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2019 Cadillac CT6: Handsome and competent, even in base form

Roadshow logo Roadshow 11/27/2018 Jon Wong

a car parked on pavement near a forest: Before production of the CT6 ends next June, Cadillac updated its flagship sedan with fresh styling, tech and a new base engine option for the 2019 model year.

Before production of the CT6 ends next June, Cadillac updated its flagship sedan with fresh styling, tech and a new base engine option for the 2019 model year.
© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc.

Well, this is awkward.

Not 24 hours after General Motors announces its death, I'm here to tell you about the Cadillac CT6 sedan, a car that's been ever so slightly refreshed for the 2019 model year. It's got a new turbocharged engine, styling tweaks and a number of technology updates that are sure to make it more appealing than before -- just in time for it to be killed off next June.

Small, but mighty four

The new-for-2019 base engine is a 2.0-liter turbo I4 borrowed from the XT4 crossover. With 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, it's actually less powerful than last year's 2.0T engine -- by 28 horsepower and 37 pound-feet. But since the torque thrust is now delivered as low as 1,500 rpm, compared to the outgoing engine's higher peak of 3,000 rpm, the new engine moves this 3,800-pound sedan with respectable pace, and has a more flexible power band that's great for stop-and-go city driving.

I was initially worried that a car this size would feel slow as molasses off the line, requiring sizeable traffic gaps to safely merge onto highways. Thankfully, that isn't the case. At no point does the engine seem underpowered. It works well with the 10-speed automatic transmission -- also new for 2019 -- quickly downshifting when more grunt is necessary, and upshifting with smoothness. The transmission will occasionally hunt to find the right gear, but for the most part, it's unobtrusive. That's a feat, too: Making this many gears work seamlessly with a smaller engine isn't easy.

Really, the sole major downside to the four-cylinder engine is in its aural quality. It doesn't sound premium at all, right from the moment you fire it up. Leaning harder into the right pedal sounds like you're goosing a ChevyCruze. This ruckus caught a couple of my passengers off guard, especially given the luxury nature of the CT6.

The end game for the downsized engine is efficiency. EPA estimates have the CT6 returning 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway -- impressive, given its size. For those who value thrust over fuel economy, higher grade CT6s with the twin-turbocharged V6 will look much more enticing. If you were hoping to get in on the CT6 plug-in hybrid action, well, that ship has already sailed.

Comfy cruiser

The four-cylinder model is the lightest CT6, and this pays dividends in the handling department. The big Cadillac undercuts the curb weights of its BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class rivals by hundreds of pounds.

Even without the adaptive Magnetic Ride Control suspension that's available on higher trim levels, the CT6 corners confidently with minimal lean and good grip from the 245/45R19 Goodyear Eagle Touring tires. Steering is light in Tour mode and gets heftier in Sport, though there's a little bit of play to the wheel on center.

Where the CT6 does its best work, however, is cruising down the highway. The standard suspension soaks up small to medium impacts while the spacious cabin remains hushed from wind, road and engine noise, even when rolling at a steady 70 miles per hour. This thing is awesome for road trips.

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Updated styling and tech

Unlike most midcycle updates that don't move the visual needle much, the CT6 makes giant strides. For 2019, it borrows styling cues from the gorgeous Escala concept for the bumpers, grille, hood, light housings and trunk lid. My Stellar Black Metallic test car drew its fair share of compliments for its aggressive yet buttoned-up appearance -- it makes the 2018 model look dull by comparison.

Design changes inside are limited to a new shifter and some trim finishes, leaving some materials on the dash that don't quite seem up to snuff in a flagship premium sedan. In particular, the center console panel is flimsy, with the rear of it capable of being unclipped if a front passenger catches it right.

Bigger changes happen on the infotainment front with the latest iteration of Cue setting up shop on a responsive 10.2-inch touchscreen in the center stack. In addition to touch, Cue can also be controlled with a new rotary knob on the center console, replacing the old touchpad. When using either, the system is quick and intuitive to use, and easily controls navigation, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Handling tunes in my tester is an optional 34-speaker Panaray Bose audio setup that sounds magnificent -- well worth the extra $3,700. Considering some luxury audio systems from Naim, Bang & Olufsen and Burmester can cost as much as $10,000, the Panaray's price tag seems downright reasonable. Keeping folks occupied in the back is a rear entertainment system with dual power retractable and tilting seatback screens. Movies and TV shows can be played through an HDMI hookup or USB ports.

On the safety front, Super Cruise can't be had on the rear-wheel-drive trims of the CT6, but there are other goodies, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and a head-up display. An improved high-definition 360-degree camera and second-generation Rear Camera Mirror with zoom and tilt adjustments are new for 2019.

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How I'd spec it

The simplicity of the base CT6 with rear-wheel drive makes it fun and refreshing, and represents huge value over the pricier V6 models that only come with all-wheel drive. In search of maximum value, my ideal car would begin as a base Luxury trim that starts at $51,490, including $995 for destination. From there I'll add the Stellar Black Metallic paint job for $625 and fill out the wheel wells more with the $700, 19-inch multispoke wheels. Tacking on $3,500 for the Drive Awareness and Convenience Package gets me must-haves like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and niceties like heated front seats and panoramic sunroof. That brings my car's price tag to $56,315, undercutting the $68,815 Premium Luxury car pictured here by a sizeable amount.

a car engine: 2019-cadillac-ct6-premium-luxury-10

2019-cadillac-ct6-premium-luxury-10
© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc.

Great value

Given how solid this 2019 model year update is, it's a shame the CT6 is destined for that great scrapyard in the sky. If you can get past the budget engine noises and some interior shortcomings, this CT6 2.0T is a solid and handsome big sedan, and one you can get for not a lot of money. Stepping up to a V6 CT6 bumps the price to $67,590, while the full-zoot Platinum with Super Cruise and ridiculous Panaray audio begins at $87,790. Considering that the 7 Series starts at $84,000 and S-Class at $91,000, there's good value to be had throughout the entire CT6 lineup. Get it before it's gone.

This was originally published on Roadshow.

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