In many ways, the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid is the most interesting car the brand sells. Despite having a turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, it makes the most torque of any CT6, even the twin-turbocharged V6 model. It also has a claimed electric range of 31 miles and can still manage a combined fuel economy of 26 mpg with just the gas engine. Even its origin is interesting, since its final assembly point is China. To cap things off, it's also the second most expensive CT6 in the range. To find out if the CT6 is worth that money, and has more to offer than fun facts, we spent some time behind the wheel.Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: I achieved 34.1 miles per gallon for my roughly 14-mile roundtrip in the CT6 hybrid. This sedan is a rolling example of where Luxury is heading in the near term: Existing models souped up with hybrid tech, and the green features will go along way toward keeping big sedans like this relevant. It's a smart play for Cadillac to add a product like this.Otherwise, it's a fairly standard-issue CT6, which is a solid car. The flashy head- and taillights look great. The design is angled, creased and nicely proportioned. The interior is comfortable and roomy. It's a nice car. Cadillac invested a lot in the CT6, and it shows. Rumors have long swirled that the brand will add a larger flagship, though in this climate, that's hard to envision. For now, the CT6 does the job as Cadillac's standard bearer.Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: Of all the different CT6 variants available, the CT6 PHEV is the one I would pick for myself. Why? Because the hybrid powertrain finally delivers on the quiet, refined driving experience I want from a flagship luxury sedan. I was a bit surprised by this, too, since the gas engine under the hood is the 2.0-liter four-cylinder used elsewhere, which isn't the smoothest thing in the world. But assist from the electric motor helps keep the four-cylinder from having to wind up too much to move the big Caddy, and when the gas engine does rev hard, it's well muffled by whatever insulation is in the car.Besides aural refinement, the power delivery is oil-on-ice slick. The blending of electric and gas power is seamless. There's no waiting on the turbo to spool up, and there's no loss of power at higher rpms with the electric motor. They work in perfect harmony providing excellent low-down grunt and solid upper-end power. The transmission is super smooth, too allowing for happy wafting wherever you go. I was also pleased to find that the "manual" mode on the transmission actually sets how aggressive the regenerative braking is, and you can make it darn near as aggressive as a Chevy Bolt EV. It's not quite one-pedal driving, but pretty close. And driving enthusiastically is actually fun in the CT6 because the car drives like a car half its size. It's responds quickly and enthusiastically to the steering and feels very planted. The car stays pretty flat, too, though the trade-off is a firm ride. The brakes feel mostly good, also. They feel firm and progressive, but a little grabby at low speeds.
The idea is simple: Plug it in when you can, and your visits to the pump will become less frequent. That's probably the way plug-in hybrids like the Kia Niro should be pitched to car buyers. As much as regulators and policy makers revere PHEVs and see them as an important step on the way to electric mobility, the reality is that too often the format can involve glaring compromises--excess weight, sluggish performance, and higher cost, all for the sake of the occasional delivery of a few miles of electric driving.The best plug-in hybrids sell themselves on low running costs and not overcomplicating things, and that's exactly what Kia has done with this Niro. The carmaker has managed to fit an 8.9-kWh battery under the back seat without encroaching on seating or cargo space. There's a 3.3-kW onboard charger capable of providing a full charge in about 2.5 hours with a common Level 2 commercial charger (or about nine hours with a 120-volt wall socket). Compared with the regular, non-plug-in Niro hybrid, the PHEV also has upgraded power electronics and a stronger electric motor--good for 60 horsepower versus 43. Total output remains 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft, but there's enough electrified muscle to reach 75 mph in EV mode.As in the Niro hybrid, an Atkinson-cycle 1.6-liter inline-four achieves a claimed 40 percent thermal efficiency; it's connected to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with the electric motor connecting to the transmission at its input. A third clutch can connect or disconnect the engine as necessary. The Niro may look like a crossover SUV, but it's front-wheel drive only.The Niro plug-in hybrid is quicker to 60 mph than the regular hybrid, according to Kia, as the powertrain improvements more than offset the stated weight gain of 163 to 285 pounds. Its hybrid-mode EPA estimates drop by about 3 mpg overall versus the hybrid to 46 mpg combined, 48 city, and 44 highway, compared with the 50/52/49-mpg ratings for the most efficient versions of the regular hybrid. (In its most luxurious trim, the regular hybrid is rated lower than the plug-in, at 43/46/40 mpg combined/city/highway.) The EPA claims a total range of 560 miles for the plug-in Niro when it has a full gas tank and a full charge.2018 kia plug-in
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