+ A

[Test drive] Reborn CT6 - big, beautiful and baffling

The Cadillac’s sexy new look hides a disappointing design
May 23,2019
이미지뷰
The new Reborn CT6 Cadillac drives along Incheon Bridge in Songdo, Incheon. [CADILLAC KOREA]
이미지뷰
With the new Reborn CT6, Cadillac is hoping to attract younger, trendier drivers and stake out its place in the luxury sedan market dominated by German automakers.

The automaker has made remarkable progress in enhancing the outer design and driving performance of its flagship model, which will certainly appeal to Korean consumers, but the new model’s underwhelming interior and less driver-friendly features could put off a lot of potential drivers.

On a 55-kilometer (34 mile) drive from Cadillac House Seoul in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, to Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Songdo, Incheon, last Friday, the highest trim of the gasoline-powered sedan stood out among other vehicles on the road thanks to its flashy looks and solid performance.

The evolved outer design of the Reborn CT6 could best be described as sharp. Borrowing styling cues from the Escala concept for its grille, hood, light housings, bumpers and trunk, the newest evolution model is more aggressive, swifter and sexier than previous Cadillacs.

The American luxury brand, originally known for its bulky and classic designs, added a curvy sideline and vertical headlight lamp in the front in 2016 and named the concept “Escala” to make its vehicles more futuristic. Cadillac Korea unveiled its first Escala Concept sedan in Korea in August last year.

The same concept was applied to the Reborn CT6 unveiled to media last week, a spokesperson for the automaker said before the test drive.

“We are targeting consumers in their 40s in launching the Reborn CT6,” he said. “This modified model should be a great, price-efficient option for consumers looking to purchase luxury vehicles.”

Apart from following the Escala concept, the Reborn CT6 got slightly longer than its predecessors, coming in 40 millimeters (1.57 inches) longer at 5,227 millimeters long. The vehicle kept the same dimensions from the original CT6, standing 1,473 millimeters tall and 1,880 millimeters wide.

Although you may worry that such a large sedan would be sluggish and unresponsive, the Reborn CT6 proved when switching lanes and breaking that it was more than responsive enough despite its size.

Shifting lanes and cruising down windy roads was just as comfortable as speeding down a straight expressway, as the vehicle was about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) lighter than its competitor models thanks to the use of aluminum for 62 percent of the body.

The lighter weight also helped the Reborn CT6 boast better speed and acceleration. The model comes with up to 334 horsepower and 39.4 kilogram-meter (284.9 pound-foot) in torque.

But greater performance comes at a cost. The newest Cadillac sedan comes with enhanced fuel efficiency at 8.7 kilometers per liter (20.4 miles per gallon), which is markedly less than the 14.4 kilometers per liter for the BMW 740d and 17.8 kilometer per liter for the Mercedes-Benz S 400d 4MATIC.

Innovative surrounding safety features were also a plus, as the Reborn CT6 quickly identified driving hazards and notified the driver. Blinking lights on the side mirrors and a rear mirror with a camera feed allowed drivers and passengers to avoid obstacles such as speeding taxi drivers and cargo trucks.

But the Reborn CT6’s interior failed to deliver the same “premium” feeling that its bolder, sexier exterior and powerful driving performance offered. Maybe this reporter had too high expectations after seeing the fresh look of the vehicle, but the interior failed to live up to the hype.

The vehicle’s high-quality leather seats and seemingly fully-digital gadgets indeed look “premium” enough at first glance, but only a few minutes onto the road, it was difficult for this reporter to understand what each of the 30 buttons spread around the steering wheel, power shift and display system are for.

A convoy leader for the test driver emphasized throughout the day the use of the Reborn Cadillac CT6’s night vision feature, which allows drivers to identify moving objects at night. While the feature did work in several dark tunnels on the test drive route, daytime driving didn’t offer a chance to truly test out the effectiveness of the feature.

Despite the complicated control mechanism, the display system and its navigation system was certainly an upside. The system was responsive, and the navigating system, which is mostly disappointing for many foreign auto brands, had all of what a normal driver would expect from modern vehicles.

The sound quality was also a plus as the Sport Plus trim’s BOSE Panaray 34-speaker system allowed this reporter to fully enjoy seven different genres of music in flawless quality while driving down to Incheon. Whether it was rock and roll, blues or classical music, the surrounding audio system delivered its promise of immersing drivers in a world of pristine audio.

Yet the trunk size was disappointing, as the 433-liter (15-cubic-foot) trunk is significantly smaller than that offered by comparable models from other automakers.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers a 530-liter trunk, followed by 515 liters in the BMW 7 Series.

“Our trunk size, despite the size, is enough to fit around four golf bags vertically,” a Cadillac spokesperson said. “As many people in their 40s like to go to the driving range, we made sure our vehicle supports their hobby.”

But when looking at it, it seemed like there was no way four full-sized golf bags could comfortably fit inside the Reborn CT6’s trunk. Considering how popular a pastime golf is for many middle-aged Koreans, inadequate trunk size would definitely not appeal to them.

It is probably safe to assume that people will stay loyal to the Cadillac luxury sedan’s competitor models, given that the highest trim of the model starts at 132.2 million won ($110,530). The price is a little cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz S-class, starting at 147 million won, and the BMW 7 Series, starting at 138.6 million won.

The mid-level trim starts at 97.68 million won, followed by the base trim at 88.8 million won.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]