2013 Cadillac CTS-V

8.4
2013 Cadillac CTS-V

The Basics:

The CTS was Cadillac's first real step back into true world-class luxury cars, and now, two generations on, the Cadillac CTS-V has vaulted it to frontrunner-status of not just luxury, but performance cars, almost regardless of price.

Wearing stylishly angular exteriors, chunky proportions, and aggressive details--courtesy of the latest iteration of the Art & Science design evolution--the CTS-V range includes a sedan, a coupe, and a wagon. While their interiors are a grade above the standard CTS, the sportier, sometimes more luxurious details are still wrapped around the somewhat brash and basic cabin of the car they're based on.

Strikingly handsome, fun to drive, well-built, and competitive on pricing and features, the 2013 Cadillac CTS continues the brand's good reputation.

All use the same 556-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 LSA engine, paired with either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Zero to 60 mph times under 4.0 seconds are common to all three models, and being very similar in wheelbase and weight, they all handle about the same, too, which is to say, surprisingly well. Steering feel is a bit heavy and imprecise at times, but the overall feeling is of a car that's much smaller and lighter than it really is. On the skidpad, the CTS-V can muster more than 1g of lateral grip.

Underpinning this thrilling performance is an unexpectedly comfortable ride, enabled in large part by the advanced magnetic ride suspension system that dynamically adapts to driver inputs and road conditions. Beyond ride quality, the seats and cabin are very comfortable as well, particularly the leather Recaro front seats. The rear seat isn't as spacious, particularly in leg room, and is best reserved for a maximum of two adults despite seating areas for three.

Quality, fit, and finish is generally very good, though some control locations are less than ideal (a carryover from the standard CTS) and some of the switchgear can look a bit cheaper than you'd expect of a roughly $65,000 car. The CTS-V Sport Wagon largely alleviates rear-seat concerns while adding the utility of the rear cargo area. The Coupe offers about the same rear seat space as the sedan, but with trickier access, and slightly less headroom owing to a lower roofline.

As you'd expect with car of the CTS-V's caliber, there are a wide range of standard features and even more in the way of upgrades. Heated front seats, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth phone connectivity are all standard. A built-in g-meter measures performance statistics like lateral grip, acceleration, and more. The Coupe adds blind-spot monitors, new last year, to aid visibility around its large flanks. Navigation is optional, but brings with it a large retractable screen that sinks into the dash when not in use.

Subtlety is not the Cadillac CTS-V's strong suit, in any regard, but perhaps least of all in style. A gaping mesh grille, flared fenders, large wheels, and a general ambience of menacing speed are the key takeaways at first glance.

Inside, the CTS-V is a bit more refined, but still isn't shy of chrome accents or V-themed design elements. LED accent lighting makes the car feel rather posh at night, and the retracting navigation screen on equipped cars is positively James Bond.

The cut-and-sew leather upholstery and wood trim is well-done, too, but feels at odds with some of the switchgear, which looks and feels more plasticky and cheap than it should. Overall, however, the effect is dramatic and sharp, though it will appeal to a different personality type than the cooler, more starkly-styled German offerings will.

The 2013 Cadillac CTS-V shines when it comes to on-road and on-track performance, for a handful of rather simple and obvious reasons: the 556-horsepower, 551-pound-feet of torque generated by its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine; the magnetic ride suspension; and its incredibly capable brakes.

All three feel--and truly, are--track-capable. But despite this very sharp edge of performance on tap, the CTS-V is tractable, even docile, when driven easily. It saves its Hulk transformation for the driver's request.

Handling is beyond impressive for such a large car--the CTS-V weighs about 4,200 pounds depending on body style--with ample grip, quick transitional ability, and very good chassis feel. The steering is somewhat less impressive, with a numbed sensation taking away some of the details you'll want in hard driving. On the flip side, that slight numbness makes driving on the street less overwhelming than it might be.

And on the street, the CTS-V range is immensely comfortable as well as fast. The Magnetic Ride Control suspension deserves much of the credit here, using dampers filled with magnetically-sensitive fluid to dynamically respond to road conditions, instantaneously firming or softening the suspension as needed. In Sport mode, the magnetic suspension puts a sharper edge on its behavior, while the Competitive Driving Mode for the StabiliTrack stability control system makes the most of available grip at the tires.

With 0-60 mph times in the 4.0-second and under range for Coupe, Sedan, and Sport Wagon, and top speeds as high as 191 mph, the CTS-V range is undeniably among the most impressive, capable luxury cars on the road--or the track.

Comfort is often given a backseat to performance in the hot version of any car. In the Cadillac CTS-V, however, the engineers managed to strike a surprising balance--with both at a high level.

That's most true in the front seats, where the standard sport seats are comfy for most, and the leather-and-microfiber Recaros are even better. Headroom is good, and leg room is too, though the shape of the center console area can impinge on the knees of taller drivers.

The console panel, where most of the car's cabin controls are located, is a bit of a love-hate situation; it's attractive and functional in its way, but it's also cluttered and not particularly modern-looking.

In the rear seats of the sedan and coupe, you'll find space enough for adults, but with a bit of a premium on knee room. Overall width is good for two adults, but tight for three. In the Sport Wagon, there's a bit more room for rear seat passengers, and easier access thanks to slightly longer rear doors, but it's still best-suited to two adults.

All three models offer rather good cargo space, with large trunks in the sedan and coupe, though the opening is somewhat small. The Sport Wagon fits even more gear in its extended tail, and the rear liftgate makes access easy.

Ride quality is very good thanks to the Magnetic Ride Control suspension system, and the big, powerful engine is surprisingly quiet around town. The available automatic transmission shifts smoothly in normal driving, enhancing the easy, quiet, relaxed feel of the CTS-V when time isn't of the essence.

The 2013 Cadillac CTS-V hasn't been crash-tested by any of the major safety organizations, as is common with smaller-volume, high-performance cars.

The 2013 Cadillac CTS the V-series is based on, however, has been tested. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) scores the sedan and Sport Wagon at five stars overall, with five-star frontal and five-star side impact scores. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) scores the essentially identical 2012 CTS at top marks of "good" in front and side-impact tests, awarding the CTS Sedan a Top Safety Pick designation.

Even without direct crash-test scores to work with, the CTS-V's capable handling, impressive braking, and immense grip provide a feeling of stability and safety. Standard safety equipment includes: dual-stage frontal driver and dual-depth frontal passenger airbags; front occupant side airbags; and front and rear head curtain airbags; Automatic Crash Response service via OnStar; rearview cameras; rear park assist sensors; plus anti-lock brakes, an advanced stability and traction control system, and wiper-activated headlights.

Unlike many luxury vehicles, the Cadillac CTS-V range doesn't divide itself into multiple tiers of trim and equipment levels; it's well-equipped in base form and offers a handful of available technology upgrades.

Standard equipment includes Xenon HID headlamps; Adaptive Forward Lighting system; rearview cameras; rear park assist sensors; rain-sensing wipers; a heated steering whee; heated, powered front seats; dual-zone climate control; 40-GB surround-sound audio; Bluetooth interface; USB connectivity; and DVD compatibility.

Keyless entry is also standard, and can be programmed to automatically unlock the doors as you approach with the keyfob.

A navigation system is the primary upgrade option, with a vibrant, attractive screen. A unique feature is its retracting/extending dual-function behavior: a button allows the screen to be drawn down into the dash, leaving a small portion visible for climate and audio controls. With the screen extended upward, full navigation and other functions are visible. Real-time traffic functions are available with XM NavTraffic, enabling live displays of traffic jams and dynamic rerouting.

All Cadillacs now come standard with Cadillac Premium Care Maintenance, which includes oil changes, inspections, and other scheduled maintenance for the first four years of ownership, or 50,000 miles.

The 2013 Cadillac CTS-V is a rather large, heavy, and incredibly high-performance luxury vehicle, no matter whether you choose the Coupe, Sedan, or Sport Wagon. Accordingly, it isn't going to win any awards for gas mileage.

All three versions of the CTS-V rate 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway with the manual transmission, and 12/18 mpg with the automatic.

Buying Tips:

Be sure to test the CTS-V's sport seats before buying, as there's a stiffly-padded center section that can be uncomfortable for some drivers and passengers.

Other Choices:

  • 2013 BMW M3
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz C Class
  • 2013 Lexus IS F
  • 2013 Audi S4
  • 2013 Infiniti G37 Sedan

Reason Why:

Though it's closer in size to the next class up of German and Japanese cars, the Cadillac CTS-V is priced on par with the more compact alternatives. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, for example, offers similar levels of style and handling, but with significantly less horsepower. Lexus's IS-F is likewise close on paper, but comes up short on power and on comfort in the real world. Audi's S4 uses a considerably less-powerful supercharged V-6, but offers a very well-executed interior and more subdued, but still sporty, exterior design. The BMW M3 is even more razor-edged than the CTS-V when it comes to handling, and it's very quick, but it gives up nearly 140 horsepower and some rear-seat space. The Infiniti G37 IPL is a relative newcomer, and like the Audi S4, it's significantly outclassed in terms of power, though being lighter and smaller, it is also nimbler than the Cadillac.

The Bottom Line:

If you're looking for Corvette fun wrapped in Cadillac luxury and comfort, with an added dose of practicality, the 2013 CTS-V is your answer.

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