Cadillac CTS-V — American muscle
By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman
Looks great; goes fast.
If forced to sum up the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe in four words, that’s the four we would use. More specifically the CTS-V carries an appealing concept-car design that has miraculously made it into the ranks of production cars, and it houses supercharged muscle measured at 556 horsepower.
Beyond its stunning exterior and its pin-you-back-in-your seat performance, the CTS-V comes with amazing refinement, interior quality and style usually reserved for European sports coupes, and a comfortable ride that we figure will suit just about anyone; and anyone who thrives on adrenalin rushes as a perk.
Tested on the famed 12.9-mile Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, where it seems every sports car goes these days to earn its credentials, the CTS-V has proven it can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of the BMW M3, Audi RS5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, and Jaguar XFR.
The CTS-V is perhaps the most refined sports coupe in this history of North American car building, capable of unassuming daily jaunts to and from work in the quiet confines of luxury, a cross-country vacation where long-distance comfort is paramount, or just cruising the streets at a sightseeing pace on a warm summer evening.
Slap on the Superman outfit and this same car becomes a “track ready” juggernaut capable of conquering— in the hands of a skilled driver — such venues as Laguna Seca or Virginia International Raceway.
For those of us who aren’t “track ready” and simply like to occasionally slake our thirst for speed, the CTS-V is capable of 0-to-60 runs in a breathtaking 3.9 seconds and a quarter mile in 12.2 seconds at 118 mph.
Cadillac first attached the performance V moniker on the CTS sedan in 2004, but the original was a little rough around the edges with a 5.7-liter 400 horsepower V-8 under hood mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Granted, that original CTS hotrod sedan was a hoot to drive, but compared with the new V, it's the difference between night and day.
The current generation V first hit the streets in 2009 in sedan form. Last year the sedan was joined by the CTS Wagon and by the outrageously gorgeous coupe, vaulting Cadillac to the pinnacle of performance and refinement.
Here’s what you get with the CTS-V coupe — a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 producing 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet for torque mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission in a rear-drive format. Also standard are high-performance yellow caliper Brembo antilock brakes that will stop the car in an amazing 104 feet from 60 mph.
Although the automatic transmission comes at no extra charge, you would be well served to test drive a CTS-V with the manual. Its drivability is noteworthy in a car with this much torque, offering short, slick throws matched to a well-weighted clutch that will not put stress on old, worn-out knees.
Also part of the performance package is General Motors’ magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, 19-inch wheels and a limited-slip differential that first saw light of day in top line Corvettes.
The Cadillac excitement does not come without a rather steep price tag. The base car, without options, stickers for $64,090 including destination charge. Options aren’t necessary to get most of the go-fast goodies. But options are available. For instance, our test car carried $7,990 worth including $3,400 Recaro high performance heated and vented seats. Another $1,300 went for a special black diamond tri-coat paint job. The bottom line was $72,080 including a gas guzzler tax penalty of $1,300.
The CTS-V excitement also comes with a few other tradeoffs in addition to price. Like so many cars that come nearly intact from concept show car to reality, there are some functional deficiencies. It is one thing to admire a cutting-edge design on the turntable at the Detroit Auto Show and quite another to put a working version of the design on the road.
For instance, rear visibility is poor. The rising beltline, large C-pillars and a steeply raked rear window make for less than optimum conditions while backing. To the rescue are standard parking sensors and a review camera.
If you drive a model with the sunroof, headroom is at a premium. Our heads just cleared the roof even though we are of short stature. So we can imagine the problem that may face someone over six feet or someone with a long torso.
Back seat passengers, once squeezed into place, will also find head room issues, but legroom is decent. If carrying four passengers is the rule rather than the exception, perhaps considering the CTS-V sedan or Wagon might be the wiser move.
As in most coupes, large doors can be hazardous in tight parking situations, so beware of the sheetmetal next to you.
Trunk space is just adequate (10.5 cubic feet) for a large mid-sized coupe, but a narrow opening is further restricted by large gooseneck hinges that intrude deep into the trunk.
The rear seatbacks do fold down for additional hauling space.
The abysmal gas mileage for the automatic of 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway on premium gas looks like a drawback. But in reality, people in the market for this type of world-class performance probably consider less-than-stellar fuel economy a necessary expense. The six-speed manual is not dramatically better with an EPA rating of 14/19.
The interior of the coupe is nearly identical to the sedan, and that’s not a bad thing. The CTS-V has a very neat dashboard appearance. Soft-touch materials are accented by rich-looking wood trim. Leather trim seats with sueded fabric inserts are supple and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel is leather wrapped. A 4-year or 50,000 mile premium maintenance care program is included.
The coupe has a unique navigation screen setup, perhaps the best in the business. When in use the screen emerges from the dash at the touch of a button, and when not needed it can be retracted leaving a small section visible as a touchscreen display for the Bose 5.1 surround sound audio system.
The striking exterior appearance, first-class cabin and luxury treatments throughout, combined with world-class performance and handling make the CTS-V something uniquely special.
Base price: $$64,090; as driven, $72,080
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8
Horsepower: 556 @ 6,100 rpm
Torque: 551 pound-feet at 3,800 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 113.4 inches
Length: 188.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,200 pounds
Turning circle: 37.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 10.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 12 mpg city, 18 mpg highway
0-60: 3.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW M3, Audi RS5, Mercedes E63 AMG
• World-class performance
• Stunning exterior design
• High-quality interior
• This beast needs to be fed often
• Poor rear visibility