What happens when Cadillac takes on BMW? – The Verge

Posted: Tuesday, August 09, 2016

And then there’s the luxury space, where the new CT6 is looking to make a mark. While it is longer than the 5, it isn’t a full-on luxury barge like the 7 or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It will also be available with a dizzying array of engine options, including a plug-in hybrid and a V-8. Right now you can get a 2.0-liter four cylinder, a 3.6-liter V-6, or a twin-turbo V-8. Pricing follows the same wide array, ranging from $54,000 to around $90,000.

Perhaps you can already see an issue. The same buyer who wants a car for $55K is probably not the same buyer willing to spend $88,460 — the price of the CT6 Platinum that I tested. It is hard to appeal to a great swathe of customers in the luxury world. While a 5 Series customer might look at the new Cadillac and see it as a viable alternative, one finds it hard to believe that a 7 Series owner is likely to switch.

This difficulty of playing in the 7’s world is even greater since the new-generation 7, priced from $81,500, is a superlative machine. It looks great, drives like a dream, and is stuffed with more technology than a T-800 Model 101 Terminator. Even the key comes with special gadgetry. BMW owners know that it is a superlative machine, too, and they don’t have to convince any of their friends of that fact. The same can’t be said of the CT6. In the luxury space, the Caddy is an unknown quantity.

My day of Cadillacs included a drive of the 2.0-liter CT6, priced at $66,310. That is not cheap, especially for a four cylinder, long the province of economy cars. But in some ways it’s the happier machine over the two available V-6s. With less weight in the nose, it carries momentum around corners and feels lighter on its feet. The front seats are magically thin, and the Bose stereo is fabulous. Win and win. But the lower price point means some materials aren’t as nice. Just cast your eyes up and look at the drab headliner, for instance.

The CT6 Platinum is the current top option. With every box ticked it comes in at around $90,000, roughly the base price of a BMW 740e xDrive. The Caddy is also all-wheel-drive, and it gets rear-wheel steering and those great magnetic shocks. GM is very bullish on tech lately, and the new sedan has night vision, automatic braking, all the safety alerts you can imagine, including being able to detect pedestrians in the road.

The 3.0-liter model looks more solid and mature than the cheaper 2.0, owing to a beefier grille and a more upmarket interior. The rear is especially welcoming: comfortable and with plenty of headroom, this is a car that is exceptionally nice to be driven around in. (This is particularly important in markets like China, where every luxury automaker would like to make a bigger dent.) But the CT6 with the most powerful engine simply doesn’t thrill to the road in the same way as a 5 or the 7. It’s… well, fine to drive. Which isn’t enough to change the marketplace tide.

It shows that, given time to refine models like the CTS, Cadillac is capable of very great things. The company took the learnings of the CTS, scaled down the body size, and produced the ATS and the ATS-V — and the latter is a car that really is better than the current BMW M3. Its relationship with luxury, though, is still in flux. The CT6 will continue to be refined. I’ll be especially curious to see how niche versions like the plug-in hybrid will be received. And, eventually, we’ll surely be given a true flagship, something as big and grandiose as the Caddies of old. And you can be sure that all the lessons of the “lesser” models will be incorporated.

For all that, BMW (and the other stalwart German brands) will take notice. Hopefully, so will customers.

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