Cadillac CTS-V (2008) review

Published:12 September 2008

Cadillac CTS-V (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

The Cadillac CTS-V is a super saloon to make BMW M5 drivers feel inadequate. And with a huge 6.2-litre V8 it has the cubic capacity and cylinder count to match the Mercedes AMG trio of C, E and CLS 63. Except GM saw fit to strap an Eaton supercharger to the V8 in the Cadillac CTS-V…

That LS9 V8 is basically the same engine you’ll find in the latest Corvette ZR1,  albeit with the whick turned down to deliver 82 fewer horses. Still, you shouldn’t be found wanting with 556bhp. But unlike the Corvette this Caddy has four doors, five seats and the option of a six-speed auto. Read on for CAR Online’s first drive of the Cadillac CTS-V and to find out whether V can match up to the Establishment's M, RS and AMG rivals.

Just what exactly is the Cadillac CTS-V?

This Caddy is a bit of a conundrum. Size-wise it’s nearer 5-series than Three. Yet the engine produces more power than an M5, although at around £47k the CTS-V is cheaper than an M3.

In the States the CTS-V costs a mere $65k (£37k), so despite the current economic climate, and with the help of an auto, GM should hit its 6000-a-year sales target. If it all goes well, we’ll then see a V version of the CTS Coupe, and maybe even a hot CTS wagon.

Can the CTS-V succeed?

Things look good from outside. The excessive bling from past Caddys has gone, so when you look at the CTS you’ll never think of the Escalade. The clean, crisp looks and sharp edges are pretty smart to these eyes, and in a dark colour the V can even be understated.

But with the huge mesh grilles ensnaring the face, few cars look meaner when charging up behind you. Only the chrome rims are a turn-off, but you can spec darkened alloys.

In the cabin, the seats are from Recaro, the leather is stitched by the same people who trim the Bugatti Veyron and Bose provides a decent stereo. And unlike Cadillacs of old everything has substance when you touch, twist or twirl it.

Click 'Next' below to find out how the Cadillac CTS-V handles on track

What does this auto box’ offers up?

Allow John Heinricy, head of GM’s performance division, to explain: ‘No tricks, no extreme stuff, no eleven-tenths driving,’ claims the part-time professional racer. ‘I clocked this time with the gear selector stuck in D, and I did not once touch the shift paddles. The transmission was in auto mode, but I had MRC (magnetic ride control) in sport for optimum body control and maximum traction.’

Heinricy is talking about his 7:59.32 lap of the Nurburgring, a production saloon record.

So about the only handicap the auto Caddy suffers is a rev limit, which means 175mph flat out, rather than 191mph. And despite a 45kg penalty over the manual, GM claims an identical 3.9 second 0-60mph sprints.

And if I want to drive a stick shift?

Then you’ll get a Tremec six-speed manual, and installed in the CTS-V it feels slicker than when we’ve tried it in the Dodge Viper or Shelby Mustang. It’s not perfect, but the torque means you can always stick with third and produce glorious, momentum-induced drifts.

Drop a cog or two and you’re guaranteed to spin the tyres. But Stabilitrak (Caddy-speak for ESP) can help out. It has three modes: fully-on, traction off, and everyone’s gone home early! Only with everything switched off will you feel the rear slipping and sliding more and more, or light up the tyres in the lower gears. And with ESP safely asleep the steering gives you more feedback, letting you know you’re now walking a thinner tightrope.

When things do start to get edgy the CTS-V excels – the clarity and modularity of motion along the more or less ragged edges of adhesion are its true strengths.  The brakes (by Brembo) are also mega, and all you’ll ever need, even though GM couldn’t fit the Corvette’s ceramic set-up to the CTS-V.

In fact, about the only complaint we have is with the steering. It just feels too light and indirect for those living outside US borders. Though it does make for more relaxing journeys. 

Click 'Next' below to read our verdict on the Cadillac CTS-V

Verdict

As a pure object the Cadillac CTS-V is hugely desirable and hugely fast, eclipsing the best M5 and E63 rivals from Germany, let alone the lesser performance models. It’s every bit as desirable as the best from Germany.

But of course the CTS-V makes no sense in today’s economic climate, but whoever buys these cars probably doesn’t have global warming in their dictionary. So as something to nail on Sundays, then schlep to work on Monday in, the Cadillac CTS-V is one very tempting proposition.

Would you take a Cadillac CTS-V over a BMW M5 or Mercedes E63 AMG? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Specs

Price when new: £47,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 6162cc 16v V8, 556bhp @ 6100rpm, 551lb ft @ 3800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 3.9sec 0-60mph, 191mph
Weight / material: 1905kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4866/1842/1472

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  • Cadillac CTS-V (2008) CAR review
  • Cadillac CTS-V (2008) CAR review
  • Cadillac CTS-V (2008) CAR review
  • Cadillac CTS-V (2008) CAR review
  • Cadillac CTS-V (2008) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

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