It doesn't matter how fast the 2018 Cadillac CTS-V is traveling, it's already an arrival.
The four-door luxury sport sedan takes on some of the best known performance sedans on the planet. The 2018 CTS-V has rivers of power and torque, near-flawless handling, and a big dose of technology and refinement. It’s vaulted its way into the top of the ranks occupied by cars like the E63 AMG, the M5, and the RS7.
MORE: Read our 2018 Cadillac CTS review
For the 2018 model year, the CTS-V adds an automatic heated steering wheel and new shades of blue and gray.
We give the CTS-V a 7.8 out of 10 on our overall scale that doesn't prioritize speed over everything else—it'd be an 11 if that were the case. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With the CTS-V, Cadillac goes from business suit to track suit, effortlessly. We give it an 8 out of 10 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
There’s real muscle under its steam-pressed sheet metal. The CTS already looks avant-garde in its angularity; the V-Series model turns it sinister with blacked-out trim, a domed hood, and wide tires that look like they might need a separate area code.
The cockpit plays right along with that lap-leading theme, both futuristic and subdued with its low-gloss trim and high-resolution displays. The seats get huge bolsters swaddled in soft, subtly treated leather and faux suede. Want more bolstering? The Recaro-designed seats on the option list should do. They’re some of the finest thrones any supersedan has borne.
Design isn’t the CTS-V’s calling card. Performance is. In fact, performance even drives how it looks.
The CTS-V’s rapidly beating heart is a transplant from the Chevy Corvette. It’s a version of the Z06’s supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. It’s a superstar on loan, one that only needed a handful of changes to fit in the Cadillac’s smaller engine bay (a reshaped oil pan, for one).
We give it a 10 out of 10 for performance because of course we do. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
It’s welcome with open fenders. The CTS-V screams along with 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, catapulting it to 60 mph in a scorched-earth 3.7 seconds. Top speed pegs the needle at 200 mph; test away on your private runway, seems to be the challenge.
A beefy, quick-shifting 8-speed automatic handles all the shifts. It’s an in-house piece that also gets stuffed into the Z06, but the Cadillac doesn’t sit in back as a transaxle. It couples to the back of the longitudinally mounted engine. With full manual operation, the 8-speed paddles through the avalanche of torque with nothing but smooth moves. Before you ask: No, there’s no manual.
The shock wave of power that hits the rear wheels requires some upgraded suspension hardware. The CTS-V gets a 20-percent stiffness boost through shock-tower bracing, a stronger bulkhead, and V-shaped underhood braces. It also wears Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on staggered wheels (9.5 inches wide in front, 10.5 inches in back), all in the name of gripping at almost 1g of lateral acceleration. Those semi-exotic tires give the CTS-V its stunning grip, and its gradual breakaway at its limits.
Electric power steering from ZF is a revelation here, with especially good feedback that’s a result of a stiffer steering rack.
The CTS-V assembles all these upgrades into a cohesive, utterly composed unit. From race tracks to winding roads, it’s as fluent in German as an E63 is in American-style horsepower. It’s easygoing and luxurious when it wants to be, thanks to third-generation adaptive magnetic dampers, double-pivot front struts and a five-link rear end—and stiff and flat in corners where it has to be.
You might never hit the 200-mph top end, but the aerodynamic add-ons to the CTS-V stick it to the ground better at any speed. A lighter carbon-fiber hood, a front splitter, and new bumpers feed air into and around it more smoothly. Those massive tires fit under stretched fenders, and the rear spoiler and rockers have been reshaped to wrap air around the car.
See our 2018 Cadillac CTS review for discussion of the CTS-V’s passenger cabin.
The CTS-V shares its body with the standard CTS, so crash-test information is the same.
It’s not entirely good. The NHTSA gives the CTS sedan five stars overall, and five stars in every category. However, the IIHS offers a “Marginal” rating for small-overlap front crash protection. That means no Top Safety Pick designation at all for this sedan.
We give it a 7 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Other safety gear and options are carried over from the CTS. A notable omission: automatic emergency braking.
The CTS-V has all the lavish luxury touches of the CTS sedan, and some lovely performance grace notes. We give it a 9 for its features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Those features include the CUE interface, which can read tablet-style gestures to control navigation, audio, phone, and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay software.
OnStar comes in the CTS-V bundled with hardware to pipe LTE data into the car, and to spread a wireless hotspot around it. Wireless smartphone charging is an option, but only some phones are compatible.
The CTS-V has two trick features. One’s on loan from the Corvette: a Performance Data Recorder that records HD video of track laps and overlays it with lap times and other data. The other is a rear-mirror camera. It captures HD video to the rear of the car and displays it on the rearview mirror, to eliminate blind spots. The mirror can be turned off and can be used as a conventional mirror.
Don’t look to the CTS-V to lead your Earth Day parade. The EPA rates it at 14 mpg city, 21 highway, 17 combined. That puts it at a 5 out of 10 on our green scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
- 2018 BMW M5
- 2018 Mercedes-Benz E Class
- 2018 Audi S7
The CTS-V has remarkable handling and beastly power, and it has an edge over the current offerings from Audi and Mercedes (BMW’s M5 is due yet for the 2018 model year). We still give the edge to the beautiful RS7 for styling, and to the E63 for its array of semi-autonomous driving gear. The German cars still have a sense of refinement that’s not quite there in the Cadillac, though it’s grown ever so close.