2010 Cadillac CTS-V Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 2, 2009

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is about as close as you can get to a four-door Corvette; Cadillac manages to beat top German sports sedans with a track-ready sedan that doesn’t forget about comfort.

The editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the Cadillac CTS-V and report here with firsthand driving impressions and an overall assessment of how the CTS-V matches up against other leading luxury sport sedans. In order to bring you the most useful review possible, TheCarConnection.com has also assembled highlights from some of the best review sources, all together in a full review.

The latest in a line of performance-focused V-Series cars from Cadillac, the Cadillac CTS-V packs a version of the Chevy Corvette ZR1 engine and takes aim at some of the leading sport sedans from Germany. The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is based on the more mainstream CTS luxury sedan but is more exclusive, built in small numbers, and considerably more expensive.

Last year the CTS-V was reintroduced as a much more aggressively styled and more powerful vehicle, picking up the refinements inside and out that the CTS gained for '08. That's to say, the CTS-V isn't as smooth or rakish as rival sedans in this class; from either the front or rear, it's boxy and angular, though the roofline and door lines help soften the proportions a bit. Taking a closer look, there are plenty of details to appreciate, including jewel-like headlamps, meshlike upper and lower grilles, a well-sculpted front fascia, and integrated fog lamps in front; in back Cadillac's vertical tail lamps flank the corners, and the trunklid crease is lined with a spoilerlike strip of LEDs. V-Series badging and chrome side vents also help distinguish the V, and flashy 19-inch wheels, polished or painted, have V-shaped spoke segments and showcase the heavy-duty Brembo brake hardware. Overall, the exterior is different and probably won't appeal to everyone, but inside, the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V follows smoother yet still very fashionable design. 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, LED accent lighting is piped in, and an available navigation display retracts neatly into the dash when not in use.

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The lusty 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine in the 2010 CTS-V makes an impressive 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque—enough to outgun other top sports sedans from Germany. Performance times have come in at just under four seconds to 60 mph either with the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, with a top speed of 191 mph. In real-world driving, the tremendous torque of this engine can pin you back to your seat in just about any situation, yet a well-calibrated throttle makes it easy to take off smoothly and gently. The six-speed manual gearbox is precise, with a light clutch, while the automatic comes with paddle shifters that allow manual selection if you shift to a separate gate. All this power is made enjoyable through great handling, aided by GM's Magnetic Ride Control, which uses a magnetically sensitive fluid in the dampers to almost instantaneously firm up or soften the suspension. It allows a supple ride on rough roads and crisp body control when it's needed. The system has a Sport mode, and 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.

Interior comfort is good in the CTS-V, especially if you're sitting out front in the well-bolstered leather sport seats or the even better available Recaro seats—finished in a breathable and grippy microfiber—that add lateral support for high-performance driving and supportive thigh extensions for taller drivers. The backseats are a little tight, but there's enough space for two adults in reasonable comfort. The instrument panel is a love-hate thing; it's attractive, with some impressive features and design details, but rather cluttered overall, with the climate controls especially low, near the driver's knee.

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V gets good crash-test ratings, but they're not quite top-notch in all areas. The Cadillac CTS—which has virtually the same structure—gets four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection from the federal government. However, it garners very impressive "good" scores in IIHS frontal offset, side, and rear tests. Cadillac's excellent StabiliTrak stability control system with a special track-oriented performance mode is standard along with anti-lock braking, front side airbags, and head curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers.

The Cadillac CTS-V is offered as a single model, pretty much including everything that's expected in a traditional luxury car plus a few additional tech features. Xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Forward Lighting, ultrasonic rear parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, heated power front seats, and dual-zone climate control are all there. So is a surround-sound audio system with a 40GB hard drive, USB connectivity, DVD compatibility, and a Bluetooth interface. Upgrade to the navigation system and you get one of the best screens we've tested; the sharp color screen functions as a radio display when stowed but extends upward when using nav functions. It also incorporates XM NavTraffic to provide live traffic information on maps and dynamic rerouting. Cadillac also provides a place to put the keyfob for the handy EZ key entry system, which can be set to automatically unlock the doors as you approach.

9

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Styling

Not everyone will love the edgy exterior, but the warm, classy interior design of the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V outdoes most other top sports sedans.

Last year the CTS-V was reintroduced as a much more aggressively styled and more powerful vehicle, picking up the refinements inside and out that the CTS gained for '08.

Most—but not all—reviewers appreciate the bold styling of the CTS-V, which isn't as smooth or rakish as rival sedans in this class. Automobile magazine lauded Cadillac's design of the CTS-V by noting that the curves have "really come into its own" and saying that the overall appeal isn't tarnished with "gratuitous, 'sporty' add-ons." Motor Trend and Autoblog both pointed to the CTS-V's aggressive front, with Motor Trend noting the "ominously bulged hood," and Autoblog noting that the big mesh grille is roughly twice as big as the last-generation CTS-V.

Taking a closer look, there are plenty of details to appreciate, including integrated fog lights, a sculpted bumper, big upper and lower mesh grilles and jeweled headlights. In back the trunklid is lined with a strip of LEDs and tall vertical taillights are impressive. V-Series badging and chrome side vents also help distinguish the V, and big 19-inch wheels show off the big Brembo binders hidden behind the polished or painted wheels. Automobile noticed the rear center-mounted taillight, which was reshaped to act as a spoiler at high speeds to produce downforce.

Overall, the exterior is different and probably won't appeal to everyone, but inside, the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V follows smoother yet still very fashionable design. The interior trim extends across the instrument panel down into a V-shaped accent in the center console that houses entertainment and climate controls. LED lights bathe the interior in soft light, and the retractable navigation screen tucks away neatly into the dash when not in use. Jalopnik gave the car high praise compared to Mercedes-Benz and BMW by saying that the interior of the CTS-V was simply better. Compared to other CTS models, the high-po CTS-V adds red tracers to the needles to "add a technical sophistication," according to Road & Track. Automobile largely agreed, saying that the cabin looks "both purposeful and classy," thanks to good interior materials and layout. Consumer Guide added a dissenting opinion by saying that the CTS-V prioritizes form over function when it comes to major controls and that the V-shape forced needed buttons into a small area of the dashboard.

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10

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Performance

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is truly one of the best-performing sport sedans in the world.

The lusty 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine in the 2010 CTS-V makes an impressive 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque—enough to outgun other top sports sedans from Germany. Performance times have come in at just under four seconds to 60 mph either with the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic, with a top speed of 191 mph.

Jalopnik explains that while the engine in the Cadillac CTS-V is borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, it makes a bit less power in the CTS-V: “a not-quite-as-ridiculous 551 lb-ft and 556 hp." These numbers are still groundbreaking for a sedan, and enough for Motor Trend to declare the Cadillac CTS-V "the fastest, most powerful American sedan in history." Jalopnik calls it "the fastest production sedan in the world."

In real-world driving, the tremendous torque of this engine can shift drivers and passengers further back into their seats with a deep stab at the throttle, yet a well-calibrated throttle makes it easy to take off smoothly and gently. The six-speed manual gearbox is precise, with a light clutch, while the automatic comes with paddle shifters that allow manual selection if you shift to a separate gate. All this power is made enjoyable through great handling, aided by adjustable suspension settings made possible by magnetic fluid in the shocks that can firm or soften the ride depending on setting and situations.  It allows a supple ride on rough roads and crisp body control when it's needed. The system has a Sport mode, and when combined with a big engine, solid brakes, and sticky Z-rated Michelin performance tires, the adept chassis shines through in Competitive Driving mode.

Cars.com found plenty of pull everywhere in the torque range and a hushed interior made it relatively easy to "crash into the rather hard rev limiter" without much effort. Easy, available torque doesn't make for a lazy car, Consumer Guide wrote, noting that with either manual or automatic transmission the CTS-V sprints up to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. Road & Track took it a step further and wrote that the speedometer should be optional&—a sticker saying "You're speeding" is all that's needed.

Whether you choose the six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic, you really can't go wrong in the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V; editors for the The Car Connection appreciated both, especially the manual. Consumer Guide wrote that the manual shifter worked well with a "precise but meaty feel." Cars.com praised the short throw and said the ratios perfectly matched the engine's "hearty grunt." Road & Track sampled the automatic and said that the autobox was an "enjoyable experience" thanks to quick upshifts and rev-matched downshifts with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Reviewers at The Car Connection noted that to use the paddle shifters first required tipping the gear shifter into manual mode, which can be annoying for some.

While the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V has the acceleration times to meet or beat most of the world's fastest sport sedans, not everyone is completely enthused about the way the CTS-V steers. 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.

Although the steering could use some work by some accounts, comments about the CTS-V's handling are universally positive, with most reviewers pointing to how well the suspension soaks up bumps, too. 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," and 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." ConsumerGuide concludes that the CTS-V provides "tenacious grip in turns, and tremendously powerful brakes."

With its huge, supercharged V-8, the CTS-V has, as you might expect, quite unimpressive fuel economy figures. With the automatic, it's rated at 12 mpg city, 19 highway, while the manual comes in at 14/19 mpg.

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8

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V is a surprisingly comfortable daily driver, with top-notch cabin materials.

In recent years Cadillac revived its focus on quality and interior refinement, and by nearly all accounts, the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V has a very impressive cabin.

The CTS-V is inviting and comfortable, especially in the leather sport buckets up front or in the available Recaro seats shod in microfiber that add more lateral support and longer thigh extensions for taller drivers. On paper, the CTS-V seats five adults, but we've found that four will be more comfortable. Many critics have noted the comfort of the optional Recaro seats, which Autoblog praised for being highly adjustable. Consumer Guide liked the standard sport seats, and noted their support during quick drives, but added that the Recaros have better adjustable bolsters to "dial in ideal comfort/support ratio."

Critics aren't as prolific about the rear seats, but Consumer Guide wrote that the back is adequate, but larger adults could feel "crowded" and that the available sunroof cuts into head room, which is a common complaint.

The CTS-V is fit for daily driving duty, but suffers in available cargo space. Consumer Guide wrote that the trunk is inhibited by a small opening, and that interior storage in the glove box and center console is only average. Edmunds agreed, saying that fitting big bulky items into the 13.6 cubic feet in the trunk is "hampered by a very short deck."

Most reviewers are very impressed with the assembly quality and materials used for the 2010 CTS-V interior. Edmunds gave the CTS-V high praise by noting that the attention to detail in the Cadillac wouldn't be out of place in more expensive cars. Consumer Guide picks it up from there, saying the interior rivals "the best in this highly competitive class." Autoblog enjoyed the microfiber inserts around the seats and steering wheel, writing that the small touches gave the interior a rich feel and great looks. Road & Track and Automobile magazine liked the piano black interior trim by noting that it helped keep the interior from looking too dour and dark.

The cabin is also among the quietest and most refined in this class, and at interstate cruising speeds, you'd hardly know that you're in one of the world's most powerful sport sedans. ConsumerGuide says that "wind noise is well muted, but engine and tire noise are relatively pronounced," but Autoblog differs, mentioning that the exhaust note on the Cadillac CTS-V is "louder than a base CTS but far less than a typical aftermarket exhaust system." Cars.com remarks 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."

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8

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Safety

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V doesn't have straight-A crash-test scores to match its excellent performance specs, but it's definitely safe.

The 2010 Cadillac CTS-V gets good crash-test ratings, but they're not quite top-notch in all areas. The Cadillac CTS—which has virtually the same structure—gets four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection from the federal government. However, it earns very impressive "good" scores in IIHS frontal offset, side, and rear tests.

Cadillac's excellent StabiliTrak stability control system, with a special track-oriented performance mode, is standard on the 2010 CTS-V, along with anti-lock braking, front side airbags, active head restraints, and head curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers.

Editors at The Car Connection found that the stability control system—normally a safety feature—doubled duty as a useful performance mechanism by making the CTS-V approachable for better drivers. Automobile magazine listed the available settings on the standard system, from on, competition, and full off, and Motor Trend complimented the Performance Traction Management system, which is optional, and noted the six different traction settings for varying circumstances.

As with many of today's new vehicles, the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V suffers from impaired visibility from the driver's seat. 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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9

2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Features

All the latest entertainment and connectivity features come together with thrilling, track-ready performance in the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V.

The Cadillac CTS-V is offered as a single model, pretty much including everything that's expected in a traditional luxury car, plus a few additional tech features.

Xenon HID headlamps, Adaptive Forward Lighting, ultrasonic rear parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, heated power front seats, and dual-zone climate control are all included. So is a surround-sound audio system with a 40GB hard drive, USB connectivity, DVD compatibility, and a Bluetooth interface. Cadillac also provides a place to put the keyfob for the handy EZ key entry system, which can be set to automatically unlock the doors as you approach.

Upgrade to the navigation system and you get one of the best screens we've tested; the sharp color screen functions as a radio display when stowed but extends upward when using nav functions. It also incorporates XM NavTraffic to provide live traffic information on maps as well as dynamic rerouting. ConsumerGuide reports that "the navigation screen is large and legible, and quickly powers up or down."

Plenty of review sources take note of the standard and optional tech features in the CTS-V. ConsumerGuide says that "features include steering-linked headlamps and keyless entry and ignition," 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."

Because the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V already comes with the works, the options list is limited to a few features—most of them aimed at those who want the best possible performance or might take their vehicle to the track on weekends. Motor Trend notes that that the available Performance Pack includes "metal-faced pedals" and Cadillac's new "Performance Traction Management." But by far, the upgraded Recaro sport seats are the most talked-about option. 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."

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For 2010 Cadillac CTS-V

Great Performance 4 Door Sedan

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My 2010 CTS-V has been great fun to drive and the performance has made me almost forget how much I loved my 2002 Corvette Z06. Even the fuel economy on the highway has been more than acceptable with a best 24... + More »
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