The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is the ultra-sport version of Cadillac's mid-size sedan. With the CTS-V, Cadillac has gone all out to create a true rival to BMW's M cars and the AMG sedans from Mercedes-Benz. With its massive, supercharged V-8 engine and a host of supporting upgrades, the CTS-V plays in a league far above that of the regular CTS. It's also priced well above the standard CTS, starting at just under $60,000. But compared with the German rocket sedans, that's a bargain.
Form follows function
Cadillac's faceted-design language has really come into its own in the second-generation CTS, and the good news is that the V-series doesn't screw it up with a lot of gratuitous, "sporty" add-ons. In fact, Cadillac engineers stress that all exterior changes were made for function. The new front fascia, which uses the chrome mesh grille texture seen in other V-series cars, allows twice as much airflow, which is necessary to feed the big V-8. It also integrates air ducts to help cool the brakes. The new hood - made of aluminum - is redesigned to clear the engine and the intercooler. The neatest detail, however, is the rear CHMSL (center high-mounted stop light), which is reshaped to add downforce at high speeds, eliminating the need for a rear spoiler.
An upgrade was made
The CTS-V cabin manages to look both purposeful and classy. Our test car's black interior was set off by the varying textures of its materials. The primary material is a matte-finish leather, on the seats, the center armrest, and the dash. The seat inserts, however, are upholstered with a grippy microfiber that mimics the look and feel of suede. The same material also covers the shift knob and the extra-thick steering wheel rim, which feels great. Shiny black trim and bits of chrome keep things from looking too dour inside, as does the optional oversize glass roof (its mesh shade, however, might not provide block the sun well enough for those baking in the sun belt). The optional Recaro sport seats are a must; the adjustable lateral supports in both the seat cushion and the seatback help cement the driver in place during high-g cornering, and the Recaros are more comfortable than the standard chairs even if you're idling in traffic. Even the dead pedal is larger than the standard car's, thanks to space made available by the V's electronic parking brake. As in the regular CTS, the navigation screen when lowered displays only the stereo information, but it can be raised for full functionality. The audio system includes a 40-gig hard drive and Bluetooth.
Like the previous CTS-V, the heart of the new car is its supercharged, OHV V-8. The hearty 6.2-liter V-8 (which happens to be the same size as the AMG V-8) is topped by an Eaton blower that spins to 16,000 rpm. This engine, which GM dubs LSA, is a derivative of the LS9 V-8 in the ZR-1 Corvette. The LSA does without the LS9's dry sump lubrication, and it doesn't quite match the ZR-1's output of 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque; instead it settles for a wholly adequate 556 hp and 551 lb-ft, numbers that make it not only the most powerful Cadillac in history - easily surpassing the 400 hp from the previous version's 5.7-liter engine - but also eclipse both the BMW M5's V-10 and the aforementioned V-8 in the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
As before, the CTS-V offers a manual transmission. This time, however, it's not a truck-like beast paired with a heavy clutch. The only hangover from the old car's manual is the presence, once again, of a first-to-fourth skip-shift, but it only comes into play in a narrow speed band, so you might encounter it only rarely. On a happier note, the new six-speed provides solid - if not silky - shift action and a nicely weighted, easy-to-modulate clutch. This is a transmission you could happily shift every day. But those who'd rather not deal with a manual gearbox, even a good one, have an option they didn't before: a six-speed automatic that includes shift paddles and a sport program. The automatic gives up nothing in performance to the stick-shift car, and in fact it was an automatic CTS-V in which development chief John Heinricy set a sub-eight-minute lap record at the Nürburgring.
The CTS-V chassis is part of GM's Sigma family of rear-wheel-drive cars and is an evolution of the previous CTS-V. The wheelbase is unchanged at 113.4 inches, but the front and rear tracks are fractionally wider. The new car's ability to provide a civilized ride along with blistering track performance is largely a credit of the latest-generation Magnetic Ride Control. These variable dampers not only react instantaneously (adjusting their firmness level every millisecond), but their range from softest to stiffest is greater than before. The driver can select from two suspension settings, Tour and Sport, the latter of which triggers much more aggressive responses and leads to a very firm ride - too firm, really, for everyday street driving. The Tour mode also adds a welcome extra bit of heft to the steering. Of course, the CTS-V has standard stability control, with three levels of computer control: full on, competition mode (traction control off and stability control allowing more leeway), and full off. The brakes are by Brembo, with six-piston calipers for the fronts and four-piston at the rear. Two-piece front rotors and red-painted calipers are part of the Track package.
A much broader range of talents
The CTS-V is a comfy Caddy with a bad-boy streak that's a mile wide. It has far more polish than its crude but capable predecessor, yet it's blazingly fast. Once again, the CTS-V is comports itself very well on a racetrack, with amazing levels of grip, cornering attitudes that vary from neutral to oversteer to understeer depending on your inputs, and strong brakes. Even with the serious increase in torque, Cadillac engineers have quelled rear axle hop with a cast iron differential and asymmetrical driveshafts. Given a driver with Herculean restraint, the muted engine and comfortable ride could fool passengers into thinking they're riding in just another CTS. But for most of us, the urge to press that right pedal is too great. When you do, the CTS-V instantly blurs the surrounding traffic. Cadillac claims a 0-to-60-mph time of less than four seconds. And the CTS-V is game as long as you are, easily surpassing the self-imposed 155-mph speed limit of it German counterparts and accelerating all the way to 175 mph for the automatic-equipped version (which is reined in to limit the speed of the transmission output shaft) and 191 mph for the manual.
In conclusion: Wow
Whereas the previous CTS-V was a capable but crude hot rod, the new one feels as if it has jumped forward two generations, not only effectively addressing the old car's shortcomings but pouring on more performance as well. This car offers vastly greater mechanical refinement and interior quality, better styling, and oh-my-god performance. Certainly, it's the best Cadillac in modern times. And it sits on par with German competitors that cost thousands more. Unfortunately, the money you save will likely go toward paying for speeding tickets.
2009 Cadillac CTS-V
Base Price: $59,995 (estimated)
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged OHV V-8
Horsepower: 556 hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 551 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
L x W x H: 191.6 x 72.5 x 58.0 in
Legroom F/R: 42.4/35.9 in
Headroom F/R: 38.8/37.2 in
Cargo capacity: 13.6 cu ft
Curb Weight: 4200-4300 lb (est.)
EPA Rating: N/A