It’s not easy to get over the fact that the Germans have dominated the high-performance luxury car segment year after year. So, when I got hold of the Cadillac CTS-V coupe, I knew that it would be hard to be a fair judge. This car would really have to blow my socks off if it had any shot of taking out the M3; my experiences with GM vehicles haven’t always been positive. But, I got it through my head that I would get over my ego and give it a fair and balanced review. Shouldn’t be too hard.
First, let’s go over the looks.
The same chiseled visage from the CTS-V sedan remains from the front to about the windshield. From there, things get interesting. The sharp-edged roofline never ends as it meets right at the very athletic ass; on road, this translates to a faster-than-you-are-really-going look. As for the ass, MC Hammer couldn’t have put it better, it really looks great, and the massive center-mounted dual exhaust pipes add a nice touch, as does the integrated brake light spoiler. Congrats on an automaker for finally making a real car look like a concept car.
During some of the filming process, we had our assistant drive back and forth down the street. It was then that we realized this is a special looking car. And the way it quickly rebounded from the small little bumps looked like watching a racecar. Sidewise, it looks like the world’s greatest predator about to leap out and pounce it’s next victim — in a CTS-V, there are many victims.
Jail or bust
Let’s be honest, the first thing you don’t think about when you’re handed an American sports car, with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine rated at 556 bhp and 551 lb-ft torque, is whether you’re going to obey the laws. The rules are meant to be broken, just make sure your final will and testament is in order. It’s common to think American muscle cars have trouble doing anything other that a straight line—and there aren’t usually brakes on those things—and if things hit the fan, you either die or end up in jail.
Here’s where the Cadillac is exceptionally different. It is a very controllable and comforting car. The balance between high performance and comfort is astonishing. It retains that American muscle made for smoking out jealous drivers that find flipping the bird necessary (We counted at least 5). Burnouts are so fun.
Not only can it go, but it can go, well slow, too. The CTS-V is a respectable car for city and highway driving. There is none of that harshness you’d expect from a car like this, mainly due to the magneto rheological suspension. MagnaRide, found on other supercars like the Ferrari 599 and Audi R8, offers magnetic fluid filled dampers that tighten or loosen up by dialing in with an electromagnet. The difference between sport and touring mode was noticeable, especially in turns, and sport mode was choice for even “normal” driving.
Braking power comes by way of 15-inch front and 14.7-inch rear Brembo brakes. Just as fast as you are flung back by the massive amounts of power, the Caddy does just as well in reverse. During some of the higher speed runs—the ones where you aren’t too sure just how slow the car in front of you is going—the brakes were tested, and they passed. The brake pedal feel is on par with other cars in this class — if not slightly better — and offer a high level of comfortability and control. We’re not talking the usual grab some brakes from the parts bin and it’s good.
Often steering gets overly overlooked. In the CTS-V, is it not so. The steering couldn’t be better. For a price, the wheel can be covered in suede, ideal for keeping sweaty palms dry and grippy. The feel you get from the feedback is just right. No need to unprofessionally unwind after turn-in. The tracking is fantastic—some would say German—it’s just so direct and connected. During normal driving, it’s easy to hold straight and in the back roads the wheel is so contained and competent. Carving esses in the hills feels very natural and safe and complete mind trancing out will occur. It’s all those little details that made German cars so great that the V team has picked up on. Overall, the CTS-V is very well balanced and is especially fun to drive.
There are a few gripes about the powertrain: the rev limiter was very abrupt at about 6000 RPM, annoying when paddle shifting, and certainly can be worse with a manual. The harsh rev limiter and low redline is most likely due to the engine’s OHV setup. The valvetrain has too many moving parts to get up into the range a DOHC can provide. It would be nice for those who don’t “row their own” to be given a 7-speed dual clutch. Launch control and faster shift times would increase the overall automatic gear shifting experience. And the transmission got pretty noisy when it heated up — which was pretty much all the time.
Inside the Caddy shack
Like a palace, the interior is donned with fancy chrome, wood and wet looking materials. Like a shack, the material choices are a bit cheap. Some of the plastics looked like a bad DJ scratched them to hell. But on paper, or in a picture, it looks pretty nice.
One of the most noticeable items inside are the Recaro seats. A $3400 option that offers adjustable side and thigh bolsters, they keep you tight but aren’t necessarily worth $3400. Take the adjustable thigh support for example, the rails are plastic and aren’t strong enough when exiting the vehicle because they easily clicked backward. Also, when slamming the gas, you’d expect one to go back into the seat. What you wouldn’t expect is the back of the seat going into the back seat. Well, that’s just what happened and doesn’t help the overall build quality number. Overall, the build quality isn’t as high as it should be and is easily outclassed by the rivals. But, that’s not to say this isn’t a huge step for Cadillac.
The retractable nav screen is a nice touch and is especially helpful when there isn’t some huge screen in the way all the time. Button layout is easy to follow and use and overall ergonomics are great. I really like that the traction control is on the wheel; when you want to turn it off real quick, it’s right there.
The navigation was a bit of a pain to get used to and wasn’t as easy as it should be. That is, until the great discovery called OnStar. Call up an advisor and tell them where you want to go, and they download it directly to the nav. No messing with buttons or waiting for a long script to be read to you like a baby. OnStar also offers Android and iPhone apps to control features of the car. You can start it up and control climate, lock/unlock and find its location from anywhere in the world. This comes closest to Bond’s 7-series in Tomorrow Never Dies, you know, without that whole remote driving and missile firing feature.
The audio system is pretty loud and clear. The acoustics of the car have an insulating feel that accommodates the sound well. I was enjoying the sound so much, I forgot it was a Bose—this is by far the one of the best Bose systems on the road. Though, with all the cool stuff going on inside with the tech, you’d think that an iPhone 4 would work with the system. Nope, instead I had to use the ghetto-rigged aux cable for sound and dock connector for charge.
Get over it
The Cadillac CTS-V coupe is a car that you can’t get over. It is the car that will have you getting over past reputations. It’s well balanced and very, very fun to drive. Just needs a beef up in build quality. You’re not going to be hearing little rattles and creaks over any bumps, in fact, in that department, it’s very solid and the ride is quite quiet. But, things like the Tire Pressure Monitor System shouldn’t be failing this early. It’s all about details that buyer of this class are receptive to.
Don’t be scared of the coupe. Unless you have a really good reason to get the wagon—small kids or cargo—go for it. It looks great and people can sit in the back. Plus, little touches like electronic door releases make sure you have a reason to reach over your date without being creepy.
Give anyone the 3.9 sec 0-60 experience and you can guarantee laughs and adrenaline. Even hours after driving, the kind of adrenaline women can smell will still be pumping, and for some reason they’ll know you drive a badass car.
Buyers of the CTS-V are likely to either be going through a midlife crisis or the yuppies involved in the financial crisis. This nearly $70,000 car can put quite a dent in your pocket and you’ll certainly become a pro-fueler with its combined 12 mpg. But that’s okay, you drive one of the most forward cars on the road. And at no point in your life will you wake up pissed off that you have to drive through rush hour. Every hour in this car is a rush. Get over it. Cadillac has a winner on its hands.
Base package — $62,195
- Supercharged 6.2L V8 556 HP
- Performance Brembo Brakes
- 19-inch wheels
- Bose 5.1 Surround System
- 40GB Hard Drive Media Jukebox
- XM Radio
- Automatic Transmission
- Recaro High Performance Seats — $3,400
- Midnight Sapele Wood Trim Pkg — $600
- Suede Steering Wheel & Shifter — $300
Price as tested — $69,890 including $2,600 Gas Guzzler Tax