2009 Cadillac STS-V Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 21, 2009

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V is a more affordable rival to BMW's M5 and the Mercedes E63 AMG, with an overall look and feel that isn’t quite up to the standards of those German rivals.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Cadillac STS-V in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's car enthusiasts researched available road tests on the 2009 Cadillac STS-V to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V has more aggressive exterior styling, interior upgrades, and a host of additional performance equipment compared to the standard STS sport sedan. With a hand-built, supercharged 4.4-liter V-8 under the hood, the STS-V is a limited-edition, high-performance variant of the mid-size STS.

The 469 horsepower engine accelerates the 2009 Cadillac STS-V to 60 mph in less than five seconds, delivering power to the rear wheels through an excellent six-speed automatic transmission with tap-shift controls.

Compared to the standard STS, the STS-V gets stiffer springs and larger anti-roll bars, plus powerful Brembo brakes and a quicker steering ratio. The 2009 Cadillac STS-V has a firm ride but it almost miraculously soaks up the bumps while staying tight in the most abrupt maneuvers and keeping the tires firmly planted.

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The look and feel of the interior still leaves something to be desired for a vehicle that prices over $80k. The instrument panel of the STS-V feels rather dull and plasticky compared to its German rivals—and the design hasn't been updated to the extent of the new CTS (and CTS-V)—but the rest of the interior, such as upholstery, is impressive in quality.

Otherwise, the cabin is quite comfortable. Seating in the 2009 Cadillac STS-V rivals that offered by its German competitors, with front seats that are amply proportioned and very supportive, with plenty of space. The back seat is surprisingly tight in legroom though; it’s barely roomy enough for average adults.

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V comes with an extensive list of high-tech features including: a heads-up display and Intellibeam headlamps that sense approaching headlights and dim themselves accordingly. Other standard technologies are heated rear seats and steering wheel, a lane-departure warning system, Adaptive Remote Start, and a blind-spot warning system.

Standard safety equipment on the STS-V includes front side airbags, head-protecting side-curtain bags, and a performance-calibrated electronic stability control system. The 2009 Cadillac STS-V earned four-star results from the federal government in all but side protection for rear-seat passengers (five stars), and the STS earned "good" results in frontal-offset protection, "acceptable" results in side impact, and "poor" in rear impact insurance industry (IIHS) tests.

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2009 Cadillac STS-V

Styling

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V now has styling that’s more in line with its expensive imported competitors while remaining uniquely American.

For 2009 the Cadillac STS-V carries over the face-lifted, CTS-like front end and substantially upgraded interior that it received last year.

"In a luxury sport sedan market that's traditionally dominated by German carmakers, the Cadillac STS-V makes a tremendous impression," says Edmunds. CNNMoney calls its look “bright and angular, with a mouthy stainless-steel grille, vertical headlights, vertiginous flanks, and an engorged hood that cocoons a supercharged Northstar V-8.” Cars.com observes that Cadillac’s lineup is one of the more consistent in the automotive world. “Unified styling gets a lot of lip service these days, but few carmakers have managed to craft an entire lineup as cohesive as Cadillac has,” they write.

Car and Driver finds the look somewhat inauthentic: "the exterior is all jeweled up with chrome door handles and trunklid trim plus fender 'air extractors' that don't function since air can't pass through solid plastic. They look nice, anyway." Cars.com points out the differences from the stock STS sedan: “Its special sculpted hood allows space for the engine's supercharger, and its 10-spoke, painted aluminum-alloy wheels are exclusive….Distinguishing touches include a polished stainless-steel wire-mesh grille, brake-cooling ducts and a splitter to counteract aerodynamic lift.” However, Automobile sums up the shape as many reviewers do: “Aesthetically, the maximum Caddy sedan suffers from its genesis as the anodyne STS, a car whose exterior and interior both leave us cold.”

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V's interior is well liked, with reviewers generally approving of the stylish steering wheel, trim, and seats. Car and Driver notes the "new, more sophisticated instrument cluster looks much richer than those in past cars." Edmunds reports, “Cadillac snazzed up the STS's interior significantly for 2009 with higher-quality wood and the addition of tasteful aluminum trim. Also, a sporty new steering wheel looks and feels better than the previous one.” According to Cars.com, "the STS has gotten some interior improvements—and it didn't need as many to begin with."

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2009 Cadillac STS-V

Performance

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V misses the handling high mark of European luxury supersedans, but few won’t find more than enough satisfying power from its supercharged V-8.

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V offers good handling and boast-worthy performance numbers, though it’s straight-line acceleration and on-the-edge performance isn’t quite in the same territory as other exclusive performance sedans.

The New York Times says the STS-V’s powertrain response wasn’t sporting enough: “The six-speed automatic transmission lags enough to be noticed, and even when all the horsepower is summoned, the STS-V prefers to stay true to its luxury-car roots.” However, most reviews echoed Edmunds’ sentiments: “Just dip the throttle and go. Mash the pedal and the STS-V jets forward on a huge wave of supercharged torque.”

Edmunds knows why the 2009 Cadillac STS-V is so fast: "the rear-drive STS-V is equipped with a supercharged 4.4-liter V8 engine that pumps out 469 hp and 439 pound-feet of torque." ConsumerGuide also loves the acceleration of the 2009 STS-V, noting that "Cadillac estimates 4.8 sec 0-60 mph, and it feels every bit that quick."

Automobile reports “the all-new six-speed manu-matic transmission doesn't always transfer the engine's goods to the rear axle as smoothly as you would expect, whether it's in fully automatic mode, on the sport setting, or in manual-shift mode, when it has an especially difficult time with the two-three upshift.” Edmunds notes that the automatic transmission on the 2009 Cadillac STS-V "has a tendency to move slowly through gearchanges." Cars.com was happy with the way the "supercharged Northstar engine teams with a six-speed automatic transmission" in the STS-V, calling the Caddy "an excellent example of a high-performance car that is more than livable in day-to-day driving."

The EPA estimates the STS-V's supercharged V-8 gets only 13 mpg city and 19 highway. ConsumerGuide tests indicate a rather dismal 13.7 mpg for the 2009 STS-V, for which premium gasoline is required.

Automobile nitpicks the STS-V's handling in comparison to German cars. “It's missing the fluidity that eludes so many GM products but which is usually present in the best performance cars from, you guessed it, Europe. And the Caddy's steering is too quick off-center and simply doesn't light up the lines of communication between the road and the driver.”

Cars.com says, “In our experience, the STS-V is an excellent example of a high-performance car that is more than livable in day-to-day driving.” Edmunds likes the car’s feel, though it finds it’s ultimately a softer sell than a certain German supersedan. “The car's rather large size ultimately limits its ability to hustle through corners, but it generally handles like a much smaller car,” they write. “Compared to the M5, the STS-V is softly sprung for American tastes, but body roll is well controlled, and the big Caddy never feels floppy or sloppy.”

Efficient stopping is just as important at quick acceleration and ConsumerGuide provides comforting feedback in this area, appreciating that "Reassuring brakes provide short, straight simulated panic stops."

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2009 Cadillac STS-V

Comfort & Quality

Interior room and quality are not strong points of the 2009 Cadillac STS-V.

Some sources researched by TheCarConnection.com raise quality and comfort issues that lower the rating of the 2009 Cadillac STS-V, but most reviews have positive things to say.

Observations from several reviewers conflicted regarding the abundance—or lack—of space in the STS-V. "The STS-V's long wheelbase means there's generous legroom in the front and back,” says Edmunds. Consumer Guide, while generally agreeing, is slightly less generous referring to the rear seat: "The seat itself is well contoured and offers good back support, though a longer seat bottom would enhance long-distance comfort. Headroom is just adequate." Forbes Autos also gripes that the rear seat is "surprisingly confined for a midsize luxury sedan." Consumer Guide finds some redemption in the fact that the "standard power tilt and telescopic steering wheel helps dial in a comfortable driving stance." Edmunds says ultimately, the STS-V will “have some appeal to those who need the maximum amount of space available in a high-performance luxury sedan.”

Consumer Guide lists 13.8 cubic feet of cargo room for the Cadillac 2009 STS-V and likes the rear storage area's design and space utilization, but harps, "Trunk space is unexceptional for STS's exterior size," going on to say, "Small-item storage is limited to a smallish center console and less-than-generous glove box."  Edmunds says, "The trunk is also smaller than what one might expect for this class of car."

Car and Driver likes the interior improvements carried over to the 2009 Cadillac STS-V from base STS models, but still laments: "Unfortunately, nobody thought to soften the edge of the center console, which still bruised our knees after just a few hours of driving." Forbes Autos, on the other hand, is more forgiving: "The interior uses high-quality materials and the controls are well laid out." Edmunds reports, “There are some demerits, though, mostly having to do with some low-grade plastic trim pieces that put the STS at a disadvantage against the top European and Japanese luxury sedans.” In general, the Cadillac STS-V can hold its own when it comes to interior quality and finish, although it's got a bit of catch-up to do in order to match foreign offerings. Consumer Guide registers a slight knock, claiming, "Interior materials quality is good when compared to domestic-branded premium sedans but falls just shy of the standards set by German and Japanese rivals."

When compared with other V-6 models Consumer Guide finds "slightly more road noise with the STS-V”—perhaps the price of firmer suspension tuning.

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2009 Cadillac STS-V

Safety

Crash-test results that are good but not great merge with some of GM’s top accident-avoiding safety features in the 2009 Cadillac STS-V.

Based on a glance at the list of safety features offered on the 2009 Cadillac STS-V, you might expect only the best marks resulting from crash tests. Instead its results are a bit disappointing for such a large, expensive sedan.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) scored the 2009 Cadillac STS-V  "good" in frontal offset tests, but "acceptable" in side-impact tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting four stars, front impact protection; four stars, side impact protection, driver; and five stars, side impact protection, rear passenger.

Cadillac employs Side Blind Zone Alerting (SBZA) to keep the driver from sideswiping punier traffic caught in the large Caddy's blind spots. The system uses radar and lights up small icons in the car's mirrors to alert the driver to a possible collision hazard. "Side Blind Zone Alert is what Cadillac calls its version of Volvo's Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS,” reports Car and Driver. "We had to look at the mirror so intently to see if the icon were illuminated, we might as well have just turned our heads a little farther and manually checked the blind spots." If consumers don't like the system either, Car and Driver has the solution: "Fortunately, both the blind-spot alert and the lane-departure warning are quickly and easily deactivated."

Edmunds observes "a limited-slip differential, antilock brakes, stability control and traction control are all standard on the STS-V," along with a full complement of airbags. They add, "Rear parking assist, a lane departure warning system and blind spot warning system are also standard." Cars.com likes the STS-V’s Intellibeam headlights, "which adjust their intensity based on the oncoming or leading vehicles."

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2009 Cadillac STS-V

Features

The well-equipped 2009 Cadillac STS-V is the pinnacle of performance luxury in the Cadillac lineup.

The 2009 Cadillac STS-V impressed reviewers with the amount of standard equipment. With only one trim level, few optional goodies are available, and feature-wise the STS-V runs with some of the world’s top tech-savvy sport sedans.

Forbes Autos calls out these standard features exclusive to the Cadillac 2009 STS-V: "stiffer stabilizer bars and suspension springs, a quicker steering ratio, high-performance brakes, and a performance-tuned chassis, all of which increase the car's cornering abilities without creating an unduly harsh ride." Cars.com joins the fray, detailing the Cadillac 2009 STS-V: "Its special sculpted hood allows space for the engine's supercharger, and its 10-spoke, painted aluminum-alloy wheels are exclusive."

Edmunds lists some of the notable standard features of the 2009 STS-V: "Leather/suede upholstery, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, power sunroof, navigation system w/voice recognition, rear radio controls, wireless cell phone link, head-up instrument display, heated washer nozzles, automatic-dimming headlights."

For those seeking options, the 2009 STS-V's selection is a bit slim, but there are a few on offer. Among them, buyers can choose to delete the sunroof to save a bit of money.

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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 8
Features 9
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