The cars we loved.
Cadillac seems to be on a performance rebound lately. It hasn’t always been that way. After dismal and half-hearted attempts at Euro fighters like the Cimirron and Catera, Cadillac had all but lost much of the prestige that used to justify the “Standard of the World” slogan. Lately Cadillac has progressively moved it’s exotic “Art and Science” design philosophy from show cars to production. The two seat XLR started the modern performance and design movement that has resulted in the CTS and eventually the CTS-V super sedan. The CTS-V is simply the fastest most powerful Cadillac ever. In fact it’s the fastest and most powerful American sedan ever. Nothing comes close from Detroit, but Cadillac has been aiming its crosshairs at Europe.
Essentially a four door Corvette, the V starts with a CTS sedan and adds performance bits like a Corvette derived engine and beefed up suspension and brakes to aid handling. Subtle spoilers, air ducts and badges topped off with 18 or 19 in aluminum wheels topping off the package. The angular design combined with the performance enhancements made for a sinister
looking car, especially in second generation cars made after 2008. The Corvette linkage was key to the CTS-V’s performance.
There were three different V8s used over the years, all of them pushrod OHV designs ranging from 5.7 to 6.2 liters. Yeah, I said pushrod. On the surface pushrod technology might have seemed like a throwback, but in the CTS-V it’s been pushed near its technological limits. The power ratings were always lower than the Corvettes’, but modifications made the engines more
suited to luxury duty (when driven that way). The second generation cars received a 556 hp supercharged V8 straight from the ZR-1. Power inched up to 564 hp in 2011 models, while fuel efficiency actually dropped from 19-21mpg to 16-18mpg. No
one bought the CTS-V for fuel economy, but more decided that they would rather it shift for them. Transmission choices were limited, with a single six-speed manual being the only one available until 2009. The Tremec manual was joined by
a six-speed paddle shift automatic that greatly increased the CTS-Vs appeal in a time where fewer drivers are able to drive a stick.
With either manual or automatic transmission, the CTS-V was quite a performer. In various road tests of first and second generation cars, the CTS-V performed well when pitted against the best of Europe including Audi’s RS6 and BMW’s M5. The CTS-V became the Car and Driver Car of the Year in 2004. With a 0 to 60 time of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph, the CTS-V had become a bona-fide $60,000 alternative to the European ruling class. Despite the power and flash, the car still had its detractors. After trouncing an Audi S4 on the British TV show ‘Top Gear” Germany Clarkson’s only legitimate gripe about the 2004 CTS-V was with the quality of its interior. Other reviewers were quick to note that the quality of materials was not up to the car’s performance and price bracket. Cadillac attempted to some of those issues with the second generation car. Its
seats were made more supportive and more importantly some further attention to detail was given to the Transformer like dashboard and instrument cluster.
Although not to everyone’s taste, the end results were more fitting with the bold exterior design. Then again the CTS-V looks like no other car foreign or domestic and certainly performs like no other American sports sedan. Cadillac continues to refine the CTS-V, while introducing new variants like a sportwagon and coupe to broaden its appeal. Today the CTS-V is sold
around the world in limited numbers, but represents a small percentage of overall CTS sales. The void left by the departure of Pontiac’s G8 still exists on the lower end of the market in America, but the CTS-V represents American design and engineering at its best on the high end.