the hofmeister kink

Cadillac CTS V

A couple of months ago I started a new job and with that purchased a new car. I was looking for something unique, powerful, and most of all fun to drive. After months of searching online, I ended up pulling the trigger on a first generation Cadillac CTS V. Now that I've had some time to get to know the car I figured I would write up a review of the car. This will be the first of many reviews I plan on posting. I'll start out with a brief history of the CTS V and then move into my personal opinion on the car.

The story of the CTS V begins back in the late 1990s. Cadillac had fallen into tough times with the average age of the Cadillac owner increasing to Buick territory. To combat this issue, Cadillac released the Catera in 1997. Aimed at a younger audience, the Catera was small and affordable. However, early cars were plagued with very poor reliability and the Catera became a sales disaster.

In 2002, Cadillac gave the small affordable car concept another shot with the release of the CTS. The CTS, like the Catera, was not a car designed for the baby boomers. The CTS, built on the entirely new Sigma platform, was small, agile, and well equipped. With a starting price of just under $30,000 the CTS marked a turning point for Cadillac.

Fast forward to 2004, and we have the introduction of the Cadillac V Series line up. The V Division was designed with the intention of beating the Germans at their own game. In order to do this Cadillac needed to build a super saloon that could compete with the likes of the BMW M3 and the Audi S4. The CTS was the first Cadillac to bear the V badge but by 2006 two other V models were released, an XLR V and an STS V.

The main feature of the CTS V was the powertrain. At the time, the BMW M3 and Audi S4 both produced around 280-340 horsepower. Intent on not being outdone, Cadillac decided they would use the LS6 motor currently being used in the C5 Corvette Z06. The end result was a 400 horsepower V8 sedan with enough torque to rotate the earth. This power was in turn routed to the rear wheels via the same Tremec 6 Speed manual used in the C5.

To help keep you on the road, Cadillac added a limited slip differential to the V as well as traction and stability control. Brakes and suspension were also upgraded on the V with massive four piston Brembo brakes installed on all four corners. Cadillac was so intent on beating the German’s they even brought the CTS V over to the famous German Nürburgring to tune the suspension and steering. All this coming from a brand that just a couple years ago was selling some of the cushiest rides you could buy short of a Buick.

After living with a V for a couple months and 6,000 miles I have grown to really like the car. The idea of the fast saloon car has always intrigued me. Having all the luxury and practicality of a sedan with the firepower of a sports car is very impressive.

The Good:

Well first things first, the engine and brakes on these cars are fantastic. The Brembo's the V has are by far the most impressive brakes I've ever used. The engine is, as you would expect, very powerful. Almost impossible to stall and willing to rocket forward regardless of what gear you've selected.

The transmission, while infuriating at times, is very rewarding with a very mechanical throw. You really feel like you are rowing the gears as opposed to moving linkage around.

The interior of the V, while a little shoddy, is a very nice place to be. The seats are leather with suede inserts that keep you glued in place. The V comes standard with essentially every option you could get on a CTS. The stereo is a Bose branded system with a 6 disc changer in the dash as well as XM Satellite radio. I chose to switch out the XM module for an aftermarket iPod adapter system as I'm sure most people will do. The radio, navigation, and trip computers are all controlled via a large screen in the middle of the dash. While the system is 10 years old, the infotainment (both Nav and Radio) is actually really impressive. Dare I say better than some of the more modern system you see. (*cough iDrive)

Probably my favorite feature of the car is the exhaust note. I even went so far as to remove the rear mufflers and install straight pipes to increase its vocal performance. While this sounds childish, the car really isn't that much louder as the resonators are still on the car. I will try and include a sound clip to the end of the review soon.

The Bad:

There really isn't a lot that I dislike about the V. Yeah I suppose its not the best looking car on the road. Especially when you park it next to its German rivals. But I wouldn't go so far as to say it was ugly. One thing I definitely don't like about the car is the ride. I love a stiff ride, but the V really crashes over bumps. I realize this is not a new car anymore, and with 85,000 miles its not going to ride perfectly. But at low speed there is way to much noise coming from the front suspension to be deemed acceptable. I will definitely be looking into upgrading the suspension at some point.

My second minor nitpick with the car is the transmission which is just too intelligent for its own good. In order to improve fuel efficiency, the CTS V has a Skip Shift "feature" installed. Essentially When starting from 1st the system will push the gear lever into forth when you go to change to second. As you can imagine this can be quite annoying. Luckily this system can be disabled but only by buying an aftermarket module for $20. Come on Cadillac, I bought a car with three pedals because I want to decide what gear I'm in.


When all is said an done, I'm very impressed with the CTS V. I consider myself very picky when it comes to cars and the fact that I own one says a lot about the car. I would definitely recommend it to anyone in the market for a fast American sedan.

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