2009 Cadillac CTS-V Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 3, 2008

The uniquely styled 2009 Cadillac CTS-V pairs track times of an exotic sportscar with luxury-sedan comforts; in nearly all respects, Cadillac beats the top performance sedans from Germany at their own game.

As the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com assembled this comprehensive review focusing on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V sport sedan, they consulted with a wide range of review sources. Then to make this review as useful as possible, TheCarConnection.com's editors included their own firsthand experience driving the CTS-V—including track time.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is a limited-production, very high-performance sedan based on the mid-size CTS sport sedan. The model is the latest in a series of Cadillac V-Series cars, all oriented toward top performance, motorsports, and exclusivity. The new CTS-V returns completely redesigned for 2009, with an appearance that borrows heavily from the standard CTS but adding, most notably, a supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 engine making 556 horsepower—enough to take on the best sport sedans from Germany.

Last year, the CTS line received an extensively refreshed exterior, along with a much-acclaimed, completely redesigned interior. From either the front or rear, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has a boxy, angular appearance, though the cues soften in the middle with smoother doorlines and handles. Design details abound, including recessed, jewel-like headlamps, meshlike upper and lower grilles, a well-sculpted front fascia, and integrated fog lamps in front. From the side, the CTS-V has a relatively high beltline that rises to a high decklid in back, where stylish vertical tail lamps flank the corners and lid crease is lined with a spoilerlike strip of LEDs. Flashy 19-inch wheels, polished or painted, have V-shaped spoke segments and showcase the heavy-duty Brembo brake hardware. The V-Series is also designated on the outside by several small badges, as well as a chromed side air vent at the back of the front fender.

Inside, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V follows a uniquely American design that stands out from any of its rivals. Trim alongside the doors extends across the instrument panel from both sides and slopes downward into a V-shaped center console that contains audio and climate controls and additional vents, with the available navigation display retracting into the dash when not in use. Piped-in LED lighting adds a sophisticated ambiance, and top-notch materials and trims are used throughout.

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Well-bolstered leather sport seats with supportive headrests are offered in front; they provide good support for most drivers, but the recommended available Recaro seats—finished in a breathable and grippy microfiber—add lateral support for high-performance driving and supportive thigh extensions for taller drivers. In back, there's space for two normal-sized adults, though the middle position is not as comfortable.

The interior of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has some impressive features and design details. The available navigation system, which incorporates an XM NavTraffic function, has one of the best displays we've tested, and the top portion of the screen doubles as a radio display when nav functions aren't being used. And the optional EZ key entry system, which can be set to automatically unlock the doors while the keyfob is in your pocket, slots into its own cubby in the center console if desired. However, we remain disappointed with the position of the climate control displays, which require a distracting glance far down to the area beside the driver's knee.

The CTS-V's lusty 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine—closely related to the one installed in the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1—produces an impressive 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. That's more power than the top performance sedans from Germany, as affirmed by its performance times of 3.9 seconds to 60 mph either with the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic. With the manual, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V can reach at least 191 mph.

In real-world driving, there's enough available torque to pin you back to your seat in just about any situation. Both transmissions in the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V shift smoothly, and the clutch is surprisingly light and precise for the manual. The automatic tends to shift to top gear somewhat early, but manual shifts can be controlled via a manual shift gate or tap-shifters on the back of the steering wheel. Unfortunately, it requires that you shift to the manual gate first.

The latest version of GM's Magnetic Ride Control, which uses a magnetically sensitive fluid in the dampers to almost instantaneously firm up or soften the suspension, allows the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V a quite supple, absorbent ride on rough roads and crisp body control in demanding performance situations. The system has Sport and Touring modes for firmer or softer overall responses, respectively, and for track driving, the StabiliTrack stability control system uses a Competitive Driving Mode to make the most of the balanced chassis, powerful engine, and huge brakes—all enhanced with sticky Z-rated Michelin PS2 summer performance tires. Our only complaint concerns the steering, which doesn't convey much of road feel through to the steering wheel.

For 2009, the Cadillac CTS-V will be sold in a single model, including standard xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Forward Lighting, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, heated power front seats, ultrasonic rear parking assist, a surround-sound audio system with a 40GB hard drive, USB connectivity, DVD compatibility, and a Bluetooth interface.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is structurally similar to the Cadillac CTS, which earned four-star ratings in frontal crash protection and five-star results in side crash protection from the federal government. While those results are respectable, the CTS got nothing but the best ratings in crash testing from the IIHS: top "good" ratings for frontal, side, and rear protection. Standard safety equipment includes front side airbags, head curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers, anti-lock braking, and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.

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2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Styling

A ferocious exterior gives way to a luxurious interior on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V luxury sports sedan.

The Cadillac CTS-V is all-new for the 2009 model year, following closely behind the 2008 remodel of the regular CTS sedan. There won't be any mistaking a Cadillac CTS-V for the base model CTS, though, as quite a few exterior and interior modifications set the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V luxury sport sedan apart.

The exterior styling of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V receives more than its fair share of praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Automobile Magazine gushes that "Cadillac's faceted-design language has really come into its own in the second-generation CTS," and they love that the Cadillac CTS-V "doesn't screw it up with a lot of gratuitous, 'sporty' add-ons." There are some visual distinctions, though, and Autoblog points out that the Cadillac CTS-V "stands out in a crowd more than either its lesser siblings or its predecessor," thanks to the fact that "the big mesh grille now has twice the open area of the previous V." Motor Trend reviewers also mention the "satin-finish mesh grille, deeper front and rear fascias, and ominously bulged hood." One of the more innovative styling touches, according to Automobile Magazine, "is the rear CHMSL (center high-mounted stop light), which is reshaped to add downforce at high speeds, eliminating the need for a rear spoiler."

One of the most notable improvements on the second-generation CTS comes to the interior, which receives a substantial redesign. The same holds true for the interior of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, and Jalopnik reviewers ask, "Know how awkward most current BMW interiors are and how cheap most current Mercedes feel? The CTS-V is better. Seriously." Automobile Magazine says the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V "cabin manages to look both purposeful and classy," thanks to an interior "set off by the varying textures of its materials." Compared to the standard CTS, Road & Track remarks that "the gauges on the CTS-V are noticeably different," featuring "red tracers [that] follow the sweeping needles and add a technical sophistication." ConsumerGuide, however, finds some fault with the interior, claiming that the Cadillac CTS-V "puts form over function when it comes to the use of major controls," since "the v-shape center console stack puts most buttons into a smallish area of the dashboard." On the positive side, ConsumerGuide also reports that "the navigation screen is large and legible, and quickly powers up or down."

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2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Performance

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has almost single-handedly reshaped the sport-sedan landscape and is one of the best-performing vehicles on the road.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V takes the middle-of-the-pack performance of the Cadillac CTS and cranks it to 11. Or maybe even 12, thanks to a massive new engine and upgraded suspension and aerodynamics.

For 2009, the Cadillac CTS-V receives a heart transplant from its corporate cousin, the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Jalopnik reports that the Cadillac CTS-V has a "6.2-liter supercharged engine," similar to the Corvette's, "but here making a not-quite-as-ridiculous 551 lb-ft and 556 hp." Those numbers may not be as stunning as the Corvette's, but they are still enough for Motor Trend to declare the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V "the fastest, most powerful American sedan in history." That statement is impressive in itself, but Jalopnik goes even further by noting that, based on track times, the Cadillac CTS-V is "the fastest production sedan in the world." Power delivery from the engine is nearly effortless, as Cars.com mentions that "the torque band [is]...broad enough, and the sound level is low enough at high revs, that it's easy to crash into the rather hard rev limiter." Effortless delivery doesn't mean docile acceleration, though; ConsumerGuide claims that the Cadillac CTS-V can hit 60 mph "in 3.9 seconds with either manual or automatic transmission," which is faster than many of today's purebred sportscars. Road & Track jokingly comments that "the speedometer in this car is pointless; it should just be a sticker that says 'You're speeding.'"

Yes, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is neck-snappingly quick with either of the two available transmissions, which Motor Trend lists as "the proven Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual or GM's new 6L90 six-speed automatic." Both transmissions earn high praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com—particularly the manual. ConsumerGuide says it "works smoothly, with a precise but meaty feel," while Cars.com raves about the "pleasing short-throw shifter and ratios matched to the engine's hearty grunt." As for the automatic, Road & Track reviewers note that it "offers an enjoyable experience," thanks to "quick upshifts and rev-matched downshifts that can be controlled by paddles on the steering wheel." However, as experts at TheCarConnection.com have mentioned, using the paddles first requires that you shift the drive selector into the manual shift gate, which can be annoying.

Otherworldly power and performance usually come at a steep cost when it's time to fill up the tank. The Cadillac CTS-V certainly fits the mold here. Although no EPA figures are available, Cars.com reports that "Cadillac says we're looking at mpg in the teens," though they "put on 90 miles at speeds between 55 and 70 mph, and the trip computer showed an average 21.9 mpg." However, that trip does include a drop of "1,300 feet of elevation, all told."

Unlike some American sportscars, which can pass muster simply by virtue of their acceleration times, sports sedans are measured as much by their handling prowess as their straight-line performance. In this area, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V definitely holds its own, though a few minor gripes pop up. Starting with the criticisms, Cars.com says "the one line that could use strengthening is the steering, which doesn't have the feedback of the best track cars"—an opinion shared in several reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. After that, however, it's pretty much all praise for the Cadillac CTS-V, which ConsumerGuide contends has "tenacious grip in turns, and tremendously powerful brakes." Automobile Magazine reports that Cadillac CTS-V's "ability to provide a civilized ride along with blistering track performance is largely a credit of the latest-generation Magnetic Ride Control," which features "variable dampers" in the shock-absorption system capable of "adjusting their firmness level every millisecond." Overall, Autoblog finds "it's a nice balance that lets you know you're driving a serious automobile with very serious sporting pretensions, but that it doesn't mind getting up and going to work each morning."

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2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Comfort & Quality

Inside, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is everything you've come to expect from a top-end Cadillac.

Cadillac has built its brand around a sense of quality and refinement that shines through magnificently on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, like most sedans, offers seating for five, though reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that four adults is a much more realistic figure. Up front, reviewers can't stop mentioning the optional Recaro racing seats, which Autoblog says "have adjustable thigh supports, as well as adjustable everything else." ConsumerGuide reports that the "standard sport seats are comfortable yet supportive in fast cornering," but the Cadillac CTS-V's "optional Recaro-brand seats have handy power-adjustable bolsters to dial in ideal comfort/support ratio." The rear seats don't receive nearly as much press, but ConsumerGuide finds there is "adequate rear-seat space, though larger adults will feel crowded" and the "marginal headroom is further reduced by the available sunroof."

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is, for the most part, a practical daily driver. However, the Cadillac CTS-V suffers somewhat when it comes to cargo space. ConsumerGuide reports that the "usefulness of the boxy trunk is compromised by a small opening," although the "interior storage includes an average-sized center console and glovebox." Edmunds reviewers agree, claiming that "loading bulky items into the 13.6-cubic-foot trunk is hampered by a very short deck."

In order to successfully compete with the top European imports, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has to match them not only in performance, but also in quality. Consider that goal met, as Edmunds reports "materials are high in quality, and the level of detailing in this car is comparable to the top import nameplates." Other reviewers agree wholeheartedly, with ConsumerGuide claiming the "luxury-grade trim rivals the best in this highly competitive class." Autoblog adds that the Cadillac CTS-V has "some upgraded trim like micro-fiber inserts in the seats and around [the] steering wheel that feel rich to the touch and look great." Road & Track reviewers "particularly like the piano black interior trim," while Automobile Magazine appreciates that "shiny black trim and bits of chrome keep things from looking too dour inside."

In addition to top-notch assembly and materials, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is remarkably quiet, especially for a car of its power. The most critical review comes from Consumer Guide, which says "wind noise is well muted, but engine and tire noise are relatively pronounced." On the other hand, Cars.com attests that "there's a nice exhaust sound when you really lay on it, but the CTS-V is otherwise remarkably quiet for what it is." Autoblog mentions that the exhaust note on the Cadillac CTS-V is "louder than a base CTS but far less than a typical aftermarket exhaust system."

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2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Safety

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is incredibly powerful, but offers all the safety of a high-tech sport sedan.

In order to compete with the best of the Euro-sedans, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V comes packed with top-notch safety features. This super-Caddy doesn't disappoint in safety, offering a multimode electronic stability system and a wealth of airbags.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V itself has not yet been crash-tested by either NHTSA or the IIHS, but for all intents and purposes, it can be assigned the same ratings as its twin, the standard Cadillac CTS. The Cadillac CTS and, by virtue of its nearly identical chassis design, the Cadillac CTS-V earn less-than-ideal scores from NHTSA in frontal-impact tests: four out of a possible five stars. However, the Cadillac CTS-V achieves a perfect five-star rating from NHTSA for side-impact protection. The IIHS is also highly impressed by the Cadillac CTS-V's crash performance and awards the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V the highest possible rating, "good," in both the frontal offset and side impact categories. In fact, the IIHS likes the Cadillac CTS so much that they declare it a Top Safety Pick for its "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and standard electronic stability control." With such a genealogy, it's easy to see why the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V should score very well if either NHTSA or the IIHS decide to test one.

Standard safety features abound on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V and include some very high-tech systems. Cars.com reports that some of the more mundane safety features include "four-wheel-disc antilock brakes" and "six airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows," along with "active head restraints." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com rave about the standard stability control system, which Automobile Magazine says has "three levels of computer control: full on, competition mode (traction control off and stability control allowing more leeway), and full off." The Cadillac CTS-V also offers an "optional advanced traction-control system called Performance Traction Management," according to Motor Trend, "which will allow the driver to select up to six different traction thresholds."

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V stacks up pretty well in terms of crash-test ratings and safety equipment, but overall visibility is a drag on its safety score. ConsumerGuide is disappointed to find that the "rakish roof line hurts visibility...with thick rear pillars being a particular hindrance to the outward view."

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2009 Cadillac CTS-V

Features

Navigation, Bluetooth, and a built-in hard drive are just the beginning of the high-tech features on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V.

The single-trim Cadillac CTS-V is a true luxury sports sedan and somehow manages to emphasize both sports and luxury. Drivers and passengers will find all the features expected in a $60,000 Cadillac, and they all come together very well.

The standard features list on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is long and enviable. According to ConsumerGuide, "features include steering-linked headlamps and keyless entry and ignition," while other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com detail additional high-tech standard features. Motor Trend reports that the Cadillac CTS-V comes with "all the usual CTS goodies, such as the 40-gig hard-drive entertainment system, pop-up sat-nav, Bluetooth capability, and Bose digital surround audio."

The optional features on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V aren't numerous, since the car comes pretty loaded already, but some are very highly recommended in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. In particular, Cars.com says "you'll pay somewhere north of $2,000 for optional Recaro sport seats, which are higher in overall quality" and offer a much improved driving experience in the Cadillac CTS-V. Autoblog reviewers "recommend opting for the 14-way Recaros—you won't be sorry," a sentiment echoed unanimously by other reviewers. The other options on the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, according to Cars.com, "include suedelike material on the steering wheel and shift knob...for a couple hundred bucks." Motor Trend adds that the available Performance Pack includes "metal-faced pedals" and Cadillac's new "Performance Traction Management."

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