Luxury cars come in many forms, but there are some non-negotiable features we believe should come with the premium price. Among these are a comfortable and stylish interior, excellent tech and a driving experience that makes us hate to leave the driver's seat. We tried out two very different luxury vehicles at this year's Midwest Automotive Media Association's Fall Rally: the redesigned 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Cabriolet and the brand new 2020 Cadillac XT6. A performance convertible and a full-size family hauler may not share many similarities at first glance, but we take a deeper dive into their premium features, tech, and driving experiences to evaluate if they are worth the splurge.
2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Cabriolet
The first luxury vehicle we drove at the rally was the 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Cabriolet. Mercedes redesigned the AMG C43 for 2019 to increase horsepower and tweak the styling to fit in with the rest of the AMG lineup. The sporty convertible makes a bold statement inside and out with a sleek and expressive exterior and racing-inspired performance seats inside the cabin. Exterior upgrades include a new grille, powerful front bumper, sporty side skirts, and new aerodynamically optimized AMG light-alloy wheels.
The C43 Cabriolet had one of the best interiors at this year's rally. It gets decked out in premium materials including high-quality leather, microfiber, and aluminum. The performance seats cloaked in attractive 'Cranberry Red' leather, were supportive and comfortable on our short drive thanks to the side bolstering and backrest. Not only are the seat cushions heated and ventilated, but the C43 Cabriolet also offers neck-level heating, appropriately named "AIRSCARF".
While the driver and front-seat passenger will ride in comfort, the convertible is short on backseat space, and tall passengers will feel cramped. We couldn't wait to get our hands on the vehicle's new three-spoke steering wheel which gets a more grip-friendly shape and is wrapped in Nappa leather. When the weather warrants it, the power-retractable soft top allows for some fresh air cruising.
The infotainment system in the C43 Cabriolet is accessed through a 10.25-inch high-resolution display that can be controlled via steering wheel buttons or center console touchpad (which took some getting used to). Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to connect to all your apps via both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plentiful safety tech and driver assistance features include adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring, and active lane-keep assistance.
An impressive and comfortable interior is a good start for a luxury vehicle, but the only way to see if it truly warrants the luxury price is to take it out for a spin. For 2019, the C43 Cabriolet gets an upgraded 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine for 385 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque which is a boost of 23 horses from the previous model. For our short test drive, the convertible was agile, relaxed and offered plenty of grunt for potent launches. The new engine gives the C43 a 0-60 mph of 4.6 seconds which about 02. seconds slower than the BMW M4 Convertible but plenty fast for most average humans. We also appreciated the C43's AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive which comes standard. It gave us excellent traction even on roads that were still wet from a morning rain shower.
Overall, the C43 is an excellent luxury vehicle that justified the price thanks to the upscale interior, exceptional driver comfort, and a well-balanced ride. Due to the tight backseat, we wouldn't recommend it if you plan to have more than one passenger riding with you on a regular basis. That's a job for our next luxury vehicle, the Cadillac XT6.
2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Starting MSRP: $63,650
2020 Cadillac XT6
After the introduction of the smaller XT4 SUV last year, Cadillac wanted to fill an empty space in the lineup under the Escalade. Enter the Cadillac XT6, an all-new 7-seater full-size SUV with no shortage of passenger comfort or cargo space. There are two trims available for the XT6, the Premium Luxury model which focuses on refinement, and the top Sport trim which takes a performance angle. The Premium Luxury models offer available AWD while Sport models come with AWD standard. We drove the XT6 Premium Luxury with AWD to see how it stacked up in the luxury SUV segment. While there was nothing revolutionary to set it apart from the competition in its segment, it was a comfortable, quiet and amenity-filled vehicle that makes a good daily driver and family hauler.
The exterior lacks the styling and edginess of some competitors in the luxury SUV segment and falls short on exterior drama even compared to the rest of Cadillac's lineup. The new XT6 Premium Luxury model gets distinct front and rear fascias and 20-inch wheels while the Sport trim gets more aggressive features like an all-black grille, window moldings, roof rails, and larger 21-inch wheels.
Climbing inside the cabin, we found the interior of the XT6 Premium Luxury spacious and comfortable with a sprinkling of premium materials such as natural wood and leather. It's upscale without being flashy, and while the Sport model carries an aggressive design style into the interior, the Premium Luxury model we drove delivers a more sophisticated aesthetic. The XT6 offers additional luxury features inside the cabin like a Bose Performance Series sound system with 14 custom-tuned speakers, auto-heated and ventilated front seats, a heated second-row, and heated steering wheel. There are many standard safety tech features to give the driver confidence including Forward Collision Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, Front and Rear Park Assist, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
No matter if you go with the Sport or the Premium Luxury trim, there is only one available powertrain for the XT6. The 3.6-liter V6 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission is good for 310 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. We found the engine was powerful enough for this large SUV and there was no struggle to accelerate from a stop or while passing other vehicles. The AWD system helped maintain solid traction on the slick roads. Although the XT6 wasn't as agile as some of the other vehicles we drove during the rally, the handling and smooth ride made us feel like we were driving a much smaller SUV.
Unlike the Mercedes AMG C43, the Cadillac XT6 was very subdued with its exterior styling, interior, and driving experience. It is easy-to-drive with a sophistication and premium cabin and it offers all the creature comforts that families look for in full-size SUV. The downside? Unlike the C43, the "wow" factor we expect from a luxury vehicle wasn't there.
2020 Cadillac XT6 Starting MSRP: $57,095