A firm, progressive squeeze of the brake pedal eradicates surplus velocity as I smoothly crank the wheel starboard …
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 640 hp, 630 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 14 MPG city, 21 MPG highway
Pricing: $92,580 as tested
My high-powered steed responds with enthusiasm, diving into turn 14, Road America’s final corner before the front straight. A steady foot on the accelerator maintains momentum while executing this maneuver.
Apex behind me, I gently unwind the tiller until the car’s nose is pointed straight enough so I can push it wide-open down this circuit’s fastest section. Fractions of a second pass like minutes, my right foot trembling with anticipation. Finally it’s go time.
In an instant the siren song of a supercharged V8 fills the cabin, whinnying as all 640 horses threaten to break free from their carbon fiber-capped enclosure. The thrust is astounding, abundant enough to make your ears pop while cresting the small rise a few hundred feet ahead.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
My palms, lightly gripping the suede-wrapped steering wheel remain dry, even as the deceleration zone approaches at unworldly speed. “Damn,” I think to myself, “Just missed it.” The digital readout indicates 149 miles an hour as I once more call on the Brembo binders with urgency. “Just one MPH short of a buck-fifty,” I mutter to myself. Missing this milestone is hardly the car’s fault; I ran out of courage long before the 2016 CTS-V stopped pulling.
Big Numbers Make Small Ones
This high-performance four-door has always been Cadillac’s bad-boy and now it’s back. This third-generation model is more powerful and capable than ever before, accordingly it’s also the biggest threat to Germanic hegemony to come out of Detroit in years.
Taking this fight to the fatherland, 2016 CTS-Vs are powered by a 6.2-liter small block. There’s nothing terribly exotic about this LT4 V8, but the whole package works exceptionally well. With old-school pushrods and just two valves per cylinder it sounds about as antiquated as churning your own butter. However, the results are anything but.
Horsepower measures 640 while torque clocks in at 630 lb-ft. Both figures are SAE certified so you can shop with confidence. Helping this humble engine deliver torrents of silky-smooth thrust at just about any speed is a force-multiplying Eaton supercharger. This belt-driven blower delivers the goods along with an intoxicating whine that encourages you to drive harder than is legally advisable.
Torque is sent to the rear axle through an eight-speed automatic, the only transmission available. Speaking briefly with the chief engineer, he claims it shifts just as quickly as a dual-clutch unit but with greater refinement because it has a traditional torque converter. And he’s not wrong; this unit is seriously quick and super smooth. It also helps with efficiency. Fuel economy measures 14 miles per gallon city, 21 highway; but these concerns are like worrying about living room paint colors as your house burns down.
With more gears than there are days of the week and huge amounts of horsepower this car provides one other very large number: a top speed of 200 miles an hour. Big digits notwithstanding, there’s a miniscule figure that also needs reporting. Mile-a-minute velocity can be had in a scant 3.7 seconds, meaning the CTS-V is faster than a BMW M5 and dead even with an Audi RS 7.
Enabling these heroic numbers is a long list of technological goodies, features that amplify this car’s driving enjoyment.
Ensuring all of that performance capability is manageable, the CTS-V comes standard with high-performance Brembo brakes. Up front, six-pot calipers clamp down on rotors that are more than 15 inches in diameter (390 millimeters). The rear binders measure 14-plus inches (365 millimeters) and feature four-piston calipers.
One of the V’s most impressive features is its third-generation Magnetic Ride Control system. This adjustable suspension can provide boulevard smoothness when needed and tenacious grip while hot-lapping your favorite circuit. At the push of a console-mounted rocker switch the entire car’s character transforms from house cat to Bengal tiger. With refinement and ferocity, the CTS-V is a button-tufted battle axe ready to cleave its rivals in two, all without spilling your morning coffee.
Nineteen-inch wheels are standard and make a tasteful design statement, but more important than appearance, these rims provide a mounting place for Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires. With a special blend of tread compounds these rubber doughnuts serve up nearly 1 G of lateral grip and greater wear resistance, particularly on the shoulders, which are usually the first parts destroyed while lapping at track.
Helping ensure those fancy tires don’t go up in smoke with every prod of the accelerator, GM has included a standard electronic limited-slip differential for enhanced traction in all conditions.
Finally, the CTS-V offers a Performance Data Recorder, which allows you to capture high-definition video of your drives, with information overlays things like speed, engine RPM and steering angle.
Standard goodies include a carbon-fiber hood, adaptive high-intensity discharge headlamps and quad exhaust tips so the engine can exhale as easily as it breathes in. Of course items like front and rear park assist, a Bose sound system and a reconfigurable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster are included at no extra cost. The CTS-V’s color heads-up display is also useful, particularly while on a track.
Drivers and passengers are treated to a suitably luxurious interior that’s hand crafted with top-shelf materials; real leather, metal and carbon fiber are used throughout, giving it the look – and more importantly feel – of quality.
This company’s CUE infotainment system has received much derision over the years, though fortunately Cadillac’s latest iteration responds much faster. However, navigating its various menus is still a bit confusing. Easing these pains, the car is equipped with 4G LTE connectivity for on-the-go internet. Also, iPhonies will love Apple CarPlay, which is integrated into CUE.
Driven in Anger
I’m extremely lucky to have sampled the CTS-V on a closed course, to really experience its crushing power and handling prowess. Clocking in at slightly more than four miles, Road America is the perfect venue to evaluate this thoroughbred sports sedan.
As one might expect, those 640 horses endow it with rib cage-crushing acceleration. There’s never a time when it doesn’t accelerate like a ballistic missile. On top of that, the supercharger’s scream is exhilarating, though perhaps a bit too muted.
The CTS-V’s pizza-sized brake rotors can take a pounding. Repeated stops from 100-plus miles an hour resulted in essentially zero fade. Their ability to create and then dissipate heat is incredible. Best of all the pedal modulation is perfect, neither too jumpy nor overly mushy.
Keeping you glued to the track like cheese melted to toast are those gummy Michelin tires, which proved to be surprisingly resilient, evidencing minimal wear after many consecutive hot laps.
Making sure your body can handle all of those lateral G’s are optional Recaro front seats, a $2,300 option. The standard buckets adjust in 20 different ways but these are more limited, moving in “only” 16 directions. Still, they provide ample support while carving corners, even for slender people like me who need extra bolstering.
While negotiating tight turns at speed the CTS-V responds with enthusiasm. Yes, it’s a big car and it always feels that way, with broad shoulders and a long body, but it’s still incredibly agile, driving like something smaller and lighter than 4,145 pounds.
2016 Cadillac CTS-V Pricing Advantage
A little more than two tons is quite an achievement for a modern luxury vehicle, especially one that runs like this. Engineers did their best to keep weight in check; they also did an admirable job managing costs.
The new CTS-V starts at just 10 bucks less than 85 grand, including $995 in freight charges. That’s quite a bargain compared to the BMW M5 for instance, which kicks off at about $96,000. If you’re wondering, it’s also 24 grand less expensive than an entry-level Audi RS 7! This Caddy isn’t just a great performance machine; it’s a tremendous value as well.
The CTS-V I evaluated stickered for $92,580 out the door. Options that inflated its price included things like Recaro buckets; $1,600 for the luxury package, which includes tri-zone climate control, heated rear seats and more; $1,300 for the Performance Data Recorder; and an extra $300 for a suede-slathered steering wheel and gear shifter.
2016 Cadillac CTS-V Review: The Verdict
With crushing speed, incredibly dynamics and a healthy dose of luxury, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is a shining star in a segment of luminaries. It comes closer to flawless than many people might expect and is easily one of the best cars this company has ever built.
My complaints about it are minor. The backup camera seems to have appallingly low resolution, CUE is a bit confusing and the driving position never quite fit me. Still, these sins are easily forgiven, especially after one lap around a track.
Discuss this story on our Cadillac Forum.