Until recently, the dilapidated buildings and seedy side streets of downtown Los Angeles were avoided by locals and ignored by tourists. Now the area is experiencing something of a renaissance. Neglected buildings are under renovation, trendy restaurants and boutiques are proliferating, there’s a car-free farmer’s market and construction sites dominate almost every block. The popular Last Bookstore is a big attraction, the Broad Art Museum and Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall are eye-popping centres of culture and design. It’s been a long time coming, but downtown LA’s getting some serious traction.

Maybe that’s why Cadillac decided to base its 2016 Cadillac CT6 launch in the heart of it. Cadillac’s gaining traction, too, or at least it’s making a convincing case for respect. A venerable marque, once the “Standard of the World,” Cadillac is battling to reinvent itself. The latest weapons are quality, authenticity, design and craftsmanship, and while the critically acclaimed ATS and CTS sedans were convincing shots across the bow, the new CT6 is now the big gun.

A true flagship or “halo” car, the CT6 – starting at $61,295 for the base CT6 2.0 Turbo and topping out at $99,280 for the CT6 Twin-Turbo 3.0L V6 Platinum – targets a small but critical market both domestically and internationally. It’s a big sedan, an “executive” sedan, for big spenders and key influencers. Its competitors are the Mercedes-Benz E- and S-Class, BMW’s 5 and 7 Series, and the Audi A6 and A8. In proportion, the CT6 uniquely resides between each of these formidable pairs, leaning toward the larger model. A result of General Motors’ multi-billion dollar investment in Cadillac, the CT6 is nothing short of the best the company can do. If luxury buyers don’t respond positively to this, Cadillac may as well pack up and go home.

Addressing Canadian and a large contingent of Chinese journalists in Downtown Los Angeles at the swank Level hotel, a blue-jeaned Rich Brekus, Cadillac Global Director of Product Strategy, explained that the CT6 will match or exceed the spaciousness and elegance of the old-style luxury cars, but that it is, “not trying to duplicate anything that already exists. It’s fun to drive,” he said, “agile, not staid, not bulky, not pretentious.”

This is Cadillac’s “Dare Greatly” mantra. It refers, I think, to not being constrained by the past. “The CT6,” says Brekus, “is 100 percent forward looking.”

Okay, then. What does it have going for it?

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A couple of Australians, for a start. Executive Chief Engineer Travis Hester arrived from General Motors’ Holden division and is responsible for the CT6’s new “Omega” architecture. The car rides on a new body and platform featuring a steel occupant cell with all surrounding panels and castings fabricated from aluminum. The entry-level model is over 450 kg lighter than an S-Class and is also lighter than a 5 Series or A6, lighter even than the Cadillac CTS.

The aluminum body is assembled using only 13 castings, dramatically reducing the number of component parts each section formerly required. The front body hinge pillar, for example (the section between the front wheel and the dashboard) is a single casting replacing 35 separate components that were previously used. The approach is designed to maximize rigidity, agility and quietness on the road and features several new, patented bonding technologies (aluminum spot welding, for instance) used throughout the car.

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