Porsche cynics, look away now: four-cylinder turbo sports cars get new spec
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What is it? This is Cadillac’s second go at a hybrid. The previous ELR looked right and went well enough; it was mechanically almost identical to the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera. But it came a cropper when you got it to the checkout. It cost $75,000, pre tax-credit. Spent nuclear fuel rods would have been an easier sell. Undeterred, though, Cadillac is here again with a much more convincing offer – the Chinese-built CT6 Plug-In, or PLUG-IN as they would have it. Is it any cheaper?
No. Priced around the same $75k as the ill-fated ELR, this petrol/electric powered saloon packs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – the same one Cadillac uses throughout the range in a variety of tunes – and a pair of electric motors to get the car and contents down the road. The 335bhp and 432lb ft finds its way to the rear wheels via a CVT gearbox not dissimilar to that used on the Lexus LC500. It’s madly complicated, but works well enough to not need further explanation here. What’s it like to drive? The standard CT6 is already a wieldy thing – far more than you’d expect from its outward appearance – to drive. Thanks to its mixed-materials architecture and construction it has pleasantly light and crisp responses. The addition of the 18.4-kWh battery pack to the back of the boot, rather than in the transmission tunnel as per the Volt, changes the weight distribution to 44/56 front/rear but. As the Plug-In is rear-wheel drive only, the extra weight over the rear wheels – and the extra grip that creates – actually makes the car feel a little more sporty as you can get out of corners that bit faster than in the regular CT6. It’s a hybrid. How far will it go? Its full electric range is 31 miles, and total range using every electron and carbon molecule in the two reserves is 440 miles. But there are tricks you can use to bolster this. The Plug-In is fitted with a trick system called iBooster and multi-mode regen systems which allow the driver to select the amount of energy the car sucks back into its batteries. This four-level system is so strong in its max setting that you rarely need to touch the brakes, as the transmission drags the car to a near crawl the moment you release the throttle, a bit like in a BMW i3. So should I buy one? All in all it’s a pleasantly quick - 0-60mph takes 5.1secs - quiet and comfortable car to get around in and, with an economy rating of e65mpg, it probably makes quite a lot more sense to own than any of the other CT6 models. You can’t get it with the rear-wheel steering or the full-house Panaray sound system, as the battery pack gets in the way. But you don’t need either of those to enjoy this car. Especially when you dial in the price. Cadillac has matched the Plug-In against the Mercedes 550e and the Porsche Panamera Hybrid on content and performance levels. But it has crushed them both on retail price, coming in at $20-30k less for a similarly equipped model. Of course, both the Mercedes and Porsche will hold their value better, but at least Cadillac is coming out fighting this time.