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Click here to see more on the Cadillac CTS-V. (GM)... Click here to see more on the Cadillac CTS-V. (GM)

The Cadillac revival is no longer breaking news, but there is still a sizable market that isn’t willing to trade its Tri-Stars and Roundels for that funky wreath and shield -- or even consider doing so. They still see this brand as old fashioned, a prejudice that’s just dripping with irony given the decade that’s passed since GM banished water fowl from the Cadillac emblem to signify its reinvention of the brand. It’s for these bigots that Cadillac produces the CTS-V, a senseless and overly enthusiastic expression of everything GM’s luxury brand aims to stand for.

The CTS-V is the high-performance variant of Cadillac’s excellent midsize sedan. The “V” could stand for any number of things, from velocity to victory, but at GM it’s merely the designation of a series of special vehicles, in the fashion of BMW’s M line and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG models. Cadillac’s V program began with great promise in 2004 with the first generation of the CTS, but the treatment as later applied to other Caddy’s was modest and haphazard. With the second-generation CTS, however, Cadillac seems to have gotten everything right.

Coming to market a year after the much-lauded 2008 CTS, the V model is Cadillac’s image car, its fist-pumping, patriotic reply to the snobs. Easily identified by its deep front spoiler and mesh grille, it carries a $60,720 starting price. This is a whole lot more than the base, $35k CTS, but with over twice the horsepower in the V, it’s money well spent. Powered by a supercharged V8 that owes its existence to the Chevy Corvette, the new CTS-V is worthy of a whole host of alliterative adjectives: voracious, violent, virtuous, vacuous.

It’s the engine that defines the V, a variation on the supercharged V8 that powers the Corvette ZR1, the fastest, most powerful Corvette ever built. The version in the CTS-V is built with fewer trick parts, so it makes 82 less horsepower than that radical ‘Vette, but 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque is still an amazing amount for a series production car. Ten years ago the most powerful Cadillac was making 300 horsepower, but the past decade has seen the Germans waging a horsepower war to shame even late-’60s Detroit Mercedes sells no fewer than eight vehicles with over 500 horsepower today, most of them AMG-badged, while BMW’s M line now counts four.

VIDEO: Click here for our CTS-V Test Drive.

Cadillac has nothing to be ashamed about with its sole entry in the field, however, as the CTS-V is wildly powerful. Supercharged engines make lots of torque low in the powerband, which means that the CTS-V accelerates rapidly from a standstill. (The supercharger is a belt-driven blower that pumps extra air into the engine, allowing it to burn extra fuel and thus, make more power.) In around-town driving the car is as quick as it is fast on the highway. Any errors in judgment while passing other vehicles can be immediately rectified by merely pressing harder on the accelerator, as no gap in traffic is too small or moving too quickly that the CTS-V can’t overcome the deficit. But one of the nicer things about the CTS-V is that you don’t have to drive it with reckless abandon to enjoy it.

Cadillac has wisely tamed the V just enough that you wouldn’t think twice about letting your mom get behind the wheel. At idle there’s a bit of rumble, but not so much to scare dogs and small children. Once underway, the car is not nearly as quiet as other, pure luxury choices, just as it should be. When you’re paying $25k for a monster motor, you want to be able to hear it.

The steering is heavy and direct, but lacks the responsiveness through the wheel that you might find in a real sports car, as opposed to a sports sedan. Transmission choices in the CTS-V include both a six-speed manual and a conventional automatic with the same number of gears. We drove the automatic, which includes shift-it-yourself buttons on the back of the steering wheel. They work well enough, but didn’t really cure us of wishing GM had delivered the manual, even if the automatic accelerates faster, according to Car And Driver. Either way, you’re going from 0-60 in four-second territory, which is significantly faster than most people have any business driving.

Fortunately, the suspension and brakes in the CTS-V are as impressive, even more so, really, than the powerplant. There is a long tradition in Detroit of making cars that go ridiculously fast in a straight line, but without much ability to handle or stop. The CTS-V is not one of those cars. GM has specced the CTS-V with Magnetic Ride Control, a system that Cadillac debuted almost a decade ago, and has since developed into one of the best suspension systems extant, so good that it’s also used by Ferrari, Acura and Audi. This type of shock absorber is filled with a fluid that contains magnetic particles, such that the viscosity of the fluid can be changed almost instantaneously by applying a magnetic field. On the street it means that the CTS-V can be compliant over bumps and rough pavement, providing a firm yet comfortable ride without any jarring. But when you really start pushing the car, either while cornering or under heavy braking, the suspension stiffens up for race-car-like road holding and minimal body lean. The brakes have been upgraded over the standard CTS as well, with huge 15-inch rotors and six-piston calipers in the front and 14.7-inch rotors and four-piston calipers in the back. The result is that the car, despite its 4,300-pound curb weight, can come to a halt fast enough to slam you forward in your seat like you’ve just hit a brick wall.

Speaking of seats, the one key option available on the CTS-V is the $3,400 Recaro package. Whether Recaro deserves its reputation as the premier builder of sports seats is a question for another day, but the ones in the CTS-V fit the car perfectly. They resemble the standard seats -- which are quite good in their own right, and might be preferable for the stouter driver -- but the Recaros provide lots of side bolstering while still being comfortable. Cadillac also offers a synthetic suede steering wheel and gearshift knob, which is a nice touch, if a bit boy-racerish. The rest of the interior is standard CTS, the good and the bad. The best example of the former would be the pop-up navigation system, which can disappear with the touch of a button on the dash, hands-down the cleverest solution around to the inherent ugliness of having a giant LCD screen in the middle of the instrument panel.

While the CTS-V is the sort of car it’s easy to get giddy over, it’s not without flaws, and while they’re all little things, they do add up. The overhead lighting in both the front and rear seats is freakishly cheap looking, with a terrible feel to its plastic pushbuttons. It’s the sort of part that seems like it must be shared with an entry-level Chevy. Similarly unimpressive is the “obsidian black” interior trim, a kind of glossy black that other manufacturers of much less expensive cars have used in a vain effort to class up their cheap interiors. “Piano black” (or whatever other name the marketing department has given this unattractive and easily smudged plastic) is simply this decade’s fake wood grain, and should be banished from real luxury cars. If this sounds like a matter of taste, the final strike against the CTS-V is a completely objective measure: fuel economy. Its EPA rating is 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway, and no matter how low fuel economy stands on your list of priorities, those are not good numbers.

The new CTS-V lies fully within the realm of vehicles that offer such ridiculous performance thresholds that there’s no possible way an owner can ever exploit the car’s full potential, save for taking it to the race track. While GM is no stranger to this territory -- the Corvette has stood proudly in this camp for years -- this is a big deal for Cadillac, as it continues to fight for relevancy.

If this makes the CTS-V an unabashed success, it also raises a bigger issue, which is why these cars exist in the first place, and why they seem to be proliferating. Clearly these types of cars are amazing displays of engineering might, and that’s what makes them so troubling. To the sane and rational buyer, even one who’s interested in buying a high performance machine, most of the traditional means of evaluation -- things like comparisons of speed and horsepower, handling and grip -- well, they become moot.

I mean, what difference does it really make in any sort of normal, legal driving situation if your CTS-V is three-tenths of a second faster than a BMW M5 in a 0-60 sprint, when you’re both getting there well under five seconds? This sort of talk is anathema to the “car guy” crowd, but it’s hard to argue that these performance attributes are actually as important to the owner as the bragging rights that derive from them. Perhaps there’s a better way for engineers to prove their prowess, and drivers to celebrate it?



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  • 73 Comments
      • 1 Month Ago
      He complains about the poor fuel economy, but it gets better gas mileage than the bmw m5, and outperforms it.
      borg7of9
      • 1 Month Ago
      Please try and see that GM has paid their loan off to the treasury department. Now why is it still on the topic board. since the finacial entities have not paid back their bailout money, where is the hate for them? the ones who caused this mess in the first place.
      Me
      • 1 Month Ago
      I also had a MB CLS550. Twice the price of the CTS-V. The caddy has more pep and a nicer ride. Mercedes was constantly in the shop. Over $200. every time. Need a new front fog light.....$300. New wheel $875.00 It got 10,000 mile on a set of tires. I'll stick with the Caddy from now on
      vlady1000
      • 1 Month Ago
      World class engineering underneath, but ugly, ugly, ugly. A Pug dog owner, must have been in charge of styling the front end. Too bad, GM and Ford have really gotten some great products, with great engineering, and quality now.
      jettsrback
      • 1 Month Ago
      I agree with a poster above. I bought my last American car years ago. I got a job with a German company, the owner drove a Mercedes Benz, at the time I rarely saw one on the road. One day he asked me to pick up his wife at the Airport and threw me his keys. I drove the car down the Jersey Turnpike to Newark Airport. All the way down the car just seemed to float, on the exit ramp it held the road like a sports car. I was very impressed. After coming out #1 saleman in our tiny company my boss rewarded me with a Benz, not a big fancy one but a 240 Deisel. The car was a dog in acceleration but I did get it with stick so that helped out a lot. It got over 32 MPG on deisel fuel and it was a very dependable car. I was happy during the gas shortage of the 70's because at that time there were very few deisels on the road other than truckers. I would pass everyone in the long line of cars and pull directly up to the pumps. One guy I remember got pissed at me I told OK go in front of me, but I don't think a gas engine runs to well on deisel fuel, his girlfriend sitting beside him laughed. I filled up, and drove away. The little company grew very quickly. Every 3 years I got my pick of Beemers, Benz's or Audi's, tough choice.....lol... all free. My next car was a BMW 320I 4 speed stick. It was quick for a 4 banger much quicker than the Deisel. I drove that 3 years then jumped up to a 533i BMW 4 speed stick. This car was very quick and handled like a true sports car yet it was a big 4 door sedan. After that it was Audi, an A-4 5- speed stick. Not that quick but handled very well. I then went back to a Benz and the salesman talked me out of the stick. I didn't realize at the time why he did it but later figured it out. Since the car was on a lease, he knew he may eat it when it was returned in 3 years because most people can't drive stick and most of the people in here probably can't. When I first went into the showroom to look at my first Beemer there was maybe 6 cars from 3's to 5's to the big 7 series. Out of those 6 cars maybe 2 were automatic slush boxes and the others were stick. Now if you go in a showroom you rarely see stick and its a shame the long lost art of shifting a car is just about gone. To end this long story I finally settled on Audi, the last one I got was a A-6 2.7 twin turbo 6 speed stick. If that wasn't quick enough I decided to put a chip in it, now I created a monster...lol...blew away M-3's and just about anything on the road. Now I am retired and thinking back, I have owned or bought for my 2 children more that 10 German cars. I know America is finally waking up and finally building cars to last many years. To bad it took our two once enemies in WW 2, Germany and Japan that we beat badly if some of you forgot. But they sure taught us how to build great cars. I remember years back reading a book by Lee Iacocca the guy that practically invented the Ford Mustang and later as the President of Chrysler and he pulled them out of bankruptcy with his marketing brilliance. In his book he was being completely honest about his life in the auto biz and laughingly said, " I remember when we were making cars back in the 60's and 70's, they were rusting in the showroom" that quote always stayed with me and I am happy that the USA is finally building cars that perform well and last long. Thank you Detroit for hearing us and thank you Germany and Japan for making them listen. BTW I am an American but even as a young man selling high end photo and later, digital products, I always knew to buy something that may be expensive but if it lasts for over 200 thousand miles with little or no problems, it is well worth it. If your still reading this, thank you and have a great day.
      mybunkey
      • 1 Month Ago
      cadillacguy1949 You talk about pride in workmanship? For the most part that pride and workmanship a long time ago could only be found in history books or museums. It has not been until the past few years that pride in workmanship can once again be synonymous with Cadillac. I service all makes and all models in my shop. I get Cadillacs in my shop there two years old, and the interiors are falling apart and they starting to leak oil. By the time they're 10 years old, a lot of them are nothing but garbage. The headliners is coming down on some of them, clear is coming off the paint. . Now you go back to a Cadillac that was built back in the 40s and 50s you're talking about a whole different breed animal looking even talk of 60s I Cadillac and you talk about a different breed animal back then there was some pride back then they actually used real material and he took time there was some quality actually put into somebody's cars. One of the things my shop does restorations were doing a restoration on a 1960 model Chevrolet Impala are interested in looking at your site you can see that you can see it at various stages from being torn down to various stages or worse starting to go together to frame and motor were still working on the body. We've got many formulas for the exact color used for the frame and Ford Motor which we have painted can see if you go to this site also in this site you can probably see a 72 Chevelle my son restored. www.europasianautomotive.com M Mercedes has been pretty much on their game with their cars throughout the years the only thing I've been disappointed with is some of the components like window regulators have gotten cheaper quality wise and some other components have gone down quality wise but the overall quality of the car really has not dropped much. The Lexus is a hell of a nice car and we look at it from mechanical *********** an outstanding on a mobile enough anybody's ever looked at the hinges on the door of a Lexus SC 400 SC 300, they are so massive in substantial they look more like a pintle hitches from a railroad train. Their V-8's are indestructible. The in-line six cylinder is the same engine they used in the twin turbo Supra's and they were bulletproof for all practical purposes on a Lexus it's pretty much just a maintenance car, I don't make that much money off of those cars from a standpoint of things just breaking on the cars like on Chevys and Chrysler's. The BMWs, a nice car,but BMW actually stands for "Bring Money With" . Very nice cars to drive their fund to drive, but they are expensive to fix and last but not least they are not as reliable as a Lexus. If I were going to choose an American car I would choose a Ford motor products. The reason being, we have found the interiors hold up better the exteriors of the cars have held up better and mechanically they are above average. At least then it's the findings in my shop we maintain a fleet of Chevrolet trucks and Vans. We also maintain a fleet of Ford's of similar products and we also have Dodge pickups and vas as well. One car that really surprised the hell out of me was a Hyundai Sonatta. I didn't expect that the car would stand up or last however if you follow strictly the maintenance schedule that Hyundai has set up for this car is very common to find used cars easily with 200,000 miles and that is problem free mileage. The only thing that we see out of these cars cheap door handles were chromed peels off the plastic regular maintenance items you're going to replace shock absorbers, tires, brakes, the engine and transmission will stand up without oil consunption problems as long as you use good oil and a good oil filter.
      • 1 Month Ago
      you can strap a rocket onto a cadillac or any chevy and it will never measure up to the gold standard lexus line.
      drwds
      • 1 Month Ago
      Great engine, but ugly, ugly, ugly
      • 1 Month Ago
      You only print the good stuff, not the negative. You're ********.
      • 1 Month Ago
      You dont compare CTS to BMW 5 series or Mercedes E class. Those are different class cars that would be compared to Caddilac STS. CTS should be compared to BMW 3 series and Mercedes C class. And BMW M3 cost in $60,000.00 range, so is the Mercedes C63 AMG. That's exactly the same what CTS V cost. So dont be fooled by this add people, Its aint chipper than the BMW or Mercedes. It may be faster but I gurantee it s not gonna last you neearly as long as those two. Go with quality people! And it aint GM!!!
      allyndp
      • 1 Month Ago
      I'm still waiting for the CTS coupe to appear then I will be fairly excited. But I would rather have an Eldorado.
      owr1491
      • 1 Month Ago
      May an old man make an ibyious comparison? You build a very pricey, luxury vehicle. with 556 ponies of supercharged power, and then call it a street machine. Where is this street/ I wish to avoid it at all costs. Why 556 horsepower? Plan on running at the drag strip? Pay this kind of money for an iver blown Vette, and you get WHAT? An ugly blocky car, who's only saving grace is it's power. No thanks, if I want to go that fast, I'll visit my local drag strip.
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