Critical feedback can be great, if there is constructive intent. Otherwise, it is bellyaching, defined as annoying fault-finding. Annoying indeed, as the comments sections of some automotive sites are beset with chronic fault-finders convinced anything Cadillac does is inferior because Cadillac did it. Like buzzards to fresh road kill, trolls descend and perpetuate an echo chamber of manufactured outrage typically with a crescendo of low-brow insults. Yet, not all grievances lobbed at the Crest brand are juvenile hysteria and some even warrant a closer look.
For example, the most rational of recent gripes I’ve seen are that, for 2016, Cadillac offers three sedans that are similar in looks, size and price.
First off, why is Cadillac being badgered when cases of model overlap by other manufacturers go largely uncontested? For instance, BMW now has a whopping 14 ‘Series’ designations which is a kaleidoscope of an astounding 88 models. The Bavarian brand is arguably rife with overlap but there’s little to no griping. Here’s why: unlike BMW, Cadillac’s alleged overlap is not a consequence of overcrowding. In fact, their situation is the opposite and involves three of only four sedans available in their still-cratered 2016 model lineup. So, on the surface, it could appear to be a case of shortsightedness on Cadillac’s part. Yet, anything more than a cursory look indicates that is an oversimplified deduction.
People who follow automotive soap operas know that Cadillac’s full family of models is just beginning to take form and might best be compared to a partially completed structure. Underlying it are events starting with the oldest of the three subjects, the XTS. It is the spiritual successor to two former models, the DTS and STS, both sedans, which were eliminated from Cadillac’s lineup after 2011.
Though gorgeous, Cadillac’s unveiling of the XTS Platinum Concept, for the 2010 auto show circuit, generated a collective sigh amongst many who understood what it meant; it was followed by a near identical production XTS, for 2013. Despite its many virtues, it was inconsistent with Cadillac’s pedigree plans and not the truly new large sedan Cadillac’s image needed. It embodied the brand’s commitment to front-wheel-drive and use of a shared platform at the top of their formal hierarchy.
So, coming clean here, I was among those that lamented the idea of Cadillac’s defacto flagship riding on a prolific platform like Epsilon II. (Need I say bellyached?) Yet, buoyed by hope, I accepted XTS as a change in heading, not of destination. Theoretically, XTS would shore up sales with traditional customers while work continued on more aspirational models.
Keep in mind, only a couple months after the arrival of XTS, little ATS showed up. As a result, for its third and most competent iteration yet, the 2014 CTS grew substantially to create room for junior. Following that, for 2016, Cadillac introduced the highly anticipated CT6, not officially a flagship but indeed a tier-topper.
(About alphanumeric names, I think the industry could be approaching a tipping point and actual names—meaning words—could again be considered edgy and exclusive. Either way, I see a window of opportunity for Cadillac to stay the CT/XT course but also draw from their past using legendary names as model tiers or sub packages. Admittedly, XT5 d’Elegance might not be a first choice but how about a low-key, yet opulently-outfitted, Brougham option for the CT6?)
With all that covered we can circle back to the original allegations of overlapping looks, size and cost of XTS, CTS and CT6.
Of course, the matter of looks is subjective and not necessarily one of metrics but here’s my take. Until the ATS showed up Cadillac’s theme still seemed volatile. Each model debut underwent macro-level changes. In subsequent years, Art & Science has stabilized into nuanced progressions. The brand’s handsome ensemble can now be tailored to fit across all of their vehicle classes.
Anyway, who would confuse an XTS with a CTS or CT6? The former is showing its roots in Cadillac’s last-gen design language, front-wheel-drive and quite possibly belting out a swan song. The XTS looks too distinct to confuse.
The CTS and CT6, on the other hand, do share very similar features especially on approach. Yet, to be fair, Cadillac is still in the process of creating an unforgettable mark and that is one way to do it. So, for now, I think their fraternal design approach is appropriate. Incidentally, a simple clue to tell the CTS and CT6 apart is their side windows; CTS is a four-window design while CT6 is a six-window design, the same as XTS. Prominent Cadillac logos are also uniquely fitted to the front fenders of the CT6 (and will be extra cool if they double as side marker lights).
Viewed head on, difficulties discerning the CTS from CT6 could be a little tricky for non enthusiasts, however, Cadillac’s relatively understated rear design philosophy (which seems equal parts elegant and forgettable) does provide an extra degree of visual separation. Most notable are the shapes of the rear lenses and locations of the third brake lights (on CTS’ trunk lid and above the CT6’s rear window). Worth noting, despite their dreary function-first appearance throughout the day, come evening, when the vertical light pipes shine crisply against their diffused red glow, those same taillights become captivating.
So, do these three models look too similar to you?
Summed up, my opinion is no, but I do see a rapidly growing need for a style-first model to anchor it all. The CT6, at least from pictures, looks to have the profile of a cruiser while the CTS has the proportions of a bruiser. Despite flocks of buyers that don’t seem interested in such things, to put it bluntly, the otherwise excellent XTS has the proportions of a compromise car. Since, in all likelihood, the XTS is short lived anyway, I find the CT6’s size and pricing structure no coincidence.
That dovetails rather nicely into the next set of overlap allegations: size and price. Being objective topics, their discussions are more straightforward.
The diagram above tells most of the story. The XTS and CTS have the closest dimensions, yet, as far as I can remember, I’ve not heard of these two models being a threat to each other. They have very clear objectives with no risk of overlap, despite their relatively similar sizes. For instance, the sport-centered CTS has a mere 35.4 inches of rear legroom, the XTS has an expansive 40 inches. If you’re curious, Cadillac mentioned rear legroom in the CT6 will be 40.4 inches, ever so slightly more commodious than XTS. (Did you know the wheelbase of the CT6 is actually longer than that of a 1977 Sedan de Ville?)
What’s particularly amazing are the weights of the CTS and CT6, which undercut their competitors—even in CT6’s case where the nearest competitors are actually smaller. The CT6 also has a turning radius about the size of the much smaller CTS, thanks to its active rear-wheel steering.
In any event, it looks pretty clear that size is not an issue as the cars are designed to cater to different audiences. I’ve often wondered why manufacturers don’t market more than one model in a given segment. Why be confined to making a sporty, practical or luxurious midsize sedan (with options that fake the others)? Assuming a segment has robust enough demand, market something for each that warrants it. Sort of like the role coupes used to fill. It was a recognition that a given platform or design could cater to more than one audience in the same size and price segment. Without the onetime smorgasbord of brands, it makes all the more sense. Though they ride on different platforms, I suspect Cadillac’s thinking is similar with the CTS and CT6 models.
Relative to CTS, the CT6 is a slightly bigger car but with similar weight and agility, and focused more on comfort. If, and this is an assumption, the XTS is going away, the CT6 is precisely the car Cadillac needed to fill the void but still maintain their brand’s assent. And it will ascend because, as noted previously, CT6 will be a top model but not a flagship; that role is to be filled by a forthcoming CT8.
This leads us to price. The XTS starts at about $45,300 and the CTS at $45,560. OMG, this cannot be happening! Actually, it can. They appeal to different people, remember? A maxed out XTS hits around $75,000 which is considerably less than the $84,000 starting price for the CTS-V.
So, news broke a few weeks back that the CT6 would start at $53,500 and some people came unhinged. “Too cheap!” Really? Now that’s a new one. Reading past the headlines reveals that entry price gets a CT6 with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (another revelation not so apocalyptic when you consider the car’s weight). That entry model would likely return excellent mileage for a car in that segment and, if you combine that with the pricing structure, it appears Cadillac has created a new and viable option for the still very lucrative livery market.
Because, spending a mere $2,000 extra equips the CT6 with a fine 3.6-liter V6, the model for the masses. From there, things get rather pricey. If you want the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6, the starting price increases to $65,390. Choosing the Platinum level trim swells the starting price to $88,500 and, using Cadillac’s configurator, I easily brought the price to over $92,000. With a CT8 model on the way, I think it’s a little too early to be complaining that Cadillac lacks an expensive enough model. (Besides, wasn’t the recent gripe that Cadillacs were priced too high?)
Well, that’s my blind retort to the angry Cadillac complainers out there that just want to bellyache, not converse. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section… but, please, no bellyaching.