The biggest and best Cadillac news for 2016 is the revival of the epic CTS-V, with its chart-busting supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine from the Corvette ZO6, making 640 horsepower and blowing the skivvies off (in a good way) anyone who gets behind the wheel. It’s built out of the more civilized CTS.
For starters, the CTS-V chassis is 20 percent stiffer than that of a standard CTS, from bracing in key places to handle the forces from all that horsepower. Naturally, the springs and dampers are stiffer, and it uses the wondrous Magnetic Ride Control suspension from the Corvette. It’s fitted with big Brembo brakes to slow it down from a top speed of 200 miles per hour, and 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires that do a good job of gripping the road in corners, and a futile job of holding back the horsepower if you floor it. Try zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds. Now pull your eyeballs back out of their sockets.
Body changes include a carbon fiber hood, and unique bumpers front and rear, with a splitter under the front bumper to direct airflow for more cooling and downforce. Flared fenders make room for the fat tires, and aerodynamics are improved with edgy rocker panels and a rear spoiler.
At 4145 pounds, it’s 200 pounds lighter than the BMW M5. Is it better than the M5 or M6 on the track? We think so, but maybe you should ask Johnny O’Connell, who won the GT championship in the Pirelli World Challenge in his Cadillac, in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The new CTS-V hasn’t been fully crash-tested, but it did get five stars from the NHTSA in side-impact and rollover tests, while the CTS got top ratings from the IIHS and five stars in every category from the NHTSA.
As for fuel mileage, its estimated 21 miles per gallon on the highway is quite impressive, a statement about today’s technology. But it could be half that and it probably wouldn’t deter buyers.
The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V ($83,995) comes loaded with leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and is near the top of the CTS range in terms of trim.
The Cadillac Art and Science design theme is employed here, but it’s also apparent that this is not your standard CTS. It’s got beef, it’s got brawn. It’s not for everyone. That’s the point.
Still, the CTS-V is clearly a Cadillac. The black trapezoidal grille and vertical headlamps blend into the fat fenders and nose with its splitter that nearly scrapes the ground, while the big spoiler gives it the character of a hot-rod Cadillac.
A carbon fiber option package brings a bigger front splitter, rear spoiler, rear diffuser, and hood vent trim, all in showy, functional, woven carbon fiber.
Compared to the exterior and what’s under the hood, the cabin is understated, in an aggressive and educated sort of way. It’s basically the same as the luxury CTS, bathed in a soft and futuristic glow from two screens, a big 8-inch touchscreen and a 5.7-inch monitor between the gauges. Lots of chrome on the instrument panel, which is certainly more interesting than the Dodge Hellcat, and bolder than the German sports sedans.
The CTS-V doesn’t forget its tradition, as it includes the latest high technology, problematic though it might be. The CUE infotainment system does navigation, music, phone integration, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but not without complaints. The haptic feedback is inconsistent, and the voice recognition fails half the time. There’s also OnStar 4G LTE with WiFi hotspot, wireless phone charging, Siri voice text, and an available Performance Data Recorder for track days.
There’s wood trim and stitched leather. The front seats are highly adjustable and very supportive, although we could do without the option that tightens the side bolsters when sensors feel a hard corner coming on; being goosed steals your concentration every time, when you need it for the corner.
Cadillac calls the CTS a 2+2, not a full sedan, so in the rear there’s less room and seat support than with some of the other cars this size, as well as less trunk space.
The supercharged 6.2-liter V8’s 640 horsepower is matched by 630 pound-feet of torque, a bit less than the Corvette Z06 because of the exhaust system, but other than the oil pan, they’re identical engines.
Mated to the engine is a strong and smooth 8-speed automatic transmission, designed and built by GM, also used by the ZO6 where it’s mounted as a rear transaxle; in the CTS-V its layout is longitudinal. There’s no 6-speed manual gearbox available. It might not be missed. The paddle-shifting 8-speed automatic is very quick, upshifting faster than most twin-clutch auto-manual racing-type transmissions. If you must have a manual, look at the smaller Cadillac ATS-V.
To handle the power the chassis is made more rigid with shock tower braces, a stronger rocker bulkhead, V-braces in the engine compartment, an aluminum shear panel at the front of the chassis, and a brace tying together the upper tie bar and rear bumper.
The rear suspension uses five links and the front suspension multi links with double-pivot McPherson struts. The Magnetic Ride Control system uses dampers containing magnetically charged particles in the oil that can adjust the shock stiffness a phenomenal 1000 times per second, as told by computer-linked sensors. This is the third generation for the MRC system, and that’s 40 percent faster than before. The upshot of all this sensing and speed is that your CTS-V will have the right chassis setup for every foot of your driving, whether patchy city pavement or ripply high-speed sweepers, or a smooth racing circuit on a track day.
The ride isn’t adversely affected by the big wide Michelin tires, other than the fact that there’s treacherously little grip if you get caught in snow or ice. They’re 19 inches in diameter, and 9.5 inches wide in front, 10.5 inches wide in the rear. On dry pavement, they grip the road fiercely; the CTS-V can corner at nearly 1g. The tires also allow good feedback to the river, working with the latest German ZF Servotronic II variable-ratio electric power steering system that’s 14 percent more firm than before.
The acceleration is neck-snapping and effectively endless, because it gets to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and doesn’t stop until the car hits 200 miles per hour. That’s where the big Brembo brakes come in, because they work. Even the racing car that Johnny O’Connell drives uses a version of the Brembos that isn’t that much different than those on the road car.
The Cadillac CTS-V is a stunning achievement in a class of cars that rules the world, with entries from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Lexus and Bentley. It’s not cheap but it’s unique. Nary a flaw in the looks, powertrain and dynamics. If only the Cue infotainment system were as clean as the rest of the car.