What's New for 2012
For 2012 the Cadillac CTS-V sedan gains standard automatic wipers.
This is not your grandfather's tailfinned Cadillac. It has a 556-horsepower supercharged V8, handling tuned at the world-famous Nurburgring and seats fashioned by Recaro, not inspired by La-Z-Boy. The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V represents this model's fourth year since a complete redesign, and in that time it's managed to remain on the podium as one of the most gnarly performance sedans on the market. Some competing sedans outdo it in certain areas, but they are ultimately less practical or vastly more expensive.
Indeed, the CTS-V has shown that Cadillac has the wherewithal to hang with the best that the world has to offer. In a straight line and around a racetrack, it showed its angular rear end to a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG in an Edmunds comparison test. On paper, it will leave behind the similarly sized Mercedes E63 AMG and Jaguar XFR. Only once you start talking about a Porsche Panamera Turbo does the CTS-V start to be tamed, but then it costs half as much.
Yet an American car keeping up in terms with performance isn't new. Just ask the Corvette. But it's in the areas of refinement and interior quality where otherwise competitive cars have taken a backseat to the foreigners. Well, not the CTS-V. It provides a suitably comfortable ride for both daily driving and long-distance road trips. The cabin is handsome, well-made and filled with high-quality materials. Sure, it's not as fancy as a Mercedes or Jag, but it's more than nice enough given its price tag.
So why should you fly another high-performance sport sedan flag? Well, at 4,300 pounds, the CTS-V is a hefty chunk of American metal, making it feel a bit cumbersome on tighter roads. A BMW M3 can fool you into thinking it's a sports car; a CTS-V cannot. The Cadillac's standard seats are also lacking in support and comfort, making the optional Recaro sport seats an absolute must. Besides that, however, the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V is as close to a bargain as you're going to get in this price range. It may not be your grandfather's Cadillac, but for the first time in seemingly decades, that's a very good thing.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V is a five-passenger high-performance version of the CTS sedan. That car is reviewed separately, as are the various other CTS iterations.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, summer performance tires, high-performance brakes, a limited-slip differential, magnetically controlled adaptive suspension, automatic and adaptive xenon headlamps with washers, foglamps, rear parking sensors and automatic wipers. Comfort and convenience features include keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a cabin odor filtration system, heated eight-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather/faux-suede upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Electronic features include Bluetooth, a rearview camera, a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, a pop-up touchscreen interface and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD/DVD player, satellite radio, digital music storage and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Options include a sunroof, heated and ventilated Recaro sport seats and faux suede covering the steering wheel and shifter.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V is powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that produces 556 hp and 551 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, but a six-speed automatic is a no-cost option. In Edmunds performance testing, an automatic-equipped CTS-V went from zero to 60 mph in an impressively quick 4.3 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined with the manual and 12/18/14 with the automatic.
The 2012 Cadillac CTS-V comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. GM's OnStar emergency communications system is also standard. Braking performance is excellent, with the Caddy posting a short stopping distance of 104 feet from 60 mph in Edmunds testing.
In government crash tests, the regular CTS received the best possible rating of five stars in the overall, frontal and side crash categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the regular sedan was awarded the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
First, the bad news: The 2012 CTS-V's interior isn't much different from that of the regular CTS model. Now the good news: The CTS already sports one of the nicer passenger compartments in the segment. The overall look is high-class, with an attractive and functional layout for gauges and controls. Materials aren't the best in class, but they're generally high quality and a noticeable improvement over those used in previous Cadillacs.
The CTS-V's interior also sports as much head- and legroom as most of the super sedans in the midsize class. The cabin's most significant shortcoming is the design of the standard front seats, which lack both the comfort and support required for spirited driving. The optional Recaro seats address this issue and feature ventilation as well.
Out back, the trunk offers a smallish 13.6 cubic feet of cargo room, and the relatively narrow opening can make loading bulky items like golf clubs difficult. The split-folding rear seat found on other CTS models isn't available here, but a trunk pass-through opening is standard.
The fact that the 2012 Cadillac CTS-V tips the scales at just over 4,300 pounds makes its astounding performance all the more remarkable. The combination of its muscle-bound V8 and modest exhaust note makes the CTS-V deceptively quick. While the manual transmission is a good one, with a nice firm shift action and a surprisingly light and progressive clutch, you'll actually get quicker acceleration with the automatic transmission when it's in Sport mode. However, the automatic doesn't confidently blip the throttle on downshifts like a C63 AMG, and it's neither the quickest nor the smoothest unit we've experienced.
The CTS-V's standard Magnetic Ride Control suspension offers a good balance between ride quality and handling via driver-selectable Tour or Sport modes. While it's capable of throwing down some seriously quick lap times, the CTS-V can't hide its 2-ton-plus mass on a winding piece of asphalt. That hefty feeling in tight corners is quickly forgotten, however, when you turn its mighty V8 loose on the straightaways.