Once upon a time, not so long ago, Cadillac was a brand that exuded cutting-edge class, but it has fallen on harder times in the new millennium as it now aims to reach out to a younger, up-and-coming demographic.
Hardly surprising, then, that the GM brand is looking to music and in-car infotainment as a bridge to respectability with those potential consumers. It would seem like Cadillac is late to the party, but in-car connectivity has slowly built up in its models going back to the initial rollout of 4G LTE in 2014.
The 2017 Cadillac CT6 Sedan was unveiled at an event in Toronto, where I got to experience the technology designed to make the vehicle among the most mobile-friendly and connected on the road. Even the rearview mirror connects directly to the onboard 360-degree camera. It will come in a few different trims, with the Platinum being the fully-loaded one.
When a car has 34 speakers inside, it doesn’t take long to wonder where the sound is coming from. This is the Bose Panaray system that is a Cadillac-exclusive and is apparently a $4,000 CAD upgrade on the Luxury and Premium Luxury trims. It comes included with the Platinum, but isn’t offered on the base model that starts at $53,495 and only gives you eight speakers.
By spreading out the audio to a point where speakers are hidden in the headrest, centre console, flooring and a few other nooks and crannies, the resulting audio experience is akin to a movie theatre. Indeed, Bose already has Panaray systems in theatres, so the correlation is obvious. Listening to music in such a confined space with all that resonance is easy to like, but it gets even more interesting when you add video to the mix. More on that in a bit.
The surround-sound effect isn’t ideal for all music, mind you. Music services that stream at a higher bitrate will come through better, but some of those mixes on SoundCloud? Probably not. This type of system is conceptually similar to what Ford did with its Platinum model last year, which spread speakers out for a cinematic effect.
That kind of audio setup is best suited to high-res audio files, but the digital signal processor inside can make even Spotify or SiriusXM sound better, so it’s not a total loss. There is a “Normal” setting that moderates the speakers for a less dramatic, and presets for front and back-focused audio.
CarPlay and Android Auto
Supporting these two platforms isn’t surprising, given GM has been open in including them across a wide range of models. Setup is the same, and the layout looks particularly large on the 10.2-inch 720p touchscreen on the dash. I’ve never seen CarPlay icons that big on any other vehicle to date.
The two rear 10-inch 720p screens aren’t touch-sensitive, so there is no way to use either platform as a passenger sitting in the back. These are essentially dummy screens that interface more directly with the entertainment console in the middle of the back seat. A Blu-ray player seems to have been thrown in for good measure, but what’s more interesting is the ports Cadillac included.
Chromecast and game consoles
The HDMI port is where scenarios become varied. Plugging in a Chromecast, coupled with the car’s own Wi-Fi hotspot makes it really easy to connect with a smartphone or tablet and cast content over to it. There was an episode of Top Gear streaming on Netflix during my demo. I then connected to the in-car network myself and streamed highlights from NHL GameCenter. Adding the surround sound to that content really did feel immersive. When in park, the front display also mirrors the same content others are watching in the back.
By including a standard 120V power outlet inside, Cadillac makes it easy to plug in a game console. Head-to-head play between two gamers is also ideal because both rear screens can display the game simultaneously.
The USB 2.0 ports in the same console are also playback-ready, but only from USB sticks or hard drives with content stored on them. Two included wireless headphones come with the car to isolate one viewer from another in case different content is playing on the rear screens, but it doesn’t look like there’s any way to pair third-party headphones for the same purpose.
Data still comes at a cost that isn’t inexpensive. It’s $15 for 1GB, $35 for 4GB and $70 for 10GB on monthly plans. Prepaid options are limited — $5 for only 250MB for 24 hours or $200 for 20GB for 12 months. Those who can afford this car might not think twice about those prices, but they are standard across the board, not specific to the 2017 Cadillac CT6 Sedan.
As has long been the case, AT&T is the carrier partner for GM’s 4G LTE connection, and that means there is no roaming on either side of the border. Any data used in Canada or the United States is treated the same way.
A rubberized pad in the front centre console doubles as a wireless charger supporting the Qi standard. It doesn’t appear, however, that it utilizes the pad as a port, like BMW does, where the infotainment system treats it as a wired device. Apple still hasn’t unlocked wireless CarPlay, so that isn’t an option yet for this vehicle. Google opened up Android Auto as a standalone app, but that is irrelevant when charging wirelessly.
GM’s own infotainment software includes its regular voice activation setup. A short press triggers it, while a long press will bring up Siri when an iPhone is plugged in, which also works when the phone is paired via Bluetooth. It’s unclear how deep that integration goes with Google. I wasn’t able to properly test Google Now, and GM reps didn’t know if Google Assistant would work when a Pixel or Pixel XL was plugged in or paired.
While GM will consider all this innovative, it’s really just catching up to what some other brands have done with their luxury models. The difference is that it is playing up the HDMI connection and talking about the Chromecast being a viable connected device inside, something other automakers haven’t discussed.
What is likely, though, is the connectivity featured in the CT6 Sedan will inevitably filter down to other Cadillac models starting in 2017.