– Sharp exterior styling
– Monstrous engine
– Premium cabin
– Average rear legroom
– No proper paddle-shifters
– Needs rear parking camera
There was a time, around the 1960s, when Cadillac was known as “the standard of the world.” It was a time when Cadillac was defined by tail-finned extra-chromed barges. But cars like those are no more. Cadillac went on a decline that made it an afterthought among luxury cars. So it is amazing how GM’s luxury division has managed to transform itself in the space of a decade. And one of the fruits of that labour is the ever-improving Cadillac CTS-V, already known as the “fastest sedan in the world”, arguably.
The Cadillac CTS-V is an intentionally sharp-looking vehicle. The pointy design carries over from the regular CTS, although only enthusiasts will notice the mesh grille, different bumpers and special wheels unique to the V-Series. It is really hard to draw attention with a four-door sedan nowadays, but the CTS-V still managed that as the occasional bystander took a second glance at our chrome-laden tester. No one even bothers to notice BMWs and Mercs any more.
The interior is rather attractive too, with more pointy design cues that make the Germans feel boring in comparison. The dash top, upper door panels and some console bits were wrapped in leather, while the rest of the trim was soft-touch plastics, complemented by piano-black plastics and chrome linings. There is no cost-cutting here like in some other upstart luxury brands, and while the finishing is slightly off in one or two places, we still think it is a rather fine interior, with more premium materials than in any comparable Audi that everyone likes to benchmark.
The Recaro leather-and-alcantara sports seats up front are delightfully beefy, with thick side-bolstering, thigh support, power controls and big headrests. Space up front is good, although legroom in the rear is only average, somewhere between a compact and a midsize. Rear headroom is good, but getting in means watching your head due to the sloping rear C-pillars and smallish doors. Cargo volume out back is sizeable, extendable with folding rear seatbacks, although the opening into the cabin is a bit restricted along the sides. There is no spare tyre as the Caddy rolls on run-flats, but under that cargo floor, there seems to be some sort of air pump kit. And of course, there are four covered all-American cup-holders.
Features are befitting any modern luxury car, but Cadillac went the extra mile to make it feel special. The multimedia-navigation screen pops up electrically from the dashboard, or can go in part of the way to leave a cleanly-integrated little display still showing minor info. The separate a/c controls for front passengers have individual temperature displays facing each person. The tachometer needle leaves a trail of red lights as the revs increase. The CD stereo pounds out the tunes like a concert hall. And the panoramic glass roof can turn the car into a greenhouse. Some omissions and missteps occur though. We couldn’t get the Bluetooth phone to work, or maybe our tester didn’t even have that option. The decent automatic a/c also has rear vents, but no rear controls. And beyond the fancy screen, convenience-based tech is limited to regular cruise control, full keyless entry with starter button, turning HID headlights, clear LED tails, parking sensors, lots of airbags and the usual power accessories. No rear cameras, adaptive cruising or heads-up displays here, yet.
Of course, as with most American muscle-head cars, more went into the engine than anything else. Powered by a version of the supercharged 6.2-litre V8 that powers the fastest Corvette ever, the CTS-V plays with 556 hp at 6100 rpm and 747 Nm of torque at 3800 rpm. That’s more juice than anything else in its class, including the Porsche Panamera Turbo, let alone any current BMW or Mercedes-Benz, all of which cost much more. This power is fed to the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic, as in our tester, although Cadillac offers a 6-speed manual too, seemingly the only car in its class to do so nowadays. Manual shifting in our car was possible via buttons behind the steering wheel instead of proper paddles, but that was hardly satisfying and gear changes were best left to the automatic.
We made one 0-100 kph run during our April testing, with traction control off, and managed a conservative time of 5.6 seconds. During that run, we kept accelerating, and at around 220 kph out on a desert road, a stone flew into one of the gaping bumper intakes and smashed up the plastic cladding in the wheel-wells. The plastic started dragging on the ground, but the car was still fully driveable and this was only minor damage. However, we didn’t do any more acceleration runs at the time, but we did manage a fuel consumption figure of 16.9 litres/100 km, expectedly high, but still less than most 4x4s.
Make no mistake, this car is monstrously powerful, and takes great care and skill to pilot aggressively. In fact, GM lost two CTS-V press cars already thanks to crashes in the hands of incompetent journalists. Pressing the throttle a bit too hard even to pass causes wheelspin and minor twitchiness out back as the power surges faster than the stability control can kick in. However, it behaves itself nicely with a controlled right foot, and it is easy to cruise around town with if the driver is mature. The late interference by electronic nannies can be fun if you expect it, but fully turning them off on the street is definitely not recommended.
The handling is expectedly superb though, with firm suspension tuning even when in the softest electronic setting. Body roll is barely noticeable, and grip from the ridiculously wide 255/40 front and 285/35 rear rubbers, worn on 19-inch alloys, is like glue, as long as you don’t pound in too much power at the wrong moments. The ABS-assisted brakes are massive and the car hurtles to a stop on demand, but while the steering feel is nicely firm, actual feedback is rather limited.
Of course, buyers of this car will likely focus on its luxury aspect, and the Cadillac does as well as anything else in this genre, which is to say the ride is firm, but kept reasonably compliant over bumps using fancy-pants electronic air-suspension technology, though anyone expecting a baby-soft ride will be disappointed. Wind and road noises are decently limited, while engine noise is muffled at all but the highest revs.
It is astounding that the General’s musclecar arsenal continues to grow larger even during all its troubles, with cars like the CSV CR8, the Corvette Z06, the Camaro SS and this Cadillac CTS-V, all using the same basic engine, and all reasonably affordable compared to overpriced competitors, while actually beating them at their own game. GM is offering the CTS-V at the same price point as a mid-range BMW 535i with no options, so common sense dictates that costs had to be cut. We did find only one or two blemishes in the interior finish — and that’s it. Everything else points to a well-finished premium vehicle that is perhaps more desirable than staid German cars like the Audi S6. And for that, this car is going on our recommended list.
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