In an effort to take advantage of its recent return to popularity, Cadillac decided to build high-performance versions of several of its cars. Collectively called the V-Series, they are meant to be high-powered, tight-handling, all-around track-tuned performers in the vein of the European performance marques, such as BMW's M series and Mercedes-Benz's AMG lineup.
The Cadillac CTS-V was the first and easily the most successful example. The first-generation CTS-V had the wild power output to go up against the Germans, but came up lacking a little in terms of polish and engineering sophistication. The second-generation CTS-V, though, is a totally different beast. Packing a ferocious 556-horsepower supercharged V8 into the grown-up and dynamically advanced second-gen CTS, the result is the very definition of a world-class super sedan.
Current Cadillac CTS-V
The current Cadillac CTS-V is the high-performance version of the CTS sport sedan. While its predecessor certainly got your blood pumping, the new edition is like a defibrillator attached to Niagara Falls' hydroelectric plant. Under its angularly sculpted hood lives a detuned version of the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 found in the manic Corvette ZR1, which in the Cadillac produces 556 hp and 551 pound-feet of torque.
The CTS-V also gets a bulging hood, flared front fenders, 19-inch wheels, huge brakes and big silver mesh grilles. Similarly, the cabin adds piano black trim and Alcantara faux suede surfaces to the civilized edition's already high-end ambience and materials. Most of the CTS's vast array of standard and optional luxury features carry over, meaning you can burn rubber and listen to AC/DC on the surround-sound stereo at the same time.
With the six-speed manual transmission, the Cadillac CTS-V cranks out neck-snapping acceleration in the range of 4.3 seconds from zero to 60 mph and a 12.4-second quarter-mile time. (A six-speed automatic with wheel-mounted shift paddles is optional.) That's obviously high-end sports car territory, but it also schools the super sport sedans from Germany. Plus, it does it for less money.
There's much more to the CTS-V than simple drag strip runs, however. The nasty axle hop and overwhelmed chassis of the previous generation are gone, replaced by a more thoroughly refined car that handles its power with skill and grace. Credit the fact that the CTS is a drastically better car than the one it replaces, but also major suspension improvements and the Magnetic Ride Control that allows for an impressive balance between ride and handling. Adaptable transmission, steering and suspension settings serve to make sure the car is best tuned for whatever driving conditions are being experienced.
Used Cadillac CTS-V Models
The current CTS-V represents the model's second generation and was introduced for 2009. It has received no significant changes since then.
Produced from 2004-'07, the first-generation Cadillac CTS-V was a powerful, rear-wheel-drive midsize luxury sport sedan available in one body style and trim. The V6 engine from the standard CTS was swapped out in favor of the same engine found under the hood of that era's Corvette. Prior to 2006, the CTS-V was powered by a 400-hp 5.7-liter V8 engine. For its later two model years, it featured a 6.0-liter V8 making virtually the same output. A six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential were standard, and no automatic transmission was available. Put the pedal down hard and you could expect to move from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds.
As in the current car, the performance upgrades went far beyond the bigger engine. Additional highlights included a tightened suspension, massive Brembo performance brakes and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with performance tires. More subtle adjustments included a strengthened engine cradle and hydraulic engine mounts.
Cadillac tried to gussy up the CTS's normally dull interior to make the V-Series sedan feel special, but there was only so much it could do. The original instrument cluster was replaced by more upscale dials and computer readouts, which even spit out real-time driving dynamics, such as lateral G-forces. There were also aluminum and satin chrome accents on the dash. The more heavily bolstered front seats were comfortable and supportive during aggressive driving. As in that generation's regular CTS, the backseat is spacious, which makes the CTS-V more useful on an everyday basis than its similarly priced compact rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
In road tests, our editors found this generation of Cadillac CTS-V to be exciting but lacking the polish of its European competitors. It went like stink, but its handling was hardly world-class and foot-to-the-floor acceleration caused a clinical case of rear axle hop. It could be an adventure, but some folks like that. In the end, a used original CTS-V could be an affordable way to have a fun and fast time.