AUTOS

2015 New York Auto Show: GM unveils the Cadillac CT6

400 HP? 400 foot-pounds of torque? This is not your Daddy's Caddy.

The luxury brand Cadillac, soon to move into luxurious new headquarters in New York's SoHo district, is using the occasion of the New York International Auto Show to unveil its new flagship luxury sedan -- the CT6.

The 2016 vehicle will be in production by fall, and on sale before the end of the year.

It is the first, the General Motors division promises, in a series of vehicles that will change global perception of what a Cadillac is and can do.

“Cadillac wants to move back to the center stage of the luxury car market,” company President Johan de Nysschen told The Times. “But we cannot do that with the narrow product line we have today.”

The just-unwrapped CT6 is a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan, long on premium appointments, in the Cadillac tradition, but also long on what de Nysschen called “driving dynamics.”

At under 3,700 pounds -- the result of new automotive technology that allows engineers to more freely join aluminum and steel chassis parts -- the most powerful of the CT6s will be driven by a 3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine offering 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.

The lighter chassis, the company says, means more power and better fuel economy from its engines.

Cadillac will also offer the CT6 with a 2-liter, in-line, turbo-charged four-cylinder engine pushing 265 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The CT6 can also be had with a naturally aspirated, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which makes 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque.

All three engines will be mated to the company's eight-speed automatic transmission.

The company also boasts that the CT6 will offer next-generation versions of its active chassis system and magnetic ride control. The combination, Cadillac says, means that every wheel drives, every wheel turns, and every wheel is individually suspended, under certain conditions, for maximum road feel and control.

But the car, while offering improved “driving dynamics,” will also offer the premium appointments for which the brand has been traditionally known: leather and wood interior details, carbon fiber body elements, fully adjustable rear seating and climate control.

The result, Cadillac says, is sports car performance in “bank-vault levels of quietness.”

Cadillac representatives said the car is meant to compete for buyer attention with vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz S-class, Audi A8 and BMW 7 series -- though it will offer the agility of lighter sport sedans like the Audi A6 or BMW 5 series.

Cadillac has not released pricing information. A fully loaded version of its midsize luxury CTS costs about $71,000, while a similarly tricked-out Escalade ESV, the company's most expensive vehicle, costs just under $100,000.

Like the Lincoln Continental revealed in New York earlier this week, the CT-6’s success will depend greatly on its reception in China.

“The CT6 is important to Cadillac’s image globally, but it will be most important to Cadillac’s volume aspirations in China,” said Stephanie Brinley, Senior Analyst, IHS Automotive.

The company’s de Nysschen said Chinese buyers are important. But so are younger buyers, at home and abroad.

“China is vitally important to us, but we also have to appeal to a new audience,” he said. “The Baby Boomer generation remains important for us, but by 2020 more than 80% of the luxury cars in the world will be bought by someone who is from Gen X or Gen Y. They bring different expectations to the market, and brands that do not evolve will be marginalized.”

GM announced last year that it had earmarked $12 billion to grow the Cadillac brand, which will use that fund to introduce at least eight new vehicles between now and 2020.

Many of them, de Nysschen said, will be in segments where Cadillac does not have any entrants.

“In the rapidly growing compact luxury sedans, characterized by the Audi A3 or the Mercedes CLA, those two cars added 60,000 sales last year in the U.S.,” he said. “Cadillac has not a single car in that segment. We have to be more of a player with a more expanded product range.”

But more vehicles alone, de Nysschen said, will not put his company where he wants it to be. Cadillac's marketing team will have to convince auto buyers the new vehicles are worth considering alongside their German competitors.

“The new products give me goose bumps, but it's not good enough to develop and launch them into a market that is not ready to receive them,” he said. “We will have to work hard to change and shape people's perception of the Cadillac brand.”

Analysts agreed: Cadillac has an interesting road ahead.

“The CT6 is set to compete with vehicles such as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a segment where prestige and brand means something to consumers,” said Akshay Anand of Kelley Blue Book. “Cadillac will have to keep pushing the brand upward and showing consumers why it’s a better buy than some of the more storied vehicles in the class. “

Twitter: @misterfleming

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