Payne: Cadillac CT6 Plug-In vs. Tesla Model S

The new kid shows the old guard how high-tech American luxury is done. With one caveat.

payne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 1Buy Photo At a single-price, $76,090, the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in is loaded with full sun-roof, safety assist systems, and 31-mile electric-only range.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 2Buy Photo The Tesla Model S P100D packs a 100 kWh battery and can sprint from 0-60 in just 2.4 seconds. A 75 kWh base, rear-wheel-drive model makes the run in 4.3 seconds.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 3Buy Photo Up north in Charlevoix, the town's only 240-volt public charger predicts 4.30 hours to fully recharge the Cadillac's battery to its 31-mile range.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 4Buy Photo After 19 hours on a 120-volt wall charger in Charlevoix, Michigan, the Cadillac's 18.4 kWh battery had "fully" charged to 25 miles - though Cadillac claims a range of up to 31 miles.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 5Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 interior is nicely appointed with leather, wood accents, a T-shifter, heads-up display, and an 8-inch infotainment display with smart phone app connectivity.   Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 6Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in comes equipped with a 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder assisting an electric motor and 18.4 kWh battery. Combined system power is 335 horsepower.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 7Buy Photo On a trip back to Oakland County from Charlevoix, the battery runs out of charge after 27.6 miles and switches over to gas-engine power. Top speed while in EV mode is 78 mph.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 8Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in's face is nicely sculpted with signature, Pentagon grille and LEF headlights pushed to the corners.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 9Buy Photo On Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne's 338-mile journey to northern Michigan the big, 4530-pound Cadillac CT6 Plug-in sedan got a combined gas-EV fuel mileage of over 34 mpg.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 10Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in sports a combined EV and gas-engine range of 440 miles making it a reliable tool for long-range trips beyond urban charging infrastructure.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 11Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in comes with two "fuel" doors: One for the EV charger, the other for the turbo-4 gas engine. The turbo-4 requires high-octane gasoline.   Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 12Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in comes equipped with full sun-roof to bath the roomy, comfortable rear seats in light.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 13Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 line offers a variety of engines from a 2.0-liter turbo-4 to a twin-turbo V-6 and V-8. The Plug-in version marries the turbo-4 to a 18.4 kWh lithium ion battery.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 14Buy Photo The rear-wheel-drive Cadillac CT6 Plug-in goes zero-60 in 5.2 seconds with 31-mile electric-only range.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 15Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plugin is the brand's most ambitious hybrid vehicle to date - replacing the ill-considered, $82,000 Cadilac ELR  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 16Buy Photo The Cadillac CT6 Plug-in's 18.4-kWh battery takes up half of the car's trunk space and renders its rear seats fixed. The result is less cargo room than EV competitor Tesla which stores its 75-100 kWh battery pack in the floor.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 17Buy Photo At 9.30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, Tesla's Mountain View supercharger had a waiting line four cars deep.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 18Buy Photo Tesla's Mountain View, California supercharger contains 12 stalls and is one of the busiest in the world. At 9.30 PM on a Wednesday night all the stalls were taken.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 19Buy Photo Public and private 240-volt chargers are easier to come by in California than Tesla superchargers. This 240-volt Chargepoint unit recharged the Tesla Model S's big, 100 kWh battery with 200 miles of range in 10.5 hours.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 20Buy Photo The Tesla Model S features Autopilot features in Beta test mode like "Summon" which an owner can use to back out of a tight parking space  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 21Buy Photo The Tesla Model S's center screen keeps the driver up to date as the car charges.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 22Buy Photo From a geeky-looking, fake plastic grille, Tesla has updated the Model S with a distinctive, simple "beak" that sports Tesla's logo.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 23Buy Photo On back roads over Silicon Valley, the Tesla Model S is an athletic sedan despite its porky, 4,900-pound girth. With its battery in the floor, it sports a lower center of gravity than a Porsche 911.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 24Buy Photo The Tesla Model S's digital display is unique - and sports information from driving range to Autopilot info to speed.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 25Buy Photo Tesla has re-imagined the car interior to be more simple and elegant - like the iPhone's remake of the cell phone. The cockpit is centered around a huge, 17-inch tablet dsiplay that runs Google maps.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 26Buy Photo The Tesla Model S's infotainment display includes a number of "Easter Eggs" - including a satellite image of Mars (a Tesla-CEO Musk obsession) with the Model S transformed there as a space rover.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 27Buy Photo A car with a sense of humor. Before engaging "Ludicrous" mode to maximize acceleration, the Tesla P100D's console asks if the driver is ready.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 28Buy Photo The rear-end of the Tesla Model S takes its inspiration from the Jaguar XJ - one of the prettiest cars on the planet.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 29Buy Photo Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne took the Tesla Model S P100D for an extended spin across the San Francisco Bay area.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 30Buy Photo Defying convention, the Tesla Model S eschews buttons and puts all controls in the console's giant touch screen.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 31Buy Photo The Tesla Model S' interior design is simple, digital - like the Apple iPhone that inspired it. Available materials include leather and carbon fiber and the base model gets a standard moonroof for stargazing.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 32Buy Photo The Tesla Model S comes equipped with multiple plugs to use Supercharger, 240-volt, or 120-volt sockets.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 33Buy Photo With its 249-315 mile range, the Tesla Model S induces no range anxiety when flogged across country roads. The car offers plenty of range to get home at night. Destination drives without charging infrastructure can be a challenge, however.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 34Buy Photo With its batteries stored under the seats, the Tesla Model S offers 31 square feet of rear cargo room - dwarfing competitors. The hatchback design also makes for easy rear access.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 35Buy Photo The Tesla Model S P100D low, mean look compliments its performance. The car has been clocked at the supercar-like 0-60 acceleration time of 2.4 seconds in "Ludicrous" mode. Such performance use will take it toll on battery life, however.  Henry Payne, The Detroit Newspayne-cadillac-ct6-plugin-vs-tesla-model-s photo 36Buy Photo In the dim light of a Pacific sunset, the Tesla Model S profile cuts a distinct figure.  Henry Payne, The Detroit News

Cadillac established itself as the luxury-car standard at the dawn of the 20th century for innovations like electric self-starting, closed-body styling and powerful V-8 engines.

Spin forward 100 years and upstart Tesla has become the 21st-century innovator.

By reinventing the electric vehicle as a sleek performance machine, Tesla’s Model S has captured the imagination of America’s premium buyer to become one of the best-selling luxury sedans in the States. It has forced its chief rivals — BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Cadillac — to develop their own electron-charged chariots to keep up. Indeed, Cadillac is not only a shadow of its former self, it is in danger of being rendered an anachronism. Tesla has transformed the auto into a smartphone on wheels complete with supercar acceleration, iPad-like touchscreen and spacious interior.

Where young Americans once aspired to Cadillacs, today they covet Tesla.

The brand is omnipresent in big, premium-car coastal markets. Mention to my locker-room pals that I have a Tesla tester and they’ll line up like kids at Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster. Aware that its future is at stake — from German and Yankee alike — Cadillac has moved its headquarters to New York City, hired Audi-meister Johan de Nysschen and introduced its best luxury sedan ever.

Its Tesla fighter is the $76,090 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In and I took it had-to-head with the formidable Model S in back-to-back, long-distance tests this summer.

With its lightweight construction, gorgeous styling and battery-assist, the plug-in hybrid version of the CT6 is a thoroughly modern Caddy. It’s also a bargain next to similar Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series hybrids. But next to the state-of the-art Tesla, it feels sooo 15 minutes ago.

To be clear, my Tesla tester was the top-of-the-line, $152,700 P100D. This legend-in-its-own-time speedster can spring from 0-60 mph in just 2.4 seconds in “Ludicrous” mode. That’s the same time as Ferrari’s $1.2 million LaFerrari supercar. But strip away the P100D’s bigger battery, all-wheel drive, carbon-fiber trim and expensive add-ons like “Bioweapons Defense Mode” (ahem, cabin air-filter) and you get a Model S 75 for the same price as the Caddy.

Nothing else is the same. The Model S crushes the Caddy in every metric — performance, interior space, cool factor — save one: range anxiety, the EV’s kryptonite. The CT-6 Plug-In’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 cylinder gasoline engine will get you home even if the battery gets low.

The Tesla lets you know immediately it’s not the usual blind-date. Seductive, wide hips taper to a long front hood anchored by almond-shaped LED headlights. Gone is the original ill-considered, plastic faux-grille (EVs need grilles like animals need gills), replaced by a simple, Tesla graphic. The Tesla’s beak is like a falcon trolling for prey.

Step toward the Model S and its flush, silver door handles step out to meet you. Slip inside and it starts itself (assuming you haven’t already prepped the cockpit with a remote app — a feature the Cadillac shares). The design is Apple-like — elegant and spartan. It’s Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s vision of the iPhone on wheels.

The CT6 is the prettiest Cadillac I’ve laid eyes on, the mature realization of the brand’s edgy Art & Science design language. Its pentagon-shaped grille dominates the front canvas, the headlights artfully pushed to the edges. The theme is repeated inside with an 8-inch pentagon screen, crafted dash, and yacht-like T-shifter. But it looks conventional compared to Tesla’s rendering.

With its simple driveline in the floor, the Model S’s luggage space is yuuuge. Where the Cadillac’s front hood is stuffed with an engine block, the Tesla offers a suitcase-swallowing “frunk.” The CT6’s battery eats up half the trunk and freezes the rear seats in place. The Tesla’s hatchback configuration can seat three or fold flat for acres of space for luggage or on-your-back star-gazing.

Six years after its introduction, the Tesla’s giant 17-inch console screen still gets gasps from the neighbors. There’s nothing like it on the market. Also unique is Tesla’s Google maps navigation, just like a smartphone. It’s the best navigation system on the planet. Why every automaker doesn’t contract with Google is beyond me. Instead, they (including Cadillac) insist on inferior, homemade navigation systems complemented by apps that mimic your phone’s nav. Awkward.

I bark my destination to the Tesla and we’re off like lightning. Talk about merging with authority. Floor the pedal and — ZOT! — instant torque shoots the S into traffic like a harpoon from a gun.

The Caddy is more laborious. Even when fully charged to 31-mile EV range, the battery defers to the turbo-four gas engine for hard acceleration causing a momentary balk as the transmission downshifts (the buzz of a four-cylinder doesn’t become a $75,000 chariot, either).

Through the hills, both vehicles feel a size smaller. Like 6-foot-10 Kevin Durant knifing through the lane, these are athletes. Despite topping the lightweight CT6 by 400 pounds, the battery-powered Tesla feels more grounded thanks to its Porsche-like, low center-of-gravity.

But the Tesla’s playpen is only as big as the nearest supercharger. The gas-assisted Caddy’s range is limitless.

After electrifying the Pacific Cost with its handling and acceleration, my P100D drank 157 miles of range while covering 90 miles. Arriving at a Mountain View supercharger at 9:30 p.m., all 12 chargers were used with a waiting line four-deep. I shuddered at the thought of tens of thousands of cheaper Model 3s flooding the market next year — even as Tesla doubles its network. I retreated to my son’s apartment complex where a 240-volt Chargepoint station refueled the S for $21 over 101/2 hours.

The CT6’s charge lasted just past Clarkston up Interstate 75, but then I hoofed it the rest of the way to Charlevoix on gasoline.

A Tesla friend from Chicago met me there, sans Tesla. Up North would be a dead end for his Model S (not to mention the hassle of an hour-long, supercharger delay along the way). Charging the Tesla on the 120-volt socket in our weekend cabin would have taken a lifetime (heck, it took 19 hours to fully charge the 30-mile Caddy!), while recharging it on the local utility’s 240-volt teat would render the car nearly useless for the weekend.

So the Caddy wins the long-distance prize. And everyone else learns the limitations of mass-market EVs.

But for those who can afford a $76,000 Tesla or Caddy, they can also spare change for a second, multi-purpose vehicle. For daily use, Tesla is the 21st-century standard.

Once the teacher, the handsome Cadillac is now the student. It has some learning to do.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In

 

Vehicle type

Front-engine, rear-wheel drive,

five-passenger luxury sedan

Powerplant

18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with

AC motor; 2.0-liter, turbocharged,

inline-4 cylinder

Transmission

Continuously variable automatic

Weight

4,530 pounds

Price

$76,090

Power

335 horsepower, 432 pound-feet

torque (total system power)

Performance

0-60 mph, 5.2 seconds (mftr.);

78 mph top speed in EV mode

Fuel economy

31 miles on full charge; EPA est.

62 MPe (34.7 total mpg as tested on

383 mile-trip)

Report card

 

Highs

Competitive price; gas engine for

long-range trips

Lows

Disappointing acceleration;

battery robs trunk space

Overall:★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★Fair ★★Poor ★

Tesla Model S

 

Vehicle type

Electric, front and all-wheel drive,

five-passenger luxury sedan

Powerplant

75-100 kWh lithium-ion battery with

electric motor drive

Transmission

Single-speed transmission

Weight

4,469 pounds (4,941 P100D as tested)

Price

$74,500 Model S 75 base ($152,700

P100D as tested

Power

382 horsepower, 325 pound-feet

torque (605 hp, 687 torque P100D

as tested)

Performance

0-60 mph, 4.3 seconds base model

(mnftr.); 2.4 sec., P100D

Fuel economy

Range: 249 miles, base (315

mi. P100D. 157 miles of range to cover

90 miles as tested)

Report card

 

Highs

Luxury reinvented; massive cargo

space from frunk to rear

Lows

Less range when driven to capability;

charging infrastructure limitations

Overall:★★★★

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Article Payne: Cadillac CT6 Plug-In vs. Tesla Model S compiled by www.detroitnews.com