The first V-Series vehicle, the CTS-V provides high-performance driving enthusiasts with a serious, credible alternative to imports in the highly competitive, low-volume luxury performance segment, including the BMW M-Series, Mercedes-Benz AMG Series and Audi S-Series.
Introduced as a 2003 model, the CTS launched an edgy new styling theme at Cadillac and immediately grabbed the spotlight. The automotive press praised the dynamic qualities built into its superb rear-wheel-drive chassis. A torrent of new models has followed from Cadillac, all very good in their own right, but the CTS set the mold.
Since its launch, the CTS has been improved and refined. For 2006, a new sport performance option enhances its sporting character, while a sport appearance package can give every CTS the look of the mighty, Corvette-powered CTS-V. These options complement the new generation of V6 engines and transmissions introduced for 2005.
For 2006, Cadillac CTS-V receives a new engine, and the power sunroof will now be standard equipment.
The four-door, rear-wheel drive CTS-V now uses the overhead valve 6.0L V-8 LS2 engine (replacing the LS6) producing the same 400 horsepower (298 kw) and 395 lb.-ft. (536 Nm) of torque. Acceleration figures include 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 163 mph (262 km). The quarter mile is achieved in 13.1 seconds at 109 mph.
Engine highlights include an aluminum block, two-valve cylinder heads with revisions to the air induction system, and an enlarged dual exhaust system for an impressive V-8 sound. The LS2 V-8 provides CTS-V with racetrack-proven performance, along with smooth, quiet operation and outstanding reliability, durability and quality. The engine’s lightweight aluminum construction - including its cylinder heads and block - delivers an excellent power-to-weight ratio (1:9.6) and good chassis balance (53 percent front / 47 percent rear).
Power is delivered through the six-speed manual Tremec T56 transmission that features a dual mass flywheel for reduced noise and vibration harshness. A heavy-duty, increased diameter, 70 mm prop shaft is used for the higher torque requirements. The limited-slip rear axle is fitted with a 3.73:1 final drive ratio to optimize acceleration.
To help develop and manage its higher horsepower and torque output, and to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, the CTS-V features several modifications, including:
- High-profile camshaftopens the valves faster and higher, enabling more airflow in and out of the combustion chambers and contributing to horsepower gains
- High-strength pistonshelp improve engine durability, particularly under high-performance operating conditions
- Revised valves and stiffer valve springsbetter accommodate valve operation with the high-lift cam
- Enhanced induction systemenables enhanced engine breathing, helping to increase horsepower output
- High-flow intake manifolddelivers high amounts of airflow to the intake ports, helping to ensure a broad torque curve while delivering maximum power
- High-flow fuel injectorsdeliver fuel at the faster rate needed due to increased intake airflow
- Dual exhaustconstructed of 2.5-inch (159-mm) diameter stainless steel pipe to help minimize back pressure, increase horsepower and ensure proper exhaust tone. Polished stainless steel tips cap the exhaust pipes
- Engine coverhelps reduce underhood noise and features the Cadillac wreath and crest in its center and V-Series identification over each cylinder bank
On the exterior, the CTS-V includes enhancements designed to increase performance, including a unique front fascia with an integrated aero splitter for better aerodynamics and brake ducts vented to cool front brakes. Stainless steel mesh grilles, both below and above the bumper, offer a unique front appearance and allow for free air flow into the engine compartment. Sides include a unique aero rocker design that flows into a specific rear fascia.
CTS-V offers a unique instrument cluster trimmed with satin chrome rings around each gauge. Aircraft-style, white lettering on a black field is used on gauges for better legibility. Other interior design features include a three-spoke steering wheel with an aluminum bezel and specific controls for CTS-V. Satin chrome finishes also are used on the shift knob, door pulls and door handles. The center armrest has been lowered significantly for easier shifting during driving.
Standard equipment includes leather-trimmed upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power driver’s seat, driver information center, a seven-speaker sound system, 16-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires and a one-year subscription to the OnStar road assistance service.
Options include the popular Luxury Package ($2,100), which includes heated front seats with power operation for the passenger, memory presets for two drivers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, HomeLink universal garage door transmitter, alarm system, and a wood-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob.
The Sport Performance Package ($2,285), which has been realigned for 2006, adds a sport-tuned suspension tuning, high-performance brake pads, 18-inch alloy wheels with V-rated tires, load-leveling rear suspension, speed-sensitive power steering and StabiliTrak electronic stability control. The package also includes xenon high-intensity discharge headlights. A new Sport Appearance Package includes all the performance gear in Performance Package and lots of appearance tweaks: unique 18-inch wheels, restyled rocker moldings, dual exhaust tips, wire mesh grille work and a rear spoiler. In short, it’s the look of the crazy-fast CTS-V for less money.
The DVD Navigation System ($2,995) includes XM Satellite Radio with a three-month subscription and a Bose stereo upgrade with six-CD changer and eight speakers, plus the new XM Nav Traffic system, which delivers real-time traffic flow information straight to the nav screen. Popular stand-alone options include a power glass sunroof with one-touch operation ($1,200), the Bose stereo and CD changer ($1,000), and a split-folding rear seat ($400).
The limited-production CTS-V ($50,675) comes stuffed with the 6-liter LS2 V8 engine generating 400 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque.
Safety features on all CTS models include active features such as traction control and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake proportioning, which balances the braking front and rear. There are eight airbags: front, side-impact airbags for front and rear passengers, and curtain-style head protections airbags on each side. In short, the CTS comes with the full complement of safety features expected in a modern luxury car.
Test drives impressions
With either of its V8 engines, the Cadillac CTS drives wonderfully around town, no muss, and no fuss. It cruises comfortably on the freeway and feels right at home on winding roads. It’s this mix of comfort, easy functionality and the heart for a spirited drive that defines a sports sedan, and the CTS delivers in spades.
The 6.0 liter V8 is silky smooth when cruising, less so at full throttle. It responds quickly whenever you step on the gas, a benefit of its broad torque curve, which is largely a function of variable valve timing. Both V6s are thoroughly modern engines, with 60-degree aluminum blocks, double overhead cams, electronic throttle control, coils-on-plug ignition and a structural oil pan.
The manual gearbox is first-rate, too, and if you put more emphasis on the sport than the sedan, you may prefer it. You can shift it so smoothly that your passengers wouldn’t know it was a manual if they couldn’t see you shifting. It’s easy to match clutch take-up and throttle for stutter-free driving, especially at low speeds. The shifter is equally smooth, with short, precise throws. You can run up through fourth gear at low speeds without lugging the engine. The smoothness of shifting and the low-speed tractability of the engine make driving around town very pleasant.
The CTS is fun to drive. Mix rear-wheel drive, crisp handling and plenty of horsepower, and you have a recipe for charging out of corners like a racer. Go into a corner too quick and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control is there to reduce the chance of a skid, applying just the right amount of brake and throttle correction to keep the CTS on the road. The anti-lock brakes deliver powerful, predictable braking. Slam on the brakes at 70 miles an hour and there’s no drama: no squealing, no swerving, just forceful stopping with full steering control.
The CTS-V has some of the same characteristics of the CTS, but make no mistake. This is a different animal, sacrificing pleasantries to achieve increased performance. For starters, the CTS-V comes exclusively with the high-performance Tremec T56 six-speed, and it’s a stiff shifter. It also takes more pressure to push in the clutch pedal, and clutch take-up is fairly abrupt, making smooth launches a challenge. Your passengers will been keenly aware that you are shifting manually. Likewise, the stiff suspension can cause the car to bob on undulating pavement, a common trait of cars with suspensions modified for racecar handling.
To create the CTS-V, GM pulled the high-performance LS2 V8 from the limited-production Corvette Z06. It generates only fractionally less power than that in the Z06: 395 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm and 400 horsepower at 6000 rpm. Those are big numbers. Slam the throttle to the floor and the acceleration is absolutely exhilarating. And that sound! It roars like a Corvette. If motor oil courses through your veins you’ll mash the gas down at every opportunity just to hear that sound and feel that thrust.
The CTS-V’s firm suspension and quick steering make for fast traffic on a winding road. Though firm on rough neighborhood streets, it rides well on the highway. The tires generate good grip in corners and lots of power can be put through the rear wheels. Accelerating out of corners is exhilarating. This responsiveness makes the CTS-V a lot of fun to drive.
In terms of looks, the only slightly annoying thing was the fine coat of dust that inevitably results from driving a car through the San Bernardino desert, which didn’t sit too well under the bright lights of Vegas.
Inside, split-leather seats worked well with the aforementioned heat pads and also when the car had been parked for upwards of an hour in the desert sun - i.e., the residual heat from the sun streaming in the moonroof didn’t burn your rear end when sitting down.
Perhaps the only place the car let itself down, and only really in terms of its European competition, was its fascia and central console, which I felt could have been less slathered in vinyl. Another minor complaint was that the sat-nav console was not touch screen, which meant fiddling with dials and buttons. But the door handles are a funky twisted-metal shape, and are possibly the nicest aesthetically that I have seen on any car.