The highs and lows of the Cadillac CT6 Bose Panaray audio system

August 30, 2016

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Panaray. Panaromic and array. Made by Bose, the $3,700 optional Panaray audio system puts 34 tiny speakers around the Cadillac CT6’s cabin with the goal of creating an immersive soundstage. This is more than creating a surround sound system. It’s about creating an environment of sound. And it works.

Turn on the radio and the sound envelops the driver and passengers and, sometimes, with the right audio, the music seems to come from outside the thick glass windows of the Cadillac. The Panaray system achieves where most surround sound systems fall short: perfectly blending discrete channels into a uniform soundstage.

During my week with the CT6 I found it was often hard to pinpoint the source of a particular tone. Never was I able to say, “That sounds like it’s coming from the speakers on the passenger-side door.” Instead, the audio just came from somewhere over there.

Turn on the car, and the system’s center channel silently raises from the center of the dash. The rear deck of the car, under the back window, is completely taken up by a speaker array. There are 34 speakers in total and they’re scattered throughout the sedan.

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The audio is crisp and strong. If desired, the bass can be pounding or dialed back to subtle. At full volume, the audio system maintains its tight fidelity and is nearly capable of bursting eardrums. The Panaray system even levels-out satellite radio, dialing back the overly-sharp tones and injecting a bit of life into the clinical sound.

The system shines the most when fed higher quality audio. But it’s a bit of a chore getting high-bit rate files to the system. My test vehicle didn’t come with an optical drive; it’s a $250 option. The system also lacks an SD card slot so the only way to play back high-res files is through a connected smartphone.

When switching from satellite radio to FLAC audio files, the fidelity of the Panaray system is next level. But getting the files to the system is a pain. The iPhone doesn’t support FLAC and I could discern a difference in the Cadillac between a file purchased on iTunes and a high-quality CD rip. An Android phone played back the files and there was a difference in the quality of the music though I doubt most buyers will ever put in the effort to experience it.

Cadillac and Bose will not reveal the exact wattage pushing the Panaray system. Pure wattage probably doesn’t tell the whole story though I can tell you that there’s enough power available. At volume level 62 the bass pounds and the highs are crisp. You feel the power at this point and I’m sure the neighboring cars can feel it too.

Luxury vehicle makers have long strived to provide occupants with surround sound. Most often these systems work fine. And the Panaray system works fine, too. What’s different here is that the Panaray system delivers on this promise with an ease and clarity not often found at this price level. The Panaray system has the chops to stand tall against any audio system found in cars that cost twice as much as the CT6. It’s that impressive.

The Cadillac CT6 starts at $53,495. That trim package gets buyers the base model where most of the tech toys are optional and the car ships with a 2.0L Turbo engine. But the Panaray system comes standard with the $58,395 2.0L Turbo Luxury package. This is the trim to get. It comes with many additional safety and connivence packages such as lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and rear cross traffic alerts. If buyers want adaptive cruise control, magnetic ride control or all-wheel drive, Cadillac offers those on the $63,570 3.6L Premium Luxury trim.

My tester came with the 2.0L Turbo engine. This is the engine available when the CT6 is under $60k. Sadly, as expected, the small 2.0L engine is barely adequate to move this large Cadillac. For running to the store and cruising down main street, the small engine is, I guess, fine. But to me, a full size Cadillac should have more power than necessary. It should be a luxury cruiser at any speed and the 2.0L engine simply does not provide that experience.

Cadillac offers two other engine options for the CT6 and I would encourage prospective owners to throughly vet the more pricey options. As for the Panaray system, it’s worth including if your budget can afford it. Your ears will thank you.

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