- Incredible power and acceleration
- Excellent high-speed handling and stability
- Surprisingly lively steering feel
- Brilliant comfort/performance balance
- Brash, but cohesive, design
- Marginal moderate overlap crash test performance
- Where's the manual transmission option?
The 2017 Cadillac CTS-V impresses on all fronts, unseating BMW and Mercedes-Benz by offering the best combination of performance and day-to-day livability in the large luxury/sport sedan segment.
The car that launched Cadillac’s high-performance V-series brand—the Cadillac CTS-V—is better than ever, thanks to a hefty dollop of refinement and technology added to its already impressive portfolio of performance.
In this vaporous world of super-fast luxo-barges, the CTS-V is a significant notch in Cadillac's comeback belt that holds up exceptionally well against its Teutonic rivals that have long dominated this Autobahn-storming segment.
The introduction of the smaller ATS—and its ATS-V evil twin—a few years ago meant that Cadillac had the opportunity to properly position the CTS against big league players like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63. And, let's be honest, it really shows at first glance: the CTS-V is clearly up to something.
MORE: Read our 2017 Cadillac CTS review
This certainly isn’t your ordinary goes-fine-with-a-business-suit luxury sedan. There's some serious muscle tugging that crisp designer suit. The standard CTS' avant-garde design is bolstered here with a domed hood, blacked-out trim, and tires so wide they might as well have their own ZIP code.
The look inside echoes the same theme, building on the CTS' chrome-laden but thoroughly modern instrument panel with more aggressively bolstered seats swathed in soft semi-aniline leather and grippy sueded microfiber. The look is futuristic and thoroughly modern, if a little subdued in its performance touches unless you opt for the available ultra-bolstered seats designed in partnership with Recaro. Striking a fine line between confining and comfortable, the available Recaros are among the best thrones ever installed in a car.
Cadillac CTS-V performance
Of course, it’s not all about design with the Cadillac CTS-V. If anything, it’s the reverse in that what's under the hood and what has been done to the suspension dictates the way this four-door looks.
At the heart of the CTS-V is a genuine supercar-grade 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine lifted from the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Yes, a bowtie motor does belong in a Cadillac, and what's maybe most impressive is how only a few minor modifications like a revised oil pan were needed to shoehorn this motor where 4- and 6-cylinder engines normally live.
With 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, this ferocious engine vaults the large sedan to 60 mph from a stop in a mere 3.7 seconds. If you happen to have a private runway at your disposal, you can test the CTS-V's 200-mph top speed.
Backing up that big V-8 is Cadillac's exceptionally stout, smooth, and fast-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox on offer. Built in-house, and, incidentally, also shared with the Corvette Z06, the 8-speed offers full manual control via paddles. But with a transmission that shifts this quickly, not to mention intelligently, on its own, we doubt you'll even need to use them. Unlike the Z06, the CTS-V's transmission is packaged in a traditional longitudinal mid-mounted location, rather than as part of a rear-mounted transaxle.
All that power hits the rear wheels in short order, but Cadillac made the necessary upgrades to the CTS' chassis with some significant rigidity improvements. A net gain of 20 percent in terms of structural stiffness is due to 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. Special Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are wrapped around staggered 9.5-inch wide front and 10.5-inch wide rear wheels, allowing the CTS-V to corner at nearly 1g of lateral acceleration.
The CTS-V may now utilize electric power steering, but the setup was supplied by Germany's ZF and it provides particularly good feedback thanks to a much stiffer rack than the last-generation car.
Like the smaller ATS-V, that ultra-rigid chassis benefits this sedan in spades on a closed race track or a winding canyon road. Yet thanks to the company's third-generation Magnetic Ride Control dampers mated to a five-link rear suspension and a multi-link double-pivot MacPherson strut front setup, the CTS-V is remarkably easygoing and luxurious when it needs to be.
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. A new Carbon Fiber Package adds an aerodynamics-enhancing body kit—a larger front splitter, larger rear spoiler, hood vent trim, and rear diffuser—composed of the ultra-stiff woven material.
Cadillac CTS-V features and safety
A different kind of technology comes inside the CTS-V with Cadillac's latest CUE infotainment system taking center stage on the dashboard to handle navigation, music, phone integration, and both Apple Car Play with Siri Eyes Free and Android Auto connectivity. Parent company General Motors' OnStar 4G LTE with a built-in wi-fi hotspot comes standard, although it requires a monthly service fee after an initial trial period.
Other tech includes a wireless indicative mobile phone charger and an optional Performance Data Record co-developed with Cosworth that lets CTS-V drivers review their time on a race track in full HD video.
Speaking of cameras, the CTS-V includes a trick rearview mirror that isn't a mirror at all. Instead, it is a high-resolution display captured by a camera mounted to the car's trunk lid that eliminates any blind spots caused by the car's roof pillars. It requires some acclimation, but it largely works as advertised and is likely to trickle down to other cars in the future.
The 2017 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 in all but the small-overlap test, where it received a surprisingly unimpressive "Marginal" rating. The CTS-V earned five stars in side impact and rollover testing from NHTSA, but it has not been tested for front collision performance.
At the pump, the 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.