- Incredible power and acceleration
- Very good high-speed handling and stability
- Surprisingly good steering feel
- Exterior design is brash, though cohesive
- Center stack design leaves us wanting less
- Where's the manual transmission option?
The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V impresses on all fronts and establishes itself as the new leader in the full-size luxury/performance sedan segment.
Now entering its third generation, the car that launched Cadillac’s high-performance V-series brand is better than ever. More technology, more performance, more luxury, and more comfort come wrapped in a shell that’s (relatively) light, stiff, and sharply styled. It’s a stunning achievement in the vaporous world of super-fast luxury sedans, and a definite notch in Cadillac’s comeback belt.
At first glance, the CTS-V is clearly up to something—this isn’t your ordinary goes-fine-with-a-business-suit luxury sedan. It’s beefier and brawnier, as ready to engage Warp Drive as it is to book a business lunch. It won’t be for everyone, but that’s a hallmark of good design: plain vanilla is boring. This certainly isn’t vanilla.
Inside, the aggressive-yet-educated look is borne out in the CTS-V’s chrome-laden but thoroughly modern instrument panel, central technology cluster, and the seats, doors, and details as well. Again, the futuristic smoking room vibe won’t suit everyone, but those who like it will love it.
Of course, it’s not all about design with the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V. If anything, it’s the reverse; most of the aesthetic changes from the standard CTS sedan line come at the behest of performance. For the CTS-V, performance is the driving force, and it all starts with what’s under the hood: the heart of a supercar, the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine from the Chevy Corvette Z06.
What’s a Bowtie doing in my Caddy, you ask? Giving it 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, that’s what. The CTS-V can hit 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 200 mph. In fact, aside from a different oil pan and some other bits for fitment in the CTS-V’s engine bay, the engines are essentially identical; the slightly reduced output in the CTS-V is due to differences in the exhaust system.
Behind that big engine is a stout, smooth, and surprisingly quick 8-speed automatic transmission, built in-house, and also shared with the Z06, though in a different layout (the Z06 features a rear-mounted transaxle, while the CTS-V employs the transmission in a traditional longitudinal mid-mounted location). No, there’s no manual transmission option with the CTS-V, but with shift times that beat dual-clutches (on the upshift, anyway) and full manual control via the paddles, you won’t miss it much either. (For those who truly can’t do without a manual in their hot Cadillac luxury sedan, there’s always the ATS-V.)
To handle all of this smoothly delivered power, the CTS-V upgrades its standard CTS chassis with some significant rigidity improvements, for a net gain of 20 percent in structural stiffness. Some of the upgrades include a shock tower brace, a tower-to-plenum brace, 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.
That more rigid chassis allows the finely tuned suspension to do its work of making the CTS-V a surprisingly good dual-purpose car: easygoing luxurious ride quality on the street, and sharp-edged track warrior on the closed circuit. With 19 x 9.5-inch front and 19 x 10.5-inch rear wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, the CTS-V can corner at nearly 1g of lateral acceleration. Those grippy tires also provide some decent feedback to the driver, thanks also to the improved ZF Servotronic II variable-ratio electric power steering system, which has been upgraded for 14 percent greater stiffness—which translates directly to improved road feel through the steering wheel.
A five-link rear suspension and multi-link double-pivot MacPherson front suspension mates with the company’s third-generation Magnetic Ride Control dampers. The result is a very broad range of ability, thanks to a system that can scan and adjust the damper settings 1,000 times per second. The newest generation of these dampers is 40 percent faster in responding to changes requested by either the driver or the onboard computer system.
Adding to the CTS-V’s performance is a lightweight carbon fiber hood, new front and rear bumpers, and a front splitter, all of which help handle airflow through, over, and under the car, for optimal cooling and downforce. Wider fenders make room for the larger wheels and tires, and reshaped rocker moldings and the rear spoiler are also aero-optimized.
For those desiring even more carbon fiber, there’s the carbon fiber package, which includes a larger front splitter, larger rear spoiler, hood vent trim, and rear diffuser—all made of the light, black, woven stuff.
As a luxury car as well as a super-performance car, the CTS-V also packs the latest of Cadillac’s infotainment and technology as found in the standard CTS. In addition to the latest CUE infotainment system, which handles navigation, music, phone integration, and, for the 2016 model year, both Apple Car Play and (later in the model year) Android Auto, there’s also OnStar 4G LTE with built-in wi-fi hotspot, wireless inductive phone charging, Apple's Siri Eyes Free voice-to-text, and an available Performance Data Recorder co-developed with Cosworth to help CTS-V drivers get the most from their time on track.
The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V hasn’t been fully crash-tested, but it’s based on the same core structure as the standard CTS, which earned top marks of “Good” from the IIHS, and five stars overall (and in each category) from the NHTSA. The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V has earned its own scores of five stars in side-impact and rollover ratings from the NHTSA.
At the pump, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V won’t be winning at Earth Day awards, but it won’t be eliciting (too much) hate mail from Greenpeace, either. According to the EPA, the CTS-V manages 14 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined.