Source: Autoblog Joel Stocksdale
One of the weird tidbits of car news in the past year was the change in naming for the 2020 Cadillac CT6-V. When it was first revealed, it was called V-Sport, the term previously used for Cadillacs with more moderate performance upgrades than the full-blown V cars that possessed massive power outputs and serious track-going capabilities. But then, before the car in question went on sale, Cadillac changed the name to match the equally moderately sporty CT4-V and CT5-V that officially downgraded the V name. So what should we make of this CT6-V, then? Is it a hardcore performance machine like the old V cars? Or is it what we’re expecting of the new V cars: a lightly upgraded version of the base car that isn’t particularly distinguished? As it turns out, the CT6-V sits between these two extremes to create a car that’s involving and exciting for the driver without compromising the CT6’s refinement and luxury.
Mechanically, the CT6-V is ultimately closer to its full-bore V predecessors. The highlight is the “Blackwing” twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter V8 that makes 550 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque. Besides giving the engine prodigious output, Cadillac borrowed some pages from the AMG handbook: the turbocharger is nestled in between the cylinder heads, just like the current 4.0-liter AMG V8, and each engine is hand-built start to finish by one of six engine builders. The builder’s name is even featured in the engine bay. They’re special details that fit the idea of the old V cars, but the fact that a version of the same engine is in the Platinum CT6 does make its inclusion in the CT6-V seem less special, even if its output is notably less at 500 horsepower and 574 pound-feet of torque.
Setting aside the details, the engine performs well in the real world. It’s astonishingly smooth, exactly what you want from a fast flagship. It also emits a unique exhaust note that’s both raspy and growly. You won’t mistake it for a pushrod powerplant. The power and torque provide a prominent push at all points in the rev band after a brief moment for the turbos to spool up. It’s just a shame there isn’t much of a rev band, as the engine redlines at 6,000 rpm, which is easy to hit thanks to the engine’s creamy character. It’s so low one wonders why Cadillac bothered developing a double-overhead-cam engine at all.
The V8 is coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The 10-speed is perfectly fine when cruising around town. But driving hard or manually shifting, it doesn’t change cogs very quickly, and shifts can even be a bit jerky. The all-wheel drive works well, providing plenty of traction, but you can still detect the car’s rear-drive roots with a stab of the throttle and accompanying looseness from the tail.
The best part of the CT6-V is its chassis, which is capable of doing everything you might want in a big sports sedan. Do you wish to cruise in serenity? Keep it in the “Tour” mode, and the magnetically controlled adaptive suspension (also standard on Platinum, but specially tuned for the CT6-V) makes every bump vanish while keeping the body perfectly stable and level. The steering lightens up for carefree turning. And the relaxed mood is emphasized by the near silent cabin.
In the middle is the Sport setting, which makes the steering a little heavier and firms up the suspension. It’s best as a default setting for drivers who don’t like the more isolated Tour mode but don’t want to go full Track mode all the time.
Speaking of which, Track mode reveals how good the CT6-V really is. The suspension firms up even more, nearly eliminating body roll while still returning a compliant ride. The steering becomes fairly heavy, but it suits the size of the car, and it actually provides a surprising amount of feedback. As in all modes, it’s quite quick and the car turns in with immediacy. That quick, communicative steering, plus the car’s rear-wheel steering, makes it nimble and easy to place. It feels like it’s an entire size class smaller than it is. It’s also reassuring to have the V’s upgraded Brembo brakes up front.
In Track mode, it's safe to say that there isn’t another full-size luxury sedan that feels as fun to drive hard as the CT6-V. It even sounds the part, as Track mode also enhances the synthesized engine noise. While not necessary, it does actually sound good and burbly in this application, so it’s not unwelcome.
Visually, the CT6-V is extremely subtle, and more in line with the V sub-brand's new positioning. From the outside, the only tipoffs are the mesh grilles, V badges on the fenders, and front and rear spoilers. It’s refreshing, though. This is a car for someone who is secure in who they are and what they drive. It doesn’t have to proclaim its ultra-special configuration to the world with garish carbon fiber splitters, vents and spoilers as the CTS-V did.
Interior upgrades are subtler, with special gauge graphics and copper-accented carbon fiber trim the only things really differentiating it from a CT6 Platinum. However, it ultimately suffers from the same issues as every other CT6. As noted in our XT6 first drive, there's a certain chunkiness to Cadillac's interior design that makes it feel low-rent and uninspired compared to German rivals, or even Lincoln's ritzy new SUVs. There are also some functional issues with some of the updates made for 2020. Cadillac's new monostable shifter doesn’t feel as substantial as the previous model. The redundant control knob that replaces the CT6's old touchpad looks and feels nice (as does the accompanying volume knob), but the lack of fore, aft, left and right movements limit its functionality. The drive mode button is also difficult to access.
While the CT6-V has some minor faults, they don’t diminish the CT6-V’s impressive driving dynamics. In one car, you get a confidence-inspiring backroad companion plus a soothing interstate eater. It’s the luxury flagship for the person that wants to always be in the driver seat, never in the back – most of its competitors are the other way around. Importantly, the CT6-V also represents a worthwhile performance upgrade over the CT6 Platinum, both in terms of its engine as well as handling capability. It even costs less at $95,890 versus $97,490, although the Platinum does counter with fancier massaging seats and Super Cruise, which aren't available on the CT6-V. Further proof that Cadillac figures CT6-V owners intend to drive themselves, then. And if they do, they'll find the brand's new high-powered flagship will let them enjoy the experience, no matter what it's called.