Cadillac goes head to head with Germany’s high performance sedans like the BMW M5 and Mercedes AMG E63.
By Ghaith Madadha
Launched for 2016 with more power than ever, the third generation CTS-V is Cadillac’s brutish riposte to premium super saloon rivals. It is a compelling cocktail of glitzy American luxury and vast, muscularly vocal power reserves.
The CTS-V might not be as refined or discrete as its German competitors, but with balanced, intuitive handling and handsome styling, it remains a tempting proposition.
The aggressively sporting CTS-V looks more sophisticated and better reconciled than its predecessors and the current garden-variety CTS.
Employing concept car and retro design elements, it features muscularly complex surfacing, defined ridges, elegant curves, and slim vertical lights linked by sharp waistline creases. It is classically proportioned with long bulging bonnet, short front overhang, rearwards cabin and tapered, short rear.
Its jutting carbon-fiber front air splitter, rear diffuser, boot-tip spoiler, and bonnet-top engine bay extraction vents reduce lift and improve downforce. Underneath a lightweight carbon-fiber bonnet, its 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine is a beguilingly brutal old school 16-valve OHV design with an 84 BHP gain over its predecessor. It also automatically deactivates 4 cylinders when cruising. Along with an 8-speed automatic gearbox, this helps reduce fuel consumption, but with big displacement and weighing 1880kg, it nevertheless remains thirsty.
All fire and fury driven in anger, the CTS-V develops 640 BHP at 6400 rpm and 631 lb/ft torque at 3600 rpm to a growling and howling soundtrack underlaid by distant supercharger whine. The CTS-V’s mechanically-driven supercharger ensures instant, tire-shredding response from standstill as vast 295/30R19 rear rubber struggles to put power to tarmac.
The CTS-V is also brawny and versatile in mid-range, with phenomenal on-the-move acceleration remaining vigorous even from top gear cruising. Its gearbox holds ratios to red-line in manual paddle-shift mode, and is slicker, quicker and smoother than before. Meanwhile massive brake discs and multi-piston calipers provide good pedal feel and stopping power, but require more assertive pedal pressure when some fade presents after moderately heavy use.
The CTS-V turns in tidily and grips well through sweeping corners when one leans onto outside tires. But, with so much torque, rear tires can unstick sideways on sudden, hard or careless acceleration through corners. With no track driving opportunity to fully explore at-the-limit handling, the CTS-V’s balanced chassis and precise throttle control seem well able to control slides, while a limited-slip rear differential allocates power along the rear axle where necessary for added agility cornering control.
At 2.37-turns lock-to-lock, steering is quick, exact and with decent feel to place the CTS-V on road. Through corners it is taut, focused and buttoned down with adaptive magnetic dampers in Sport and Race modes, while ride is on the firm side and rebound control settled. In more comfortable Tour mode, dampers soften somewhat, with a bit more slackness on compression and rebound, but take the edge off its low profile tires and provide a suppler ride quality over road imperfections.
The CTS-V is a refined well-insulated drive with a luxurious, if somewhat busy cabin design and layout. With plenty of good materials and soft textures, and comfort and infotainment features, the CTS-V includes touch sensitive controls, configurable instrument binnacle with central rev counter, and HUD windscreen projection. Spacious in front, its driving position is well adjustable and offers good front visibility. Meanwhile, rear space and boot capacity are decent and competitive with most rivals.
Engine: 6.2-liter, 16-valve, OHV, supercharged V8-cylinders
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive, limited-slip differential
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 640 (649)  @6400 rpm
Torque lb/ft (Nm): 631 (855) @3600 rpm
0-100km/h: <3.7 seconds
Top speed: 320 km/h
Length: 5021 mm
Width: 1833 mm
Height: 1454 mm
Steering: Electric-assist rack & pinion
Suspension F/R: MacPherson struts / multi-link, adaptive magnetic dampers
Tires, F/R: 265/35ZR19 / 295/30ZR19