2008 Cadillac STS-V

2008 Cadillac STS-V

The Basics:

To prepare this comprehensive review on the 2008 Cadillac STS-V, the experts at TheCarConnection.com have found the most insightful and useful information from a variety of review sources. TheCarConnection.com’s editors have also driven the STS-V and bring their impressions to this review as well.

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V is the limited-edition, high-performance variant of the mid-size STS sport sedan. Although it keeps the same basic layout and appearance of the STS, it has more aggressive exterior styling, interior upgrades, and a host of additional performance equipment to match the special hand-built supercharged 4.4-liter V-8 underhood.

The STS is middle-of-the-pack in many respects, but it stands out as Cadillac’s technology flagship.

For 2008, the entire STS family, including the STS-V, gets a new nose and wider grille, along with some interior enhancements.

The engine makes 469 horsepower, and can get the 2008 Cadillac STS-V to 60 mph in less than five seconds, delivering power to the rear wheels through an excellent six-speed automatic with tap-shift controls.

The 2008 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. In addition, the STS-V gets stiffer springs and larger anti-roll bars than the standard STS, plus powerful Brembo brakes, and the steering ratio is quicker.

Seating in the 2008 Cadillac STS-V rivals that offered by the German competition. The front seats are amply proportioned and very supportive, with plenty of space; the backseat is barely roomy enough for average adults. The instrument panel 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.

In addition to some of the best performance equipment available, the 2008 Cadillac STS-V comes with an extensive list of the latest high-tech features--with many of those optional on the regular STS models standard on the STS-V. They include a head-up display, along with new Intellibeam headlamps, which sense approaching headlights and dim themselves accordingly. Other technological upgrades standard on the STS-V include heated rear seats and steering wheel, a lane-departure warning system, Adaptive Remote Start, and a blind-spot warning system.

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V is in the middle of the pack in safety, based on crash-test results. Four-star results were given 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. 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 2008 Cadillac STS-V has undergone a face-lift, with a new front end that’s more like its sibling CTS and a new interior that’s substantially nicer than the one it replaces.

Cars.com observes that Cadillac’s lineup, including the 2008 STS-V, 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. With its newly reshaped front and rear ends, the STS-V is even more distinctive than its competition; Edmunds says, "In a luxury sport sedan market that's traditionally dominated by German carmakers, the Cadillac STS-V makes a tremendous impression." With its bold stance and prominent larger grille, the Cadillac 2008 STS-V is definitely hard to miss. 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 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.”

The STS is middle-of-the-pack in many respects, but it stands out as Cadillac’s technology flagship.

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.” Car and Driver finds the look somewhat inauthentic, too: "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."

According to Cars.com, "the STS has gotten some interior improvements--and it didn't need as many to begin with." The 2008 Cadillac STS-V's interior is well liked, with reviewers generally approving of the Cadillac 2008 STS-V's stylish steering wheel, trim, and seats. Car and Driver notes the "new, more sophisticated instrument cluster that looks much richer than those in past cars." Edmunds reports “Cadillac snazzed up the STS's interior significantly for 2008 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.”

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V packs some impressive performance numbers, backed with good handling.

Edmunds is quite impressed with the Cadillac 2008 STS-V, calling it "powerful in every situation." ConsumerGuide also loves the acceleration of the 2008 Cadillac, noting that "Cadillac estimates 4.8 sec 0-60 mph, and it feels every bit that quick." Edmunds knows why the 2008 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." The New York Times feels the STS-V’s 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.”

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." Edmunds notes that the automatic transmission on the Cadillac 2008 STS-V "has a tendency to move slowly through gearchanges." 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.”

ConsumerGuide tests indicate a rather dismal 13.7 mpg for the 2008 STS-V, for which premium gasoline is required. ConsumerGuide also includes EPA estimates, with the STS-V's supercharged V-8 coming in at 13 mpg city, 19 mpg highway.

Handling in the 2008 Cadillac STS-V is a source of mixed reviews from around the Web. 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.” Automobile picks nits with its handling in comparison to German cars, though: “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.”

Getting up to speed quickly is great, but should one get carried away, it's nice to be able to stop efficiently too, especially in a car of the Cadillac's heft. ConsumerGuide provides comforting feedback in this area, appreciating that "Reassuring brakes provide short, straight simulated panic stops."

In general, the reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com have mostly positive things to say about the 2008 Cadillac STS-V's passenger accommodations, although some sources raise quality and comfort issues that lower its rating.

In a car as long and wide as the 2008 Cadillac, one would think that head- and legroom in its four seats would never be an issue, a concept Edmunds seems to support: "The STS-V's long wheelbase means there's generous legroom in the front and back." ConsumerGuide, 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." ForbesAutos gripes that the rear seat is "surprisingly confined for a midsize luxury sedan." ConsumerGuide 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.”

In-vehicle storage is a bit disappointing in the 2008 Cadillac STS-V, with Edmunds complaining, "The trunk is also smaller than what one might expect for this class of car." ConsumerGuide 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." ConsumerGuide lists 13.8 cubic feet of cargo room for the Cadillac 2008 STS-V.

In general, the Cadillac 2008 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. ConsumerGuide 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." Car and Driver likes the interior improvements carried over to the Cadillac 2008 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." ForbesAutos, 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.”

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V is quiet and comfortable, with ConsumerGuide finding that "slightly more road noise with the STS-V" when compared with V-6 models. All those extra ponies have to come at some price.

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V scores reasonably well in crash tests and sports a long list of standard safety gear.

Crash-test data is solid, with 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. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests are similar, with the Cadillac 2008 STS-V scoring "good" in frontal offset tests and "acceptable" in side impact tests.

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."

Visibility is aided by the blind-spot alert system on the Cadillac 2008 STS-V, as described by Car and Driver: "Side Blind Zone Alert is what Cadillac calls its version of Volvo's Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS." 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. Car and Driver is not completely enamored with the system, complaining, "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."

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V, while offered in only one trim level, has a plethora of standard features, but few optional goodies available for those looking for even more. Reviewers are impressed with the amount of equipment on the Cadillac 2008 STS-V.

Edmunds lists some of the notable standard features of the 2008 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." ForbesAutos calls out these standard features exclusive to the Cadillac 2008 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 2008 STS-V: "Its special sculpted hood allows space for the engine's supercharger, and its 10-spoke, painted aluminum-alloy wheels are exclusive."

For those seeking options, the 2008 STS-V's selection is a bit slim, but it has a few to offer. Namely, deleting the 2008 Cadillac's sunroof will save buyers $996, while adding special paint or an engine block heater will set them back $826 and $83, respectively.

Buying Tips:

The upcoming 2009 Cadillac CTS-V has already been revealed: a significant upgrade to 550 horsepower and more improvements throughout. We're quite certain the STS-V will see the same, so you may want to hold on to your money until then.

Other Choices:

  • 2008 BMW M5
  • 2008 Jaguar S-TYPE

Reason Why:

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V competes solidly against the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E63 AMG, but both of those vehicles have what matters more to many buyers: a faster acceleration time. Both the M5 and AMG sedans have more of a reputation than the STS-V, and their interiors feel more opulent and exclusive. Yet another rival is the Jaguar S-Type R, which yields a respectable 400 horsepower from its supercharged V-8 and acceleration numbers that are almost as small, but at a price that's about $15,000 less. On the downside, the S-Type is a dated design that's soon to be replaced for 2009 by the fresh new XF.

The Bottom Line:

The 2008 Cadillac STS-V is a formidable rival to BMW's M5 and the Mercedes E63 AMG--at a lower price.

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