Cadillac threw one of its first serious punches at German luxury roughly a decade ago when it began offering the CTS-V: a Corvette-powered sedan that, in theory, competed directly with the BMW M5.
The first CTS-V made do with relatively conservative styling changes including “V” badges and dual mesh grilles in its front fascia. But what really matters is under the hood. For the first two years it sold, Cadillac used the same 5.7-liter V8 as the C5 Corvette Z06.
In 2006 they switched to the 6.0-liter LS2, but one thing remained the same: a Tremec TR56 six-speed manual transmission was the one and only way to transfer power from the engine to the rear wheels. Unfortunately, the Corvette-powered Caddy had its share of problems.
A sub-par interior slots snugly onto the list of CTS-V downsides. For a car that aspired to stand beside models from BMW’s M division and Mercedes-AMG, there wasn’t enough about the V-Series CTS to make it memorable. A bland center stack and relatively unsupportive seats seem half-baked beside the uber sedans cranking out of Germany at the time.
There weren’t really trim packages associated with the CTS-V because it sort of stood as its own trim level within the CTS line. Specific interior touches include a three-spoke steering wheel, suede seat inserts and satin chrome bezels in the instrument cluster.
- Raw power: With 400 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque, there’s one thing you can’t dispute about the CTS-V: it’s stinking fast in a straight line. Optional suspension upgrades gave it more respectable handling, but you’re never going to want for grunt with this thing.
- Value: the original MSRP for a CTS-V was a bargain beside cars like the M5 and the same holds true assuming all other factors are the same.
- Scarcity: At least to some people, there’s something intriguing about driving a Cadillac with Corvette power that you won’t get from driving an M5 or an E55 AMG from the same era.
- The first-generation CTS-V is notorious for having a failing differential. This was especially true of the first two model years that came with the 5.7-liter V8. General Motors upgraded the rear end for the 2006 model year, but it wasn’t until the second generation in the 2008 model year that the company really beefed up the rear end.
- Aside from overpowering the diff, CTS-Vs struggle with rear wheel hop, which is a major contributing factor to why they seemed to destroy their rear ends.
- Some owners complain about poorly-finished interior components. For example, the dials on the center stack have a tendency to chip easily, leaving them to look prematurely worn down.
Before you buy:
It’s important to know that Cadillac issues a standing offer to first-generation CTS-V owners to upgrade the rear end in their car to the new 2008 and later differential, but the company isn’t willing to cover that cost. Aftermarket solutions to the weak rear end exist, but it’s a very expensive modification to make.
Avoid high mileage models with multiple owners because – trust us – the temptation to try “hard launches” is huge. That’s especially true for the 2004 and 2005 model years where the rear ends are particularly prone to falling apart, but it’s worth applying to any first-generation car.
Whining noises from the rear end are common in these car and it doesn’t necessarily mean the car has been abused. Nevertheless, it’s important to listen for strange noises before buying and to have a third party mechanic inspect the rear end for loose bushings and damage.
Best Bang For Your Buck:
If you’re serious about buying a first-gen CTS-V, avoid the first two model years. By now, the chance of having to hassle with the rear end is probably bigger than the performance payoff. Instead, look for a 2006 or 2007 model with low mileage or a model that had the second-generation differential swap performed with paperwork to document the upgrade.
Recall and Crash Database
Note: the CTS-V was not specially rated by the IIHS or NHTSA. These ratings reflrect the CTS. There have been no recall campaigns affecting the first-generation CTS-V.
GALLERY: 2005 Cadillac CTS-V
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