Cadillac CT6 Hybrid heading to Auto Shanghai 2015

Cadillac used to say its cars were “the standard of the world”. That may have been true at one time, but for the past 40 years or more, the Mercedes Benz S Class sedan has been the acknowledged standard for luxury cars. Now Cadillac is taking direct aim at the champion with an all new, top of the line luxury sedan it calls the Cadillac CT6. It says the new car “creates a new formula for the prestige sedan.”

“The CT6 is nothing less than an entirely new approach to premium luxury – and an approach only Cadillac can offer,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac. “It is a bold endeavor with unmatched dynamism that reignites a passion for driving in large luxury vehicles. In short, it is prestige luxury reimagined.”

Should Mercedes be worried? Let’s take a closer look at what goes into that CT6 formula.

First of all, the CT6 is built using 11 different structural materials including aluminum, high strength steel and carbon fiber. The result, says Cadillac, is a car that is a big inside as a BMW 7 Series but weighs less than a 5 Series. It also weighs less than that Mercedes S Class everyone always talks about.

Light weight is on the lips of every auto executive in the world. The more pounds a car has to lug around, the worse its fuel economy and the higher its emissions. Government regulations in most countries are pushing companies to build cars with lower emissions and higher gas mileage.

The new architecture has a mixed-material structure with all-aluminum exterior body panels. Engineers conducted 50 million hours of computational analysis – including 200,000 structural simulations – in its development, and have been awarded 21 patents for their effort.

“Every panel of the body-in-white is optimized with innovative joining techniques,” said Travis Hester, executive chief engineer, Cadillac CT6. “It’s an uncompromising approach that provides the best balance of strength, lightness and refinement.”

But light weight is also critical for electric cars, which rely exclusively on electrons instead of cubic inches to waft their owners down life’s highway. And that offers a clue as to Cadillac’s real mission for the CT6.

In most markets, the CT6 will offer buyers a choice of a turbocharged 2.0 liter 266 horsepower engine (which will be the standard engine in the car), an atmospheric 3.6 liter 335 horse V-6 or a 400 horsepower twin turbo 3.0 liter V-6. All three engines will be coupled to an 8 speed transmission that feeds an all wheel drive system with a continuously variable central clutch. The car also offers Active Rear Steer, Magnetic Ride Control and selectable drive modes.

But a hybrid powertrain will be introduced in Shanghai, China, this month and that’s what has got Cadillac execs grinning. That car is reportedly rated at 70 MPGe – an impressive number for a car of this size. And there are rumors the CT6 may lead to an all electric vehicle meant to take on the mighty Tesla Model S.

Yes, Cadillac executives are talking like politicians out on the campaign trail about their new range topping car. But they have good reason to be proud of all their hard work. Will the CT6 finally unseat the Mercedes S Class as the best luxury sedan in the world? That’s a tall order, but Cadillac is giving it their best shot.