Cadillac CTS-V Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
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cadillac cts v review

Pistonheads believe cars have personality, character and yes, soul. Putting the pedal to the metal in a Cadillac CTS-V, it's hard not to agree. The 5.7-liter powerplant bellows, the tires squirm and the V charges at the horizon with all the determination of an enraged bull heading for a matador's cape. Redline Caddy's 400-horse four-door and she'll give you everything she's got. And man, she's got a lot. The V rockets from zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds and completes the ¼ mile in 13.1. If the V was a bull, I'd want to be one very fast matador.

Amazingly, the CTS-V is not all about brute force. Unlike its rip-snorting cousins– the Dodge Viper, Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge SRT10– the V is a seriously agile whip. As hard as it is to comprehend, the CTS-V, a Cadillac, could well be America's finest handling car. Yes folks, it's true: Detroit has finally produced a car to rival a BMW.

Not buying it? Fling the CTS-V into a bend. Watch the G-forces build on the dashboard's digital read-out. Feel those 18" Goodyear Eagles grab the tarmac like a Rottweiler-gone-bad locked onto its owner's leg. Don't worry about the road surface; the V's Nürburgring-fettled suspension easily dismisses imperfections that would unsettle less competent machines.

Now, adjust your line through the corner. The V's stiffened yet forgiving chassis lets you explore the limits of adhesion without fear of fatality. Unless you completely misjudge a bend or deliberately over-cook it, the car will sail through the most radical radii. Or, alternatively, stop. The V's Brembo brakes shed speed with fade-free brutality and precision.

Thanks to its big-bore V8 and track-tuned handling, there are two ways to exploit the CTS-V's talents. One: finesse the car through the twisties. Stay on the gas, position the car carefully and maintain momentum. Apply power as needed. Two: floor it and see what happens. A reasonably skilled driver can use the engine's 395 ft. lbs. of torque to power in and out of trouble. Drivers favoring the second approach will be pleased to learn that even on its most invasive setting, the "Stabilitrak" nanny allows for some tasty tail sliding before cutting-in to save you from "embarrassment".

OK. You've heard the news: the Cadillac CTS-V is the first US four-door with the driving dynamics of a European sports sedan since, well, ever. Patriotic American enthusiasts have waited decades for a car like this to come along. But let's keep things in perspective. Despite all the buzz about the CTS-V being "America's M5", it's a Caddy, not a BMW, and definitely not a BMW M5.

For one thing, the CTS-V doesn't feel welded-to-the-tarmac like Munich's M-machine. While the V offers Cadillac buyers an unprecedented level of high speed finesse, the brand's luxury heritage demanded a significant measure of ride comfort. The trade-off leaves the CTS-V with no small amount of body roll and a general feeling of daintiness. Ask the car some tricky questions and it gets a bit jumpy, like a cat on a hot tin roof.

The CTS-V is also slower than an M5. Call it axle tramp or wheel hop, but whenever you give the CTS-V's go-pedal a proper pasting there's a God-almighty clunk in the rear. For the crucial first second, the car struggles to get its power down. Even when the CTS-V's electronics and mechanical linkages finally get things organized, the CTS-V lacks the oomph to catch up with the similarly-horsed M5. Not at 60, 70, 100 or beyond.

And then there's steering feel, or lack thereof. While the M5's recirculating ball steering dispenses automotive Prozac, the CTS-V's power-assisted rack-and-pinion system was Novocained at birth. With 3.5 turns from lock-to-lock and nothing to tell you where you are in the turning process, you have to remember not to attack corners too aggressively, lest excessively sharp turn-in makes a complete mess of things. Again, blame Cadillac's luxury bias.

Does that really matter? The M is faster and tidier at extra-legal velocities, but its interior is as dour as German heavy metal. The Caddy's crib is dope. The V also provides a lot more elbow and leg room than the Teutonic tornado. And anyway, the new M5 is about to make the scene with even more power, better handling and a properly weighted helm. It will crush the V. So why not let consumers pay BMW a hefty premium for the ultimate sports sedan, and mop-up the wanna-bees with something a lot cheaper and a little slower?

Because that's not the way Cadillac thinks. Not anymore. Hence the CTS-V "Plus" recently discovered testing at the 'Ring. That bad boy holsters a 500hp six-liter V8 with no-compromise steering and suspension. After caning the V, I predict Caddy's new, feistier beast will meet or beat the best. No bull.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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2 of 3 comments
  • Jstnspin82 Jstnspin82 on Nov 24, 2008

    Cadillac tries to hard in a segment which does not concern them. Yeah if there were just Chrysler, GM, and Ford in America they would win with the CTS-V hands down but thats not eh case and there is one thing to think about and it goes by the name of M5! The German Thoroughbred is the ultimate enticement of Automobile engineering and performance. WIth it's V10 power plant, the twin turbo terror delivers 400 Horse power and at the touch of a button you get another 100 Horse power shot of adrenaline. The handling is simply there and hits corners and handles like a grand champ. Given all that with BMW's standard in excellent engineering, which is second to none, the CTS-V will have to just settle because it has met its match. Now Cadillac claims they have a CTS-V that is more powerful with 500 hp and there are pics out of it at a test track but with the next generation 5 coming out shortly an M5 is sure to follow and as history repeats itself it will be more fast, more wicked, and more BMW!

  • Michael Ayoub Michael Ayoub on Dec 26, 2008

    jstnspin82, I think you're a little confused. No BMW M car has ever had forced induction. This may change in the future (there are hints of a new twin-turbo V8 M5), though.

  • Analoggrotto Where is this now? Dead. The Kia Soul rules this segment as Kia rules every segment, and Genesis above it rules the luxury realm.
  • Oberkanone Nope. $8 grand for $120k miles economy hatchback is too much. Over 10 years old. Condition does not change the result.
  • Master Baiter ____________ doesn't want electric _____________.
  • MaintenanceCosts Too bad it's not a Sport; the styling on those is a bit nicer. There's a first-gen Fit Sport with some subtle mods (lowering, perfectly chosen wheels, tint) that used to live in my neighborhood and it may be the best-looking subcompact I've ever seen.
  • Oberkanone BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen have different fleet emissions rules than Stellantis and other manufacturers. This is unfair trade practice and California is the leader of this criminal conspiracy. Unified emissions regulations are needed. Disjointed patchwork of CARB and Federal emissions states results in harm to our economy inefficient manufacturing. CARB emissions regulations violate the Commerce Clause by engaging in extraterritorial regulation.