Cadillac CTS-V — fast and furious luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Yes Virginia there is and will be a Cadillac. And no, Cadillac and muscle car is not an oxymoron.

Let’s forget for just a few minutes all the talk about corporate restructuring and about the supposed death rattle at GM.

Let’s also forget, just a short while the discussion of hybrid cars and electric cars and the newest and cleanest-burning diesels. Yes we desperately need those technologies, and some form of clean-burning ultra-efficient transportation will be in your garage in the very near future if it’s not there already.

But for a few minutes let’s remember our right as Americans to choices whether it is a big sport utility vehicle, a large luxury sedan or a sports car oozing with horsepower and torque.

While we’re on the road to all things good, let’s not take the fun out of motoring and our right to driving enjoyment. And there’s not much out there in 2009 that yells fun and freedom; that spells immense, unadulterated behind-the-wheel enjoyment for less than 100 grand like the Cadillac CTS-V. You will pay a $2,600 gas guzzler tax. And that’s the way it should be. And you will pay a base price — less current rebates and other give backs — of $58,695. And you will probably shell out another 10-thou for optional goodies that you simply can’t live without.

But that’s a small price, indeed, for the thrills of an impeccably designed, well-built 556-horsepower sedan with cutting-edge technology.

To have a CTS-V parked along side your new Prius, Insight or plug-in hybrid is to proclaim loud and clear we are still a country of choices, especially if you have enough disposable income to turn your fantasies into realities.

The CTS-V offers more than just thrills, as if that wasn’t enough. It offers its owner bragging rights over drivers of the world’s top sports sedans, namely the BMW M5 and the Mercedes AMG C63. The CTS-V has “won” several head-to-head magazine and automotive Web site competitions against those finely tuned German machines.

The CTS-V is faster and stops quicker. But there’s more to the CTS-V than forward momentum and the ability to quickly come down from speed. The CTS-V has set a lap record for a sports sedan at the famous German Nurburgring where it seems any car desiring world-class performance credentials these days must go for an afternoon of flogging.

This is Cadillac’s second try at the CTS-V. The V was simply an add-on the first time around for the 2004 model year. Cadillac slammed a 400-horsepower Corvette V-8 under the hood of the CTS, added a six-speed manual transmission and tacked on some go-fast goodies. It was, indeed, great fun, but less than it should have been.

This time the CTS-V is purpose built based on the superior second-generation CTS platform and it has all the requisite credentials to make it a world-class sports sedan.
Even if you have a hard time swallowing the argument that the 2009 CTS-V is better than the German cars, most will admit after a few laps or a few miles on winding roads that this Cadillac deserves serious comparison. And that in itself makes a mighty case for the Caddy, which comes in thousands cheaper than the M5.

The base V, which is well outfitted and contains all the go-fast goodies, begins at $58,695 including destination charge. The BMW M5 starts at $86,000. The C63 AMG comes in at around 60 grand for the same equipment on the Cadillac. And if you must compare the CTS-V to the Mercedes E63 AMG you are looking at close to a $30,000 difference.

The engine propelling the CTS-V is a slightly detuned version of the 6.2-liter V-8 found in the new ZR-1 Corvette supercar. The supercharged V-8 makes a neck-snapping 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. Based on its curb weight of 4,315 pounds the CTS-V translates to an eye-popping one horse for every 7.8 pounds. Little wonder it has been recorded at 4.3 seconds from 0-to-60 and 12.4 seconds at 115 mph in a quarter mile.

A six-speed manual shifter is standard, but the best times have been rung up with the six-speed automatic. It comes with steering-wheel mounted shift controls, but we found leaving the slush box to its own devices works just fine. We did not drive the manual transmission.

If you enjoy occasionally driving a car hard and fast through a winding stretch of road, this is the one for you. If you find the steering too light simply tap the traction control button twice. This will activate a “Competitive Driving Mode,” which weights up the steering, turns off the traction control and dials back the stability control.
Some people may be disappointed that the traditional muscle-car rumble is muted in the CTS-V — there is a low menacing melody — and the whine from the supercharger is definitely in evidence. The M5 has a deep-throated V-10 rumble that almost shakes the pavement. It’s impressive and we wish Cadillac engineers had tuned in more of V-8 music, but that’s a minor thing when all things are factored in.

The owner of a CTS-V is not asked to sacrifice quality or comfort for driving one of the world’s fastest passenger cars. Cadillac has made the surroundings very pleasant. You will find a delightful cockpit and you will discover a quiet, luxurious well-designed interior. A glossy black panel runs down the center stack, a very neat touch.

And you might think seriously about plunking down $3,400 for the Recaro high performance seats. They are outstanding with 14-way adjustments including adjustable upper and lower bolsters that will accommodate even wide bodies as we speak from personal experience.

The optional navigation system represents one of the neatest design efforts we’ve seen in years. The display can be retracted into the dashboard leaving only a top inch of the screen visible for the audio system.

Speaking of the audio system, it contains a 40 gig hard drive, which allows for storage of music files and enables standard radio or satellite radio to be rewound, paused and resumed much like a television DVR.

The rear seats are comfortable for two adults who will enjoy excellent leg room. The seatbacks do not fold forward as in the standard CTS, but there is a center pass-through.

Although the base price is $58,595, the effective price is $61,195 with the addition of a $2,600 gas guzzler tax. Our test car came with several options including the great seats, navigation and a special paint job bringing the bottom line to $68,135.

Cadillac has certainly done its part in keeping enjoyment in driving — and while it is expensive, for what you get we think it a reasonable price.


Base price: $58,695; as driven, $68,135
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8
Horsepower: 556 @ 6,100 rpm
Torque: 551 pound-feet @ 3,800 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 113.4 inches
Length: 191.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,315 pounds
Turning circle: 37.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.6 cubic feet
EPA rating: 18 mpg highway, 12 city (premium)
0-60: 4.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW M5, Mercedes C63 AMG

The Good:

• World-class acceleration
• Well-done, attractive interior
• Best performance comes with automatic transmission

The Bad:

• The weak V-8 rumble doesn’t match its performance

The Ugly:

• Be prepared to feed this beast often
• $2,600 gas guzzler tax