Kamis, 02 Oktober 2008


2009 Cadillac CTS-V

By Aaron Gold, About.com

The CTS-V is the high-performance version of Cadillac's CTS sedan, and it's all-new for 2009. The old CTS-V packed a big 400 horsepower V8 and a manual transmission, a lot of hardware for a car its size. But the new CTS-V makes the old one pale: A bigger, supercharged V8 that pours out a whopping 556 hp, plus it's available with an automatic transmission. How does it all come together? Amazingly well, as it turns out -- read on. Pricing TBD (approx. $60,000 - $67,000, incl. destination and gas guzzler tax), EPA fuel economy TBD (approx. 13 MPG city, 19 MPG highway).

I wish everyone who has ever talked smack about General Motors' engineering prowess (or lack thereof) could test drive the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V. And I don't just mean a quick spin; I mean really drive it -- on the highway, through the curves, and on a race track, just like I did at Cadillac's CTS-V press preview. Anyone can stuff a huge, high-horsepower V8 into a small(ish) car and make something that goes really, really fast, but what's amazing about this car is its finesse. On the track, it's quick, precise and amazingly well behaved. Cruising down the highway, it's smooth and composed, with little to indicate that you're driving a car with more horsepower than a Lamborghini Gallardo. It's an amazing bit of engineering, this new CTS-V, and GM's slide-rule set should be very proud of what they hath wrought.

One could argue that the CTS-V is the wrong car for the times, and one would no doubt win that argument. But bear in mind that the CTS-V was conceived when gas was well under $2/gallon. Kudos to General Motors for not turning tail and pulling the plug.

Okay, enough pontificating, let's review the car!

From the outside, it's clear that this is no ordinary CTS. The CTS' big egg-crate grille is replaced by a double metal-mesh grille (link goes to photo) that increases airflow, while a bulge in the hood provides clearance for the supercharger and intercooler. Out back, the center brake light doubles as a functional spoiler, and those big tailpipes are attached to a true dual-exhaust system.

The CTS-V's interior is nearly identical to the regular CTS, which is a good thing; there's lots of room and while the controls are a bit button-happy for my tastes, there are cool details like the two-position display screen and individual climate controls. The CTS-V gets a few extra-cool bits like red LEDs that trail the speedo and tachometer needles, optional Recaro front seats (the standard seats are pretty good too), and a steering wheel covered in microfiber cloth, which looks and feels like suede but is easier to clean. But as you'd expect, the real story is not in the cabin, but under the hood.

The CTS-V's supercharged "LSA" V8 is closely related to the 638 hp LS9 engine in the Corvette ZR1. Its output of 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque lays waste to German rivals like the Mercedes C63 AMG (451 hp/443 lb-ft), Audi RS4 (420/317), and BMW M3 (414/295). Those cars are fast, but the CTS-V is in a different league. Caddy claims 0-60 in a blistering 3.9 seconds, less than half a second behind the ZR1. But the CTS-V is more than just a drag racer -- plant your foot at any speed and you are so outta there. Good luck sticking to the speed limit.

The CTS-V idles with a menacing burble; wind it up and there's a nice mix of V8 howl and supercharger scream, though it's almost a shame that the Corvette-like exhaust blat can't be heard from inside the car. Cruising at the legal limit, the CTS-V isn't quite as hushed as a proper Cadillac should be, but that's forgivable -- you can't cram 556 horses into such a small space and expect 'em to keep quiet.

On the Road: It should kill you, but it doesn't
The CTS-V offers both manual and automatic transmissions, both with 6 speeds. The manual is a tight Tremec unit with a light clutch. The automatic features steering-wheel-mounted buttons for manual control and an utterly brilliant "Sport" mode -- it takes input from the steering wheel, so it knows when you're driving fast on a curvy road and sticks to the lower gears. I'm a stick-shift devotee, but in the case of the CTS-V, I'd take the automatic -- it allows much easier access to all that delicious power.

On paper, the CTS-V looks like it should be trying to kill you. 551 lb-ft of torque in a rear-drive car is, generally speaking, a recipe for disaster. But thanks to its suspension setup, the CTS-V is amazingly docile -- not watered down, mind you, just docile. The steering is sharp, handling balance is near-perfect, and the brakes are awesome. With the StabiliTrack stability control system engaged, you can push as hard as you want and the CTS-V will always go where you point it; the system reins the car in so gently that you'll barely know it's working. Need more action? Activate StabiliTrak's Competition Mode, which let you flick the tail out with a well-timed dip of the accelerator but won't let things get too far out of hand.

The CTS-V even rides like a proper Caddy thanks to GM's magnetic ride control system, which allows the shock absorbers to stiffen at a millisecond's notice. There's little noticeable difference in ride quality between the suspension's Touring and Sport modes, and that's by design; the CTS-V corners flatter and a bit more precisely in Sport mode.

Journey's End: A ZR1 in a very nice suit

2009 Cadillac CTS-V
Photo © Aaron GoldI'm not just impressed by the CTS-V -- I'm completely blown away. Not long before reviewing the CTS-V, I tested the Corvette ZR1, one of the most thrilling cars I've ever had the privilege to drive. The Cadillac CTS-V isn't far behind -- it's nearly as quick and nearly as precise on the track. But while the ZR1 is a bit of a brute on public roads, the CTS-V is a perfect gentleman.

Cadillac hasn't announced firm pricing, but they say the CTS-V will range from just under $60k to around $67k including destination and gas-guzzler tax. That puts the CTS-V just a few grand higher than the BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG and Lexus IS F, about even with the Audi RS4, and around 20 grand cheaper than a BMW M5 or Mercedes E63 AMG. Of those, the C63 and RS4 are perennial favorites of mine, but when it comes to style, straight-line performance, and fun-to-drive factor, the CTS-V runs right over them.

Only one thing might keep me from buying one (besides my lack of $60,000): A CTS coupe is on the way, and it's going to be gorgeous. If Caddy were to make a V version of the coupe... I get weak in the knees just thinking about it.

Bottom line: The CTS-V is one of the best cars I've ever reviewed. Precious few cars do so many things so well, and the fact that it comes from General Motors, perennial whipping-boy of car fans everywhere, makes this an even sweeter victory. Well done, General Motors -- now just apply this same kind of engineering talent to your small, fuel-efficient cars, and everything will come up roses.