The car that launched Cadillac's high-performance V-series brand—the Cadillac CTS-V—is better than ever, thanks to a hefty dollop of refinement and technology added to its already impressive portfolio of performance.
In this vaporous world of super-fast luxo-barges, the CTS-V is a significant notch in Cadillac's comeback belt that holds up exceptionally well against its Teutonic rivals that have long dominated this Autobahn-storming segment.
The introduction of the smaller ATS—and its ATS-V evil twin—a few years ago meant that Cadillac had the opportunity to properly position the CTS against big league players like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63. And, let's be honest, it really shows at first glance: the CTS-V is clearly up to something.
MORE: Read our 2017 Cadillac CTS review
This certainly isn't your ordinary goes-fine-with-a-business-suit luxury sedan. There's some serious muscle tugging that crisp designer suit. The standard CTS' avant-garde design is bolstered here with a domed hood, blacked-out trim, and tires so wide they might as well have their own ZIP code.
The look inside echoes the same theme, building on the CTS' chrome-laden but thoroughly modern instrument panel with more aggressively bolstered seats swathed in soft semi-aniline leather and grippy sueded microfiber. The look is futuristic and thoroughly modern, if a little subdued in its performance touches unless you opt for the available ultra-bolstered seats designed in partnership with Recaro. Striking a fine line between confining and comfortable, the available Recaros are among the best thrones ever installed in a car.
Cadillac CTS-V performance
Of course, it's not all about design with the Cadillac CTS-V. If anything, it's the reverse in that what's under the hood and what has been done to the suspension dictates the way this four-door looks.
At the heart of the CTS-V is a genuine supercar-grade 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine lifted from the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Yes, a bowtie motor does belong in a Cadillac, and what's maybe most impressive is how only a few minor modifications like a revised oil pan were needed to shoehorn this motor where 4- and 6-cylinder engines normally live.
With 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, this ferocious engine vaults the large sedan to 60 mph from a stop in a mere 3.7 seconds. If you happen to have a private runway at your disposal, you can test the CTS-V's 200-mph top speed.
Backing up that big V-8 is Cadillac's exceptionally stout, smooth, and fast-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox on offer. Built in-house, and, incidentally, also shared with the Corvette Z06, the 8-speed offers full manual control via paddles. But with a transmission that shifts this quickly, not to mention intelligently, on its own, we doubt you'll even need to use them. Unlike the Z06, the CTS-V's transmission is packaged in a traditional longitudinal mid-mounted location, rather than as part of a rear-mounted transaxle.
All that power hits the rear wheels in short order, but Cadillac made the necessary upgrades to the CTS' chassis with some significant rigidity improvements. A net gain of 20 percent in terms of structural stiffness is due to a shock tower brace, a tower-to-plenum brace, a stronger rocker bulkhead, V-braces in the engine compartment, an aluminum shear panel at the front of the chassis, and a brace tying together the upper tie bar and rear bumper. Special Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are wrapped around staggered 9.5-inch wide front and 10.5-inch wide rear wheels, allowing the CTS-V to corner at nearly 1g of lateral acceleration.
The CTS-V may now utilize electric power steering, but the setup was supplied by Germany's ZF and it provides particularly good feedback thanks to a much stiffer rack than the last-generation car.
Like the smaller ATS-V, that ultra-rigid chassis benefits this sedan in spades on a closed race track or a winding canyon road. Yet thanks to the company's third-generation Magnetic Ride Control dampers mated to a five-link rear suspension and a multi-link double-pivot MacPherson strut front setup, the CTS-V is remarkably easygoing and luxurious when it needs to be.
The CTS-V has a wide range of talents thanks to the suspension setup that adjusts dampers up to 1,000 times per second. The newest Magnetic Ride Control dampers are 40 percent faster in changing settings required by the driver or onboard computer system.
Optional weight-saving and aerodynamic goodies help the CTS-V achieve its superlative performance, including a carbon fiber hood, front splitter, and new bumpers to shape air over—and under—the car for better cooling and downforce. Big fenders clear the way for wide tires, and reshaped rockers and a rear spoiler help smooth the air around the car. A new Carbon Fiber Package adds an aerodynamics-enhancing body kit—a larger front splitter, larger rear spoiler, hood vent trim, and rear diffuser—composed of the ultra-stiff woven material.
Cadillac CTS-V features and safety
A different kind of technology comes inside the CTS-V with Cadillac's latest CUE infotainment system taking center stage on the dashboard to handle navigation, music, phone integration, and both Apple Car Play with Siri Eyes Free and Android Auto connectivity. Parent company General Motors' OnStar 4G LTE with a built-in wi-fi hotspot comes standard, although it requires a monthly service fee after an initial trial period.
Other tech includes a wireless indicative mobile phone charger and an optional Performance Data Record co-developed with Cosworth that lets CTS-V drivers review their time on a race track in full HD video.
Speaking of cameras, the CTS-V includes a trick rearview mirror that isn't a mirror at all. Instead, it is a high-resolution display captured by a camera mounted to the car's trunk lid that eliminates any blind spots caused by the car's roof pillars. It requires some acclimation, but it largely works as advertised and is likely to trickle down to other cars in the future.
The 2017 Cadillac CTS-V hasn't been fully crash-tested, but it's based on the same core structure as the standard CTS, which earned top marks of "Good" from the IIHS in all but the small-overlap test, where it received a surprisingly unimpressive "Marginal" rating. The CTS-V earned five stars in side impact and rollover testing from NHTSA, but it has not been tested for front collision performance.
The CTS-V won't win any awards from Greenpeace. The EPA rates the performance model at 14 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined.