by Karl Furlong
Newly introduced this year, the Cadillac CT6-V is the performance-oriented version of the brand's flagship luxury sedan. That means it's got to compete with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series, the automotive equivalent of taking on Floyd Mayweather and Muhammad Ali at their peaks. The CT6-V enters the ring with a new, hand-built Blackwing 4.2-liter twin-turbocharged V8 with 550 horsepower, enabling a 0-60 mph sprint of only 3.8 seconds. That's close to the fastest S-Class and 7 Series, but at a price of well under $100,000. While much cheaper than its German rivals, the CT6-V does suffer from a less sophisticated cabin, with some average materials and a step down in refinement. But it handles like a much smaller car, is as fast as almost any other large sedan, and also looks suitably aggressive. Lacking the class of its best rivals, the CT6-V is still an absolute hoot to drive.
The CT6-V is an all-new addition to the CT6 range this year. In fact, it's the first performance model of Cadillac's large sedan to wear the 'V' badge. The powerful Caddy gets a new 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8 with 550 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, along with a ten-speed automatic transmission. Other upgrades over lesser CT6 models include darkened exterior detailing, 20-inch V-Series alloy wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, bespoke suspension tuning, and a Brembo braking system.
4.2-liter Turbo V8 Gas
With the additional V-Series adornments, the CT6-V is a muscular, imposing luxury sedan. The unique vertical design of the front LEDs, which stretch down dramatically into the bumpers, add some distinction and personality to the big Caddy. Its aggressive stance is bolstered by 20-inch V-Series alloy wheels, while other standard features include quad exhaust outlets and a neatly integrated rear spoiler.
The CT6-V gets close to an S-Class in size, but is smaller than the German juggernaut in all key dimensions. The Cadillac measures 205.8 inches in length, 74 inches in width (without the side mirrors), 58 inches in height, and rides on a 122.4-inch wheelbase. Curb weight works out to 4,471 pounds, which is quite a bit lighter than the Mercedes-AMG S63's 4,819 lbs.
A choice of five shades makes up the CT6-V's color palette. They are Black Raven, Crystal White Tricoat, Satin Steel Metallic, Manhattan Noir Metallic, and Red Horizon Tintcoat. Black Raven is the only shade that won't cost you extra, while all other shades require an additional charge starting from $625. While all the colors offer something different, Manhattan Noir Metallic (a dark gray) does seem to complement the Cadillac's aesthetic rather well.
As the first V-badged, performance variant of Cadillac's largest sedan, the CT6-V has got to live up to its name. For the most part, it does: the 4.2-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces 550 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque. Sending power to all four wheels, the CT6-V puts down its power cleanly and will pull to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. It's not the fastest sedan in the segment, as the Mercedes-AMG S63 does the same sprint in around three-and-a-half seconds and the BMW M760i takes 3.6 - like the Caddy, both Germans feature AWD but they're also far more expensive. The greater power of the Mercedes and BMW takes over at higher speeds, but up to 60, the CT6-V is a close match.
Not only is the CT6-V the first V-badged performance model of Cadillac's largest sedan, but its engine is Cadillac's first twin-turbocharged V8, too. With its "hot V" configuration, turbo lag is said to be reduced. Dubbed the Blackwing, the engine has a 4.2-liter displacement and puts out peak outputs of 550 hp and 640 lb-ft. It's paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission.
The majority of that torque output is available from around the 2,000 rpm mark, ensuring that the CT6-V surges forward strongly from low engine speeds. It's undeniably fast and the V8 makes a pleasant growl, a sound that's augmented via the Caddy's audio system - it never comes across as overly artificial, though. While you couldn't possibly need more power in the real world, there's even more thrust and anger to be had with Mercedes' AMG V8. The CT6-V's 6,000 rpm rev limiter is also a little low, so this car's strength is more in the mid-range, where passing power is exceptional. The ten-speed auto 'box works well with the V8, although the narrow rev range means that there's a lot of shifting going on - thankfully, it's all done smoothly. Overall, the CT6-V is a big step up from less powerful CT6s and provides brilliant performance.
It's here that the Cadillac CT6-V really does justice to that V badge. It may be billed as a full-size sedan, but the CT6-V doesn't feel that way when you're wringing its neck. The hardware helps, of course - from the all-wheel-drive system to the V-Series-tuned suspension and a standard mechanical limited-slip rear differential, the Caddy has been set up to provide a lot more than straight-line speed. Active rear steering further improves agility.
Despite its AWD setup, the CT6-V is more than willing to induce oversteer in Track mode - and when you have the space to do it safely - but it's all wonderfully progressive and easily controlled with the throttle. The steering is much more alive than in the German competition, building weight naturally and always communicating what the front wheels are up to. Also in Track mode, body roll is dialed down to a point where it is virtually undetectable, while the engine note gains a harder edge that really makes you want for a broader rev band. The only blemish is the transmission - although perfectly smooth when pottering around town, it can feel a bit slow to respond when you're pushing hard, and the effect isn't eliminated when using the shift paddles.
In the more sedate Touring mode, the adaptive suspension (with magnetic ride control) is absorbent without being floaty. It's matched by excellent refinement. All in all, it's a mightily impressive showing from Cadillac - this really is a luxury car you'd want to drive yourself.
A big, heavy, and powerful sedan like the CT6-V has to come with some kind of compromise, and that's in the form of EPA-rated estimates of 14/25/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. While the highway figure is reasonable, the V8 will make you pay if you do lots of city driving. A 19.2-gallon gas tank is fitted, so expect a combined cruising range of around 326 miles. Mercedes' AMG S63 is a bit more efficient, with figures of 17/26/20 mpg.
To get the same level of performance in an S-Class or 7 Series, you need to spend a lot more. But those cars also bring with them superbly designed and built cabins, and it's here that the Cadillac feels like the cheaper car that it is. The design is rather uninspired, and while there are some pleasing bits of carbon fiber trim, they sit alongside cheap-feeling climate controls that would leave an Audi driver aghast. The seats are also harder than in an S-Class; while this may suit the CT6-V's positioning as a sporty Cadillac, it's a bit out of touch within the luxury car segment. The feature count is pretty good, with conveniences like 16-way power front seats, a heated steering wheel, an HD surround vision system, and a hands-free decklid all being standard fare. There's little doubt, though, that the CT6-V's budget allocation prioritized the oily bits over a truly luxurious cabin.
Legroom and headroom are no problem for any of the five occupants in the CT6-V's spacious cabin. Only the middle rear-seat passenger has restricted foot space due to the fat hump on the floor. The doors also open widely enough to make ingress and egress a breeze, while visibility is generally good from the driver's seat. More of an issue is actual seating comfort. It's not terrible, but the CT6-V lacks the lounge-like, cosseting seats of its key rivals, an aspect that is a negative in this segment. Taller drivers may also find that steering wheel doesn't extend far out enough. Otherwise, there are few complaints and the cabin is large enough for a family of four to be ferried around without fuss.
The CTV-6 has a more limited range of seating materials and colors than rivals, with just two primary leather colors: Jet Black and Dark Auburn. Both options feature chevron perforated inserts. Interior trim is made up of Jet Black accents along with carbon fiber and Ravenwood. It's a bit disappointing that you can't option typical luxury car add-ons like Nappa leather or an Alcantara roof lining. As mentioned, there are a few plasticky bits of trim that look out of place in a sedan retailing at just under six figures.
As full-size sedans go, the CT6-V's 15.8 cubic feet of space isn't anything particularly special. Fortunately, the opening is broad enough to be able to load a set of golf clubs with ease, but the total size lags behind the likes of the BMW 7 Series which has a commodious 18.2 cubes of space back there. Unfortunately, there is only a center pass-through as the rear seats don't fold down to increase overall cargo capacity.
Interior storage space is only adequate, with the usual glovebox, a fairly large center console/armrest, and door pockets. Two front cupholders are hidden beneath a damped cover to the right of the gear shifter, while at the back, there are more cupholders in the fold-down center armrest, along with seatback map pockets.
As the top-dog CT6, the CT6-V doesn't want for much in terms of equipment. Standard items include keyless entry, 16-way power-adjustable front seats (with heating and ventilation), heated rear outboard seats, a power rear sunshade, a head-up display, a surround-vision video recorder (useful for insurance claims if your car gets broken into), a heated steering wheel, a hands-free decklid, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The standard safety suite comprises a rearview camera (with a convenient washer system), forward collision alert, lane change alert with blind-spot monitoring, and an HD surround vision system. Available features include night vision and four-zone climate control. A power-operated sunroof and rain-sensing windshield wipers are standard as well.
The 10.2-inch central touchscreen can't match the real estate of the dual 12.3-inch screens in a modern Mercedes, but the system is nevertheless user-friendly and can also be operated with a physical controller. The CT6-V also gets a 12-inch color digital instrument display and a head-up display. The infotainment package includes Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a teen driver system, an auxiliary input jack, USB ports, and an auxiliary audio input. You'll struggle to find an audio setup that can match the CT6-V's Bose Panaray systems 34-speaker count, so audiophiles should be more than satisfied. An available rear-seat package equips dual ten-inch HD screens, wireless headphones, and HDMI inputs at the back.
Three recalls were issued by the NHTSA for the CT6 range, although it isn't clear if these apply to the CT6-V trim as well. The problems were for a scenario where the electronic stability control and anti-lock braking systems could become disabled, turn signals that fail to self-cancel, and a seat belt retractor at the back that may not lock.
Cadillac's limited warranty runs for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. There is also an impressive six-year/70,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and roadside assistance for six years or 70,000 miles.
Both the NHTSA and the IIHS have yet to put the CT6 through its respective crash-testing program. This isn't uncommon in the full-size luxury sedan segment.
Along with the expected front and front-side airbags, the CT6-V's head airbags and front knee airbags equal a total of eight for the protection of the driver and other occupants. Further safety gear encompasses automatic parking assist with braking, daytime running lamps, a teen driver system, and a surround vision recorder. A head-up display helps with being able to keep your eyes on the road.
The standard Driver Awareness Package bundles together a following distance indicator, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, lane change alert, blind-spot monitoring, low-speed forward automatic braking, and frontal pedestrian braking. Night vision, forward/reverse automatic braking, and advanced adaptive cruise control are all available.
The Cadillac CT6-V is as brilliant - or as average - as the criteria you use to judge it on. As the first V-Series CT6, it's hard to deny that Cadillac has hit the nail on the head. The CT6-V's new 550-hp twin-turbo V8 provides immense power and acceleration and, coupled with the upgraded suspension and the CT6's fundamentally delightful steering, makes this car a genuine riot to drive. In that respect, it eclipses the fastest S-Class and 7 Series rivals, both of which feel quite cumbersome by comparison. If your pros and cons list is based on how good of a luxury car the CT6-V is, however, then it falls quite short of the best. It rides well, but not nearly as smoothly as the S-Class. The interior design and quality are several notches down on the competition, while the smaller-than-average trunk fails to impress, too. If you want the best full-size luxury car to be driven in, this is not it. But as a driver's car, the CT6-V demands that you take it for a test spin.
At $88,790, the CT6-V comes in at over $50,000 less than the Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan and the BMW M760i xDrive, despite providing a similar level of performance. The Caddy's price does, however, exclude tax, licensing, and registration, along with a $995 destination charge and $1,300 gas guzzler tax. Thankfully, with fewer options available than its German rivals, the CT6-V's base price won't be as inflated when adding on a few extras.
There is only one trim available for the Cadillac CT6-V, the most powerful CT6 sedan you can get. Power comes from a new 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8 engine with 550 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive is boosted by a sport-tuned suspension and a mechanical limited-slip differential, while a ten-speed automatic transmission is used.
Outside, the flashy CT6-V gets 20-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, a rearview camera with a washer system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a rear spoiler. The leather-upholstered seats have 16 ways of adjustment in front, along with heating and ventilation. Also heated are the rear outboard seats. Further standard items include dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10.2-inch central touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 34-speaker sound system, and a 12-inch color driver information display. Adding convenience for the driver is a power trunk lid, a power-adjustable steering column, and a head-up display. Along with eight airbags, the CT6-V enjoys a comprehensive safety spec with driver aids like side blind-spot alert, lane keep assist, a following distance indicator, and rear cross-traffic alert all equipped straight out of the factory.
Cadillac has provided limited customization for the CT6-V, perhaps owing to the sedan's low anticipated production volumes. There are only really two main packages to choose from. The Driver Assistance Package costs $3,100 and adds advanced adaptive cruise control, night vision, and forward/reverse automatic braking. For $2,700, the Rear Seat Package adds four-zone climate control (with separate ventilation controls), twin ten-inch screens, and wireless headphones. Unlike its German competitors, the seats themselves don't get a plush upgrade.
Beyond these packages, the CT6-V has no significant standalone options other than different wheel designs and a few exterior cosmetic touches.
It won't take long to order your CT6-V, simply because your options are so limited. Unless you have kids traveling with you often, the rear-seat entertainment package isn't really essential. We'd specify ours in Manhattan Noir Metallic ($625) and with the glitzy 20-inch alloy wheels with a polished finish ($2,095), because a Caddy and bling just seem like a perfect match. Including destination, the total works out to $92,505.
A couple of inches longer than the XTS, the CT6-V plays in a similar class. Both are large, well-equipped luxury sedans from Cadillac. The most comparable model to the CT6-V is the XTS V-Sport Platinum, producing just over 400 horsepower (way down on the CT6-V's 550 hp) and accelerating to 60 in 5.2 seconds, a full 1.4 seconds later than the CT6-V gets there. Of course, the price differential of around $20,000 will be a factor for many, but there is no disputing that the CT6-V's new twin-turbo V8 is a glorious power plant that has the edge on the fastest XTS' V6. The XTS is a bit more practical, though: it has a larger trunk, fold-down rear seats, and comparable space at the back. At the XTS' lower price point, we can also be more lenient with its material quality; like the CT6, the XTS has a well-trimmed cabin, but it lacks the attention to detail found in the meticulously crafted German sedans. If you can't stretch to the more powerful CT6, the top-trim XTS is a worthy alternative.
Over $50,000 separates the CT6-V from the all-conquering S63, the quickest S-Class there is. But is the Mercedes really that much more car? Well, its 603-hp twin-turbo V8 is a truly venomous engine with a distinctive AMG bellow, and it catapults the heavy S63 to 60 a few tenths quicker than the CT6-V. The Mercedes' nine-speed automatic gearbox also has the edge for its faster shifts, but the Caddy fights back with an exhilarating driving experience and a much nimbler feel through the twisties. It's not as comfortable as the Mercedes, but you'll be having a lot more fun behind the wheel. The Mercedes cabin completely outclasses the Cadillac's, though - it's been assembled with more care, the design is gorgeous, and the seats are far more sumptuous to sit in. It's hard to look past the price premium for the Merc and the enormous fun that is the CT6-V, but we'd still take the S63.
Check out some informative Cadillac CT6-V video reviews below.