard with full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-centering assist, blind-spot monitoring and more, not to mention Cadillac's pièce de résistance, Super Cruise. This Level 2 automated driving system allows for hands-free driving on the highway under certain circumstances, with a camera keeping an eye on the driver to make sure you're paying attention. Super Cruise works flawlessly, and there are now more than 200,000 miles of road in Cadillac's database, allowing owners to use this tech more often than before. Fun fact: The CT6-V can't be had with Super Cruise, so the Platinum is the only way to get this tech with V8 power.
Speaking of technology, the CT6 Platinum uses the latest Cadillac User Experience infotainment, which is not only more visually appealing than the previous iteration, it's way better to use. The system's updated menu structure is easy to work through, with crisp icons on the 10.2-inch high-def display. I prefer to use CUE simply by touching the screen, but there are now redundant controls on the center console, with a large, rotary knob and a few shortcut buttons for things like audio, navigation and phone. There's even a volume knob on the console, too, and if you ever tried to use the old capacitive slider bar to turn your tunes up or down, you'll know this simple addition is a godsend.
If CUE isn't your jam, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and there's a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot and a wireless charging pad under the center armrest, too. The CT6's 12-inch gauge cluster is fully digital, and customizable, too. A head-up display projects pertinent information onto the windshield, but the graphics aren't nearly as crisp as what's just ahead of the steering wheel. As a final treat, the CT6 Platinum comes standard with Cadillac's excellent rear-view camera mirror, as well as a 360-degree HD camera suite that offers several views of the outside world, and can even record the car's surroundings when the alarm is set.
Rear-seat passengers get their own infotainment setup, with 10-inch screens housed in the front seatbacks, controlled by the cutest little remote that lives in the fold-down console in the middle of the bench. Those rear seats are power adjustable and just as comfy as the front chairs, and there's legroom for days. Go on, stretch out and make someone else drive.
Overall, though, the CT6's cabin is hit or miss in terms of quality. The leather on the door tops and steering wheel feels nice, and the seats are super plush. The front chairs lack lateral support, though I'm willing to overlook that considering they're also heated, cooled and offer massage functions. I'm not really a fan of the obviously plastic carbon fiber trim on the dash, ditto the cheap-looking (and feeling) glossy wood trim throughout the interior. There are a ton of features in the CT6, and the cabin is pretty nice for the most part, but when you come across the many cheap bits, you'll remember that GM often fails to get its cabins all-the-way right. Oh, and for the love of god, Cadillac, please sacrifice a bit of style and fit your cars with larger side mirrors. I can't remember the last time changing lanes on the highway was such a chore.
Despite the fact that production has technically ended, you can still build and price a 2020 CT6 on Cadillac's website; the sedan starts at $59,990, including $995 for destination. That's for a 3.6-liter Luxury trim, however. If you want the CT6 Platinum, which is the least-expensive way to get this Blackwing V8, you'll be dishing out at least $98,790, factoring in destination and the aforementioned gas guzzler tax.
That is, without question, a lot of money, but it's also fair in the grand scheme of things. You can't get into a V8-powered BMW 7 Series for less than $103,995, and while a Lexus LS 500 is a lot prettier inside, once again, it's a six-figure affair when you load it up like this CT6 (plus it can't be had with a V8, and you have to deal with its awful Remote Touch infotainment). The redesigned 2020 Genesis G90 5.0 Ultimate poses the biggest threat in terms of bang-for-the-buck, at $79,225 all-in, but the CT6 Platinum is significantly better to drive and it doesn't look as, uh, polarizing.
All things considered, the CT6 Platinum isn't a bad buy, and none of this car's competitors come with driver-assistance tech that matches the richness of Super Cruise. Of course, good luck finding one. Cadillac made fewer than 500 V8-powered CT6 models, and as of this writing, according to a Cars.com search, there is exactly one CT6 Platinum for sale within 500 miles of Los Angeles, California. If I expand that search to include the full-fat CT6-V, that number increases to just over 20.
If you're debating scooping one up, do it. And if you've already snagged one, kudos. Cadillac -- and General Motors -- may never build a big, badass, V8-powered luxury car like this again.