• Sep 2nd 2008 at 11:57AM
  • 51
Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V

After decades of decay, Cadillac began a transformation in the waning years of the last century that would allow the brand to compete against modern luxury brands. Decrepit beasts like the late Eldorado and Seville were euthanized and, while the decision to switch mostly to alpha-numeric naming was dubious, Cadillac finally started creating cars that could compete directly with the best from Europe and Japan, and the first generation CTS was one of them.

In spite of this progress, the Germans still had something Cadillac lacked, namely AMG, M and RS models. So Cadillac devised the V-Series, the first of which was the 2004 CTS-V. Just as BMW does with the M3 and M5, Audi with the RS4 and RS6 and Mercedes with innumerable AMGs, the CTS-V had a bigger, more powerful engine; beefier brakes and tires; a suspension to match and an upgraded interior. This, however, is an arms race that has yet to subsie in spite of ever higher fuel prices. With BMW, Mercedes and Audi now offering even more powerful engines, Cadillac has stepped up to the plate with an all-new CTS-V and we had a chance to drive it at the even newer Monticello Motor Club in New York. With a new supercharged LSA engine closely related to the LS9 in the Corvette ZR1, the CTS-V makes some big promises. Read on after the jump to see if it delivers.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

American automakers started trying to create what they called Euro-sedans way back in the mid-'80s. At the time, they thought a European sedan was nothing more than a de-chromed version of a regular sedan that was stiffly suspended with a little more tire. The result of this thinking was cars like the Chevy Celebrity EuroSport and Pontiac 6000 STE. Needless to say, none of these were competitive with Audi or BMW were offering. Cadillac didn't even try to compete at back then since it was still selling big Fleetwoods and De Villes. Fast forward two decades and GM has well and truly learned how to build cars that can attack the heart of the German sport sedan segment, as the regular 2008 CTS, which has drawn largely rave reviews since its debut last year, has demonstrated.

We got a close look at the CTS-V in June at the Milford Proving Ground and went for a ride in one so we already knew the car was fast. With 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque, how could it not be? But many past GM efforts performed well on the controlled surfaces of a proving ground environment but fell flat on their faces in the real world. So before we hit Monticello, we embarked on a 90-minute route from White Plains, NY that took us through a mix of urban stop-and-go, freeways, small towns and some twisty mountain roads.

The driving environment of the CTS-V is largely the same as the standard CTS, but with some upgraded trim like micro-fiber inserts in the seats and around steering wheel that feel rich to the touch and look great. The standard seats are based on those in the standard CTS, but unless you have an extra-wide girth, we recommend opting for the 14-way Recaros – you won't be sorry. The standard seats are reasonably supportive and comfortable, but the lower cushions are too short. The Recaros have adjustable thigh supports, as well as adjustable everything else.

The CTS-V does transmit more of the road surface to your back-side than the regular sedan. You will not mistake it for one of those floaty, '80s-era Fleetwoods. Nor is it anything like an early C4 vintage Z51 Corvette. The magnetic ride damping system does a great job of filtering out the unpleasantness while still letting you be aware of what's passing underneath. Similarly, the audible feedback of the tires and exhaust are louder than a base CTS but far less than a typical aftermarket exhaust system. It's a nice balance that lets you know you're driving a serious automobile with very serious sporting pretensions, but that it doesn't mind getting up and going to work each morning.

Visually, the CTS-V stands out in a crowd more than either its lesser siblings or its predecessor. The big mesh grille now has twice the open area of the previous V, a necessity to flow enough air for the up to seven heat exchangers. The CTS-V is also the first GM car to be equipped with an electric park brake. The base CTS has one of those old school foot operated jobs, but Cadillac engineers wanted more foot room for the manual transmission CTS-V.

The EPB leaves extra room for the dead pedal on which you can rest your left foot when not using the clutch. With 551 lb-ft of twisting force, the clutch needs a lot clamping force. Fortunately, the use of a dual plate clutch like the one in the ZR1 means that your left leg won't end up being twice the size of your right. The clutch effort is nicely weighted and the travel is well matched to the accelerator and brake.

Once we got to Monticello, there was a briefing from CTS-V lead performance integration engineer Chris Berube. Along with all the technical details about the engine, he gave us a warning about shift points. Showing us the power and torque curves, he noted that most engines reach a power peak somewhere below their maximum rpm. Even without looking at the tach, you can feel the loss of acceleration as you approach the red-line. Such is not the case with the LSA power-curve. It has no peak, rather it just ends at the red-line. If the valve-train and other components could withstand higher sustained speeds, it could make even more than its advertised 556 horsepower. Thus, it's very easy to hit the CTS-V's rev-limiter before you know what's happening. The speedometer and tach have red tracer LEDs that follow the needles as they arc around the dial, and as you approach red-line they start to flash.

This new Monticello track is absolutely astounding. It's a 4.1-mile, 22-turn natural terrain circuit designed by veteran road racer Brian Redman and track architect Bruce Hawkins. We'll tell you more about the Monticello Motor Club in a separate post later, but suffice it to say that this was a perfect locale for the debut of the CTS-V. It took some getting used to since none of us had seen the track before, especially since it's so long, and with 500 feet of elevation change, there are many different types of turns. It's challenging for drivers of any skill level, especially driving a monster like the CTS-V.

Like the team responsible for the ZR1, the CTS-V crew strove to build a car with immense performance that was at the same time very usable on both the street and track. A driver with less skill can thrash it without getting bitten back at every wrong move. For those with a higher degree of skill, the CTS-V offers a higher ceiling for exploring even greater limits. Switching the stability control system to Competitive mode raises all the thresholds before the system will intervene, which allows you to hang the tail out in a controlled drift before reeling it back in.

Switching the magnetic ride control from Touring to Sport will noticeably reduce body roll. Sport mode is probably a bit too harsh for use every day, unless you live somewhere with really smooth pavement. Ride quality wasn't an issue on the perfectly contoured pavement of the Monticello track and the stiffer damping allowed the car to respond to our inputs much quicker than in Touring mode.

With a mass nearly 900 lbs more than the ZR1 and considerably less Michelin rubber wrapped around its wheels, the CTS-V could never be expected to be as nimble as the two-seat Chevy. However, any car with this much power that can put it to the ground with no hint of wheel hop or axle tramp is clearly doing something right. Cadillac uses an asymmetric half-shaft setup that has different natural frequencies on each side of the rear axle, which prevents the two wheels from getting into a race condition. Combined with the traction control system that uses signals from the stability control to vector the torque and help turn-in, driving the CTS-V extremely fast comes naturally.

Production of the new CTS-V starts in October and Cadillac hasn't finalized pricing yet. We're told to expect a base price of about $60,000 with only a handful of options, but the only option you really need are those Recaro seats. That's more than $20,000 less than a BMW M5 or a Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 – and the Cadillac is faster than both. For those who crave the supercharged grunt of a ZR1 but regularly need space for more than one passenger, the 2009 CTS-V will get you shockingly close in a remarkably sophisticated package that's a bargain in this segment.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Even though it will probably cost less then an M5 (don't compare it to a M3, the CTS is much bigger and not in its class) this is simply the poor man's M5. When you think of Caddy's, you think of Florida and adult disposable pants. While this new CTS-V is a great step forward, Cadillac has more work to be done before it can play with Europes big 3 (BMW, Mercedes and Audi).
        • 7 Years Ago
        What exactly more has to be done? I'm pretty sure this car beats every car the "big three" have to offer. You understand this car has the fastest lap time around the nurburgring for a production sedan.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Stevereport is a classic troll, folks. Please stop responding to him.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yeah... To play with an M5 the CTS-V will have to slow down and wait :)
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      "...micro-fiber inserts..."

      I have a raincoat made of micro-fiber (hotter than Hades, btw). I think that steering wheel is covered in micro-Suede...the 'merican version of Alcantara.

      Never let your eyes or hands overlook BS from marketing types.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'm looking at the CTS-V option sheet [without pricing, of course] and option code N45 says "sueded rim." Given that the standard wheel has leather, and synthetics don't wear very well, I'm guessing that the wheel is real cow-hide suede.
        • 7 Years Ago

        I assure you, we don't make any fabrics here in the US anymore. We don't make anything. We outsourced it all to China.

        But more seriously, Microsuede is a trademark of Microfibres, Inc., like Alcantara is a trademark and Ultrasuede is a trademark. So they may be saying microfiber in order to get around the trademark, since they didn't buy it from Microfibres, Inc. It's the old "how do you say Walkman without saying Walkman" problem.
      • 7 Years Ago
      That's the weirdest use of "race condition" I've ever seen. Especially since on cars, racing is usually an enjoyable thing!

      I personally think axle tramp is more akin to deadlock (dining philosophers) than a race condition.

      Anyway, for those confused by the text cause you aren't computer geeks, just substitute "oscillation" for "race condition".
      • 7 Years Ago
      The main reason why the CTS is slotted against the 5-Series and E-Class is not because of the length of the car. The old car was pretty much as long as the 5-Series...within half an inch. What the old CTS wasn't was very wide. It was a "tweener" car for the class....about as long as a 5-series but between a 3-series and a 5-series for width. Cadillac isn't the only automaker to try this approach. The Infiniti G-series is a tweener vehicle and the new ones still are.

      That said, the current '08-'09 CTS's are proper sized vehicles for the midsize sport sedan class. It's a wider vehicle and if you look at the numbers, this car is almost exactly the same size as the 5-series and E-class.

      The old car was compared to the smaller 3-series and C-class for a couple of reasons. First, it was priced closer to those vehicles. Cadillac was a newcomer to this market in terms of having a competitive product and any Marketing 101 student from B-school knows that if you are new and don't have buzz yet, you have to compete on price. Second was that Cadillac didn't mind auto journalists to compare it to the 3-series. Just comparing it to ANY BMW was a plus in those days. Also, the CTS was huge gamble in those days for Caddy and there was no guarentee that there would ever be a smaller car under the CTS that would be a true 3-series/1-series fighter.

      Fast forward 5 years. The original CTS was a big hit in spite of its flaws and people took the CTS-V seriously, again, despite its flaws (even Top Gear's Clarkson liked it). The new CTS is a far better product and properly sized. The success of the old CTS has allowed Cadillac budget to go back and build a proper smaller entry level car (important for the US, required if they hope to do any serious business in Europe...the current BLS does not cut it). And hopefully we'll also see a proper large car that Cadillac badly needs to replace the DTS and STS, which are still barely competitive in their respective classes.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Regarding German vs. American, let's be fair and agree on 2 things: (1) great improvement on GM's part and (2) let's not compare this brand new GM against the 4 year old M5 with probably 5-6 year old tech.

      My prediction is when the new M5 comes out it's going trump the CTS-V in every department with the exception of price but we all know why the Caddy's less expensive....
        • 7 Years Ago
        GM already has the rifle loaded and aimed at the new M5, all it has to do is pull the trigger.
        Remember, where one small block fits, any small block can fit (of course, with the blower, height is a restriction). The CTS-V can easily swallow an LS9 (with room for a bigger, more efficient intercooler than the one mounted on the 'vette) and the Carbon Ceramic brakes from the ZR1 are just an order form away. As far as I know, BMW doesn't have any engine architecture that can compete in a 600+ hp game. The next V vs M battle will be swift...
      • 7 Years Ago
      60K is great. Considering it's basically a Cadillac ZR-1.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Whoa. I come back to check on the comments, only to find a war against Steve...

        Oh and Steve, you haven't blasted into the future and seen what happens to the CTS-V, so I suggest you:

        1: Quit your whining and get into a CTS-V and drive it, without harping on GM's past and everything they did wrong instead of looking back at all the things they did right....

        2: Wait and see the CTS-V in the market for a couple of years before making blind judgments.
        3: Shut the hell up.

        • 7 Years Ago
        The resale value comment is irrelevant. Cadillac has made huge strides when first introducing the CTS and now the CTS-V, which will dramatically improve resale values.

        I'm glad that Cadillac can finally say that they can compete with the German companies in terms of performance; before this we probably would have never dreamed of entertaining such a thought.
        • 7 Years Ago

        • 7 Years Ago
        That dismissive attitude is the same one the big three had that let the Japanese take over the US market. Just because things HAVE been a certain way doesn't mean they will continue that way indefinitely. Big changes bring more big changes and the level of this Caddy compared to even the last gen CTS is off the charts. Why don't you go drive one and then make your snap judgements.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The worst thing about the internet is people like you. You know nothing, you are the epitome of incompetence. First off, you think that GM just "shoehorned" a big motor into this car, you don't realize the level of engineering that went into this vehicle.

        On top of that, you speak of resale value. How is that even a relevant topic? Do you honestly think that Cadillac is going to increase its resale value by selling inferior products? Are you suggesting that GM should just give up and never try to make anything good?

        In the real world, people like you get laughed at and humiliated. Yet, on the Internet, you can simply slip away into complete anonymity.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh man if only I had the money!!!!! Great job Cadillac!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      bob: something tells me it wasn't the internet's fault...
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Amazing car. If I was in the market for this type of vehicle, it would definitely be in the top 3. Cadillac did a great job on the second gen cts.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Even if the V was at 75K this car is a steel.
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