2009 Cadillac CTS-V | road test

Posted on Mar 1, 2009 by

Motoring journalist around the world were collectively licking their lips at the thought of wrapping their none-too-sweaty palms around the suede-detailed steering wheel of one the most potent cars to come out of America for some time. OK, so we’ve had vicious Vipers and killer Corvettes, but the CTS-V is a four-door saloon car, and that fact alone made its incredible, sledgehammer performance figures all the more inciting, especially to the slightly twisted minds of the journos. Myself included.

Maybe it was the thought of picking-up a full compliment of friends, in what looks like a fairly normal, if a little bling, midsize luxury sedan – certainly not the sort of car you would associate with rocketship-style performance, or so your unsuspecting friends thought. Until, they find themselves pressed-up against the rear window, suffering the sort of G-forces usually reserved for fighter pilots! It’s the old wolf in sheep’s clothing fantasy, I guess, smoking the ‘flash Harry’ in his Ferrari away from the lights – little did he know you over 600bhp under the hood!

Indeed, it is still sounds quite unbelievable when you mull over the CTS-V performance figures in your mind, even though you’ve read it time and time again – a sedan really shouldn’t pack this much firepower. But, it does. We’re truly into supercar territory here; 609bhp and 793Nm of torque, firing this family-friendly-fiend to 100 km/h in just 3.9-seconds and onto over 300km/h at the top end – all courtesy of the truly feisty 6.2-litre, supercharged V8 engine as found in the Corvette ZR1. Sounds like a family man’s fantasy.

However, whilst the powerplant is of supercar quality, working to much acclaim under the long and distinguished hood of the big Corvette, if the CTS-V is purely a crazy case of brawn over brains, which coming from the U.S it has every chance of being, then that monster V8 motor is purely wasted – there’s no point in putting a supercar engine in something that handles like a shopping cart, albeit a very fast one.

So, the wildest Cadillac ever also needs a decent dose of sanity, including some quality chassis, suspension and brake work, to keep it and the driver out of crash barriers and the hospital, respectively – whilst 609bhp certainly sounds like some mouth-watering fun, it is also more than enough power to orphan your children, unless properly controlled. We know that Cadillac had been tuning the car on some gruelling racetracks, including the legendary Nurburgring in Germany and that’s all good in the hands of a racing driver, but let’s be honest, this immense car will spend most of its time on the road, and that’s where we decided to test it, here at AutoMiddleEast.com.

We drove the 3.6-litre, V6 model CTS a little while ago, and as you will have seen in the report we generally liked the car. It offered a good level of luxury for the money, looked different to the rest of the bunch and in our opinion, pretty cool too. It also showed a decent turn of speed and surprised us with its corner grip. However, it lacked an LSD (limited-slip differential) to compliment its rear-wheel-driving chassis, and that kind of spoiled our fun when things got quicker than average. Well, looking at the new CTS-V and things have clearly changed from the ground up, everything’s bigger, beefier and altogether more focused.

The CTS-V gets tasty new 19-inch alloy wheels with a nicely modern doubled-up, 5-spoke design, very importantly, wrapped in ultra low profile, super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber. Lurking behind the tall new rims is a reassuringly large set of Brembo brakes; for once the size of the wheels isn’t just a fashion statement, it’s also a performance statement – it’s the easiest way to judge how quick a car really is; just look at the size of the brakes. Looking at these giant rotors and monster calipers the CTS-V should be a belter.



The funky body styling remains, but with the CTS-V it’s just that little bit shaper and meaner in the important places. The front bumper goes deeper towards the tarmac and offers plenty of cooling vents to that thrashing engine, while the hood expands towards the sky; a sure sign that there a massive engine shoe-horned in there. The CTS-V certainly suits its sharper new street fighter styling.

For the day of our AutoMiddleEast test drive, the car has been delivered to our office and is double-parked and purring on the street as I briskly walk over to the delivery driver to grab the keys. He makes me sign some paperwork, which I don’t even read; for all I know I could’ve just signed my mother away for a mission to space, but I don’t care – just give me the keys… I should be able to catch her up anyway!

I’m quickly comfortable in the multi-adjusting and strictly gorgeous, special Recaro sports seats and as I rest my hands on the pistol-gripped steering wheel and look ahead, I have to say that the bonnet-bulge looks mighty cool, but, and it’s a big but, I can hardly hear that mighty engine. A glance at the tacho tells me it’s all ticking over correctly; I guess this is just another overly-silenced production car?

I pull away into the traffic with the slightest whiff of throttle and immediately hear the noise I was expecting the most – the ‘chirp chirp’ of slipping rubber on tarmac. The traction control is on and I barely touched the gas pedal, but still this psycho-saloon wants to smoke its tyres. Hillarious! So let’s stretch her legs a bit. But I’m in the middle of town and there are no motorway-style straights to really let rip. But, in theory, you don’t need them.

Bury the go-pedal and prepare to get gone. Even without miles of empty road ahead the king of Caddys can pile on enough instant speed, and I mean instant speed, to easy remind you that this is indeed a super-sedan – it just accelerates so quickly. You daren’t watch the speedo to verify your velocity, because at this warp-speed you might miss a road sign and take a wrong turn… to the next galaxy! What was once a muted grumble at tick-over quickly turns into a loud, whiny roar as the supercharger and engine speeds rise in unison and the CTS-V fires-off towards another dimension.

This car is dangerously addictive, but in a very healthy way. After all, what’s wrong with slowing right down, only to bury the throttle again, and grin all the way up to 120km/h? Nothing at all. The CTS-V is crazy quick and a whole lot of fun, on the straights at least. It’s time to hit some bends.

When the driving gets a little more complex is where the big V can lose its way a little. There’s some good grip and confidence to be had from the chassis and twin-mode ‘Magnetic Ride Control’ suspension, which does a good job of stiffening things up every few milliseconds when it feels the need to. Again, I wasn’t hugely impressed with the rear differential on this car, especially when working with the 6-speed auto ‘box which felt rather slow to react. The differential and gearbox just seemed a little confused when asking a bit more through the bends or even just pulling out of a junction with hard power and some steering lock. But, I guess that’s the key here, the CTS-V costs less than its similarly powerful European competition, and for that there must be a small price to pay.

The power is most certainly there, and is seriously impressive, and while the ultra-luxury interior and nicely funky exterior most certainly floats my boat, the little engineering and electronics details that make the more expensive cars truly great are slightly missing with the CTS-V. It’s a beast with a big heart alright, but one that some people may find a little difficult to truly tame.

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