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Driven: 2009 Cadillac CTS-V

August 26, 2009

While crawling along in traffic or responsibly setting the cruise on a pockmarked Interstate, it's quite possible to forget that you're in the fastest American sport sedan ever, with more than 550 horsepower on tap.

That's a huge compliment, as most high-performance cars let themselves be known in ever-present ways, with droning engine notes, bum-busting impact harshness, and stiffened bodies that ring in almost constant protestation on coarse highway surfaces.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V—which carries into 2010 with no significant changes, by the way—thankfully doesn't have any of these reminders. It's a car that, on the street, doesn't need to assert itself. Yet on the track it's a record-breaker, and if you push it to task, it really does sound and feel the part.

Nearly a year ago we brought you a first drive of the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V and reported that, compared to the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, the BMW M3, the CTS-V's Corvette ZR1-derived, 556-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine "has a much fatter torque curve that smacks you back in your seat just above idle and builds steadily all the way to redline." Zero-to-60 times have come in under four seconds, and GM claims a top speed of 191 mph with the six-speed manual.

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

And, we reported, the 2009 CTS-V has the chassis and suspension tuning to make the great engine enjoyable no matter what the conditions. With the Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system that's standard in the CTS-V—using magnetically sensitive fluid that can become almost instantly soft or firm to fit conditions—the CTS-V feels composed yet docile, and responsive whenever you want it to be.

GM has put together an overall package that's just as agreeable in everyday driving as it is on the track—and that's no small feat. Most of the week, we drove around with the suspension set to 'Comfort' and the transmission selector simply in drive. That's one of the reasons why the CTS-V doesn't feel at all like a twitchy tuner car or show glaring compromises, favoring performance at the expense of comfort. The throttle pedal is calibrated in a nice, linear fashion, which means that despite all the torque on tap just off idle you can take off gently, so as not to draw attention, the supercharger faintly whirring and whining but the robust, throaty exhaust note saved for when you really get on it. Just keeping up with traffic, you'll find revs rarely getting much above 2,000 rpm, with the six-speed automatic doing its best cushy luxury cruiser impression. And the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is relatively resistant to tramline and follow bumps and the crown of the road.

For those who want a firmer steering feel and more aggressive throttle calibration, also locking in the firmest suspension settings and allowing more slip from the stability control, there's also a Competition Mode.

As in our first drive, we recommend that you step up to the optional Recaro seats, finished in a grippy yet soft, suede-like material and providing excellent side support along with thigh extensions. These are seats that you'll be happy with whether you spend the day with the cruise control set to 75 or exercise the CTS-V on the track.

The 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, just as the CTS, has a unified, attractive design, with excellent materials and surfaces. We've heard complaints that the CTS's center control stack is cluttered, but to us it seems quite logical—and we'd much rather have a few more buttons than to have a full screen of menus to navigate through repeatedly. Volume and tuning knobs are up high, and the most-needed controls are redundant on the steering wheel. The pop-up navigation system remains one of the best in the business, with a beautiful, high-contrast screen and very well integrated real-time traffic features. Unlike some systems, you don't have to be currently in a navigation mode to get live traffic alerts. As it doesn't steal space or attention in the instrument panel when it's not in use. The hand stitching on door and dash panels is a nice touch as well. Ours used a nice carbon-fiber trim; this editor doesn't usually love wood trim, but the veneers that are available in all the CTS models are top-notch and well worth considering.

The bottom-line price on our test CTS-V was $67,140, which lands it right in the same price range as the M3 and C63, and the Jaguar XJ Supercharged. The CTS-V is hit with a $2,600 gas guzzler tax—which seems a bit odd to us, as we achieved 18 mpg in a week with this performance sedan, doing better than many five-passenger, V-6 SUVs and crossovers. The CTS-V's 12/18 EPA ratings are the reason why, but they don't seem realistic.

While GM as a whole has been doing some soul-searching this year, it's already found its stride—and then some—with the world-class CTS-V.

The manufacturer provided this vehicle to High Gear Media for the purposes of evaluation. 

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