Note: This review was done on a 2005 CTS-V and the specs are for that vehicle. Changes for 2006 include a bump up in displacement from 5.7 liter to 6.0 liter. Horsepower and torque are the same, but maximum torque comes in at 4,400 rpm instead of 4,800 rpm. Fuel economy has improved enough to eliminate the gas guzzler tax that was added to the 2005 model
A 400-horsepower sedan
Whats more American than a Cadillac? How about a Cadillac CTS-V with a whopping V-8 that can blister the tires and lunge to 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds? Tire-scorching horsepower is about as American as you can get.
This high-performance version of the CTS was created to challenge comparable performance models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Cadillac will build only a few thousand, so expect waiting lists and premium prices. The test cars sticker price was $52,495, and that compares favorably with the Audi S4. BMWs new M5 and the Mercedes-Benz E55 are both in the $80,000 plus range.
Cadillac, the brand, is in the middle of an extreme makeover, and the CTS-V has received a major heart transplant. For the ultra-performance model, the standard 3.6-liter, 255-horse V-6 has been shelved, and a 400-horsepower, 5.7-liter heart based on the current Corvette has been stuffed inside the simple suit of sharply pressed sheetmetal. Talk about kickin things up a notch.
Visually, you can tell the CTS-V by its fat tires, squat stance and deeper front spoiler. Scoops by the fog lights provide ventilation for the front brakes. Honeycomb mesh is used for the grille. The V is currently available in silver, black, red and stealth gray.
The aluminum 5.7-liter engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission for maximum performance, and its a great combination, with one exception. Accelerate gently, and the CTS-V forces you to shift from first to fourth gear, just like the Corvette. The skip-shift feature is there to achieve better city fuel economy numbers in the Environmental Protection Agencys test, but its annoying. I know it can be defeated with an aftermarket switch, but I wish it werent there to begin with.
Tighter ratios in the six-speed gearbox would make the driving experience more fun because fifth and sixth are both overdrive gears. No automatic transmission is offered.
The rear-drive CTS-V is a well-balanced platform that handles copious amounts of horsepower reasonably well, thanks to a reworked suspension, 18-inch tires and huge, 14-inch Brembo disc brakes. Hydroformed steel cradles are used front and rear to handle the extra demand from the V-8. Stiffer springs, bigger shocks and fat stabilizer bars keep the CTS-V pretty flat in turns. The suspension was tuned during extensive testing at the famous Nurburgring track in Germany.
In city driving, the CTS-Vs ride is just this side of being too firm. The car is secure and well-planted. Probing its performance envelope is not something one can do safely on the street. It would be fun to spend some time with it on a track.
An understated interior matches the subtle exterior. There are brushed aluminum accents on the steering wheel and gearshift knob. The deeply contoured leather buckets have suede inserts to hold occupants in place during spirited driving.
The gauge package is subtle with white letters on a black background. A digital readout at the bottom of the tachometer supplies various bits of information, and includes a gauge that shows peak and momentary lateral acceleration in turns. This g-meter is clever and fun.
The Cadillacs center stack is shaped to resemble a computer tower, and it looks a bit dated. A navigation system and XM satellite radio are standard, as is OnStar.
Side-curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and the Stabilitrak vehicle stability program are also standard.
While the CTS-V is a low-volume model, it is the best evidence yet that Cadillac intends to position itself as a major competitor with the best performance sedans from Europe.