The Greatest modern Cadillac Models: The CT6 was Cadillac’s flagship sedan for four years?

Tran Hanh
June 04, 2024

A black 2018 Cadillac CT6 is shown from the front driving over a bridge.

We have to admit that it’s been strange not to represent the latest and greatest Cadillacs for over a year now. Since 1969, the Duke name has always had “Cadillac” beside it; nearly half the time, Cadillac has been the “Standard of the World” automotive brand. We want you to know Duke Chevrolet GMC is still your premier source for anyone looking for a used Cadillac Suffolk VA dealer and the entire Hampton Roads region!

To honor our legacy with one of the world’s oldest marques, we’re offering our take on the four best (used, before the 2022 model year) Cadillacs of the last decade. We’ll discuss the cars, their significance, and how best to make the most of them in our beautiful home state. Are you excited? You should be; some are often ranked among the greatest Cadillacs of all time. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of our standout models.

The One With a Cool Nickname: The CT6 (2017 – 2020)

The CT6 was Cadillac’s flagship sedan for four model years, the manifestation of an initiative to challenge the best luxury cars from Germany and Japan. When it went on sale in 2016, it was the first time in 20 years that Cadillac had offered a rear-wheel drive full-size sedan, the last being the heritage-rich 1996 Fleetwood. It heralded the pivot to a new naming convention and gave an encouraging sign to American enthusiasts: the next-gen Cadillacs might have been dressed for the opera, but they were ready for a dance.

That’s because the CT6 was no ponderous, wafty land yacht; what it gave up to other flagship sedans in size, it made up for in agility. In essence, it was a luxury sport sedan at a discount, with sharp steering and impressive body control that did nothing to compromise the comfort of the passengers. To emphasize the point, the CT6 was even available as the CT6-V, with a turbocharged V8 generating 550 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque, an engine which was the first Cadillac product to bear the now-iconic name, “Blackwing.”

You’re not just paying for an engine here. The CT6 offered a wide array of desirable features as well! Consider Enhanced Night Vision, an infrared camera feed displayed in the driver information center, providing visibility of animals, people, and cars just outside the headlamp range. Or the 34-speaker Bose sound system, designed to make the interior feel larger than it really is, utilizing more numerous small speakers to improve precision and range of audio experience throughout the car. How about massaging front and rear seat options or the first implementation of GM’s now-famous Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving technology?

With a competitive price of entry and engaging performance even without the V trim, coupled with significant early depreciation, the CT6 might not be a match for the S-Class, but it’s worth every penny in comparison. We think the best way to enjoy a CT6, in any trim, is with a weekend road trip to cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway. With most of our state’s major highways mapped to Super Cruise, you can employ it on the way there and back, and the Parkway itself will make the most of the CT6’s surprising handling and executive-worthy ride quality as you cruise from Shenandoah to the Great Smoky Mountains.

The One That Punches Above Its Weight: The ATS-V (2016 – 2019)

When it was introduced, the ATS was met with rave reviews. It represented all of the presence of the CTS in a smaller package that A4 and 3-series fans were enamored with, at a discounted rate to German counterparts. Using the legendary E46 BMW 3-Series as a benchmark, Cadillac developed a brand-new RWD architecture to satisfy its weight and performance objectives for the car. Then, after a couple of years, Cadillac set its sights on the BMW M3 and pulled the trigger.

The M3 might be the definitive sports car. Historically, it’s always been the one to beat, balancing straight-line quickness with lightning agility and premium Bavarian quality. And in 2015, Cadillac beat it. MotorTrend pitted the 2016 ATS-V against the M3 and AMG C63 S, discovering that it was quicker to 60 mph, won the ¼-mile, and ran a figure eight faster than each, faster than a Porsche 911! It even beat the other two around Willow Springs (by a razor-thin margin), showing that it has as much performance credibility as the heavyweight comps.

All in all, this was the farthest thing from a classic Cadillac. The ATS-V was arguably the culmination of what Cadillac started with the CTS’s 2003 introduction, the redevelopment of their image as a brand of cool, exciting cars that happen to be really nice too. The ATS-V was a sports car first, which narrows its appeal a bit; it won’t be for everyone. That being said, if weekends at Virginia International Raceway sound like your kind of thing, there may be no better Cadillac for the task, factoring in the price of entry. VIR Club members get 18 track days a year; we’ll be here to be regaled with your stories after every one of them.

A popular used Cadillac in Suffolk VA, a black 2021 Cadillac Escalade, is shown with a close up …

The One Which Defines a Genre: The 2021 Escalade

The Escalade has had an interesting ride. Its first generation was literally a rebadged GMC Yukon, and to this day, its value is arguably questionable while the Tahoe High Country and Yukon Denali trim levels exist. Nobody ever dared to peg the Escalade as an exciting vehicle to drive, unlike the German competition, and Lincoln has proven to be a worthy opponent in the domestic market. But the sheer presence of the Cadillac crest, the crystalline body lines, and the lighting designs of the brand’s modern design language have made the Escalade a definitive fashion statement; one which becomes more distinct with each passing generation.

Is there any other way to put it? The Escalade is a bling mobile, plain and simple, and one of the most capable vehicles on the road at the same time. The 2021 model year represents the first of the 5th generation Escalade, which is why it stands alone on this list; it’s too far beyond its predecessors to include older models as well.

GM completely re-engineered the platform for 2021, changing the rear suspension to finally give the third-row seats the space they deserved, increasing their class-leading cargo space and improving their platform-defining ride quality. The driver is presented with a combined 38 inches of curved, multi-layered OLED displays for driver information, infotainment, and other graphics. 2021 also sees the Escalade provided with Super Cruise, with a more comprehensive map than was available to the CT6, and self-parking options which negate the worst stressors of driving such a ponderous vehicle.

The classic luxury of the Cadillac brand is realized today in a gargantuan SUV. It can tow several tons of cargo while carrying seven adult passengers and a full suitcase for each. It does so while looking like a hand-crafted jewel, with luxury features worthy of its 6-figure sticker price. Ultimately, the Escalade is made to be enjoyed by all, inside and out. We think the best way to do that might be to show off your locale to friends or family from out of town. Almost any group size and age will be accommodated comfortably, and making multiple stops means looking at this stunning SUV on multiple occasions.

The One That Redefined the Brand: The CTS-V (2009 – 2014, 2016 – 2019)

As we mentioned earlier, Cadillac underwent a significant brand transformation in the early 2000s, probably just in time to save itself from the same ax that took down many GM brands in 2009. The centerpiece of this change was the CTS, an angular, sharp-looking midsize sedan that defined itself as a bona fide “cool car” with a major feature in The Matrix: Reloaded. Of course, if Cadillac was going to bark, they needed a bite to back it up, so in 2004, they introduced us to the V.

Fun fact; V was chosen by focus groups as a unique and elegant suffix letter, and not as shorthand for any specific word or phrase, and is now recognized around the world as Cadillac’s performance line thanks to the CTS-V. The first gen was good, fast enough to compete with the BMW M5 and Mercedes E-Class on the Nurburgring, but it’s also aging. Fortunately, the 2nd and 3rd gen models raised the bar even higher! Skipping ahead to the 3rd gen, it’s notable for hosting what was, at the time, the most powerful engine in a Cadillac; a supercharged, minutely detuned LT4 out of the C7 Corvette Z06! This set the stage for today’s CT5-V Blackwing, arguably the greatest Cadillac ever made, and makes a 3rd gen CTS-V as exciting as legends like the M5 and AMG E63.

But the older 2nd gen, while less powerful, has two very interesting tricks up its sleeve: the coupe and the sport wagon. The CTS-V Coupe looks like it drew inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batmobile, with a very tall rear end giving it a hunched appearance and centered twin exhausts providing a rocket-like aesthetic. Depending on who you are, you might think it’s even cooler that Cadillac created the CTS-V Sport Wagon. Car enthusiasts often adore wagons, and they especially adored the 550-plus hp beast CTS-V Sport Wagon, especially when equipped with a rare but highly desirable manual transmission.

That was on a platform that broke the 8:00 mark on the Nordschleife, earning it (for a brief time) the unofficial title of “Fastest Sedan in the World.” There’s no other word for it; the CTS-V is a legend in its own right, ironically at its most iconic in wagon format with a stick shift of all things! If you enjoy weekends out at Buggs Island Lake with family and friends, we can think of no better way to get there. The space to fit four adults and their belongings with ease, everything you’d need to enjoy the ride there and back, and the inimitable presence of a Cadillac to accompany you all weekend long, the CTS-V Sport Wagon truly had it all.

A white 2018 Cadillac CTS-V is shown driving over a city bridge.

Not Your Grandpa’s Used Caddy

As one of the world’s oldest automotive brands, Cadillac has long been renowned for its association with American luxury. Back then, that meant ridiculously huge sedans with room-sized trunks and airplane-scale fender wings. The scale was eventually toned down, but the aura of the dignified class was not, even when Cadillac decided to pivot its style to something more exciting. That decision led to four of the greatest Cadillacs ever, all built within the last decade. All in all, we’d say now is a great time to be a fan of the brand that’s the “Standard of the World”.

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