Full 2009 Cadillac CTS-V Review
What's New for 2009
The Cadillac CTS-V is new for 2009.
Back when the first-generation CTS was still in production, the folks at Cadillac had a bright idea: Shoehorn a Corvette engine into the CTS, slap on an array of go-fast goodies and give the traditional kings of the super-sedan hill -- BMW's M5, Mercedes-Benz's various AMG sedans and Audi's S6 -- something to worry about. Cadillac called it the CTS-V, and its performance numbers were indeed impressive, as was its relative affordability. In other ways, however, it wasn't quite ready for prime time, from its low-buck interior to its pronounced rear-axle hop during acceleration runs.
This year, it's a whole new ballgame. The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, based on the vastly superior second-generation CTS platform, ditches the axle hop, gets a first-rate interior and -- perhaps most importantly -- achieves record-breaking four-door speed. The 556-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 (which is essentially a slightly detuned version of the same motor found in the Corvette ZR-1) helps the new V put down some ridiculous straight-line times: zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at nearly 115 mph. Moreover, the CTS-V is equally impressive when the going gets twisty. In a recent comparison test, we found out for ourselves what Cadillac had been telling us all along -- the V is quicker than both the M5 and the C63 AMG around a racetrack, despite a base price that's nearly $25,000 less than the BMW.
Stupendous performance aside, there are a few demerits worth mentioning. First of all, it's hard to tell from the driver seat that there's a V8 under the hood. Supercharger whine is omnipresent, and the expected V8 rumble is AWOL. Second, the automatic transmission can feel crude at times, thanks to a slow-witted manual mode and rough upshifts in both Sport Drive and manual modes. Furthermore, the standard seats aren't much different from those in the regular CTS, which is disappointing in a dedicated sporting machine -- although the optional Recaro sport seats are beyond reproach.
The super-sedan segment is an embarrassment of riches these days, with numerous German entrants boasting sophisticated designs, sports-carlike handling and sonorous V8 or V10 engines. But the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has elbowed its way to the head of this rarefied class with its unparalleled all-around performance, stylish sheet metal and reasonable pricing. We're particularly fond of the smaller M3 and C63 AMG sedans, which compete directly with the Cadillac on price, yet the dimensions of the CTS-V put it more alongside bigger, much more expensive rivals. Super-sedan shoppers owe it to themselves to take a hard look at this hard-core Caddy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is a high-performance sport sedan that comes in a single trim level. Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, adaptive xenon headlights, an adaptive suspension with driver-adjustable dampers, keyless entry and ignition (including remote start on automatic-transmission models), rear park assist, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, power-adjustable heated front seats with driver memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar and Bluetooth. Also standard is a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, a USB port, an iPod-ready auxiliary audio jack and a 40-gigabyte hard drive that can be used to store music.
Options include a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and weather reporting, 14-way power-adjustable Recaro sport seats with heating and ventilation, a suede-trimmed steering wheel and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
A supercharged 6.2-liter V8 powers the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, sending a whopping 556 hp and 551 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted shift buttons is optional. In performance testing, an automatic-equipped CTS-V catapulted to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and flew through the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds at 114.7 mph. Braking performance was similarly phenomenal, as our test car stopped from 60 mph in a seatbelt-straining 104 feet. Cadillac estimates that the CTS-V will return 13 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.
The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V comes standard with antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and GM's OnStar emergency communications system.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the regular CTS earned scores of "Good" (the highest possible) for both frontal-offset and side-impact protection. In government crash testing, the CTS earned four out of five stars for driver protection in head-on collisions, while front passengers received five-star protection. The CTS also received five stars for side-impact protection of front and rear passengers.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 CTS-V's interior isn't much different from that of the regular CTS. Fortunately, the CTS boasts one of the nicer interiors in its segment, with a sleekly attractive center stack design and mostly high-quality materials. We'd advise skipping the base seats, as they're neither supportive nor particularly comfortable. Get the optional Recaro sport seats instead, which are snug in all the right places, yet comfy enough for longer journeys. Backseat dimensions are satisfactory, even for larger adults. The regular CTS's available split-folding rear seat isn't available on the CTS-V, though a pass-through is standard. The trunk offers 13.6 cubic feet of cargo space, although loading of larger items is hampered by a short deck.
The design of the optional navigation system is particularly slick; the display retracts into the dash, but the top inch of the screen remains visible for the audio system. Another well-thought-out feature is the standard 40GB hard drive, which not only allows for the storage of music files, but enables AM/FM and satellite radio to be rewound, paused and resumed – much like a DVR for radio. The Bose surround-sound audio system offers rich bass and a pleasingly warm sound.
At 4,313 pounds, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V weighs as much as some crossover SUVs. This makes its face-flattening performance all the more astounding. Despite otherworldly lap times, though, the CTS-V ultimately can't hide its 2-ton-plus mass on winding roads. The CTS-V feels a bit portly in tight corners, although those 556 horses make amends in a hurry when the road straightens out. The default steering effort is too light for a high-performance sport sedan, but that's easily remedied by tapping the traction control button twice -- this activates Competitive Driving Mode, which weights up the steering, turns off traction control and switches to a more lenient stability control program for aggressive driving.
The automatic transmission's lurching full-throttle upshifts are crude but effective, although we can't say the same for the manual-shift buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes. They're so slow on the draw that you're better off just leaving the transmission in Drive Sport. The manual transmission might be a better bet, as it has a pleasantly firm shift action and a surprisingly light and progressive clutch.