- Stupid fast, but secure and easy to drive
- Track-ready suspension and braking
- Surprisingly supple ride quality
- Exterior styling doesn't have widespread appeal
- Cluttered controls and displays
- Paddle shifters require separate shift gate
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.
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.
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.