2016 Cadillac CTS-V First Drive Review

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2016 Cadillac CTS-V First Drive Review

In a fast car, there are six places on Road America’s 4-mile track where your speeds can exceed 100 mph—and twice they can reach more than 150 mph. Without any modifications or special procedures, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V hammered the track at these triple-digit speeds, three or four hot laps at a time, until the tank was empty. Gas card at the ready, Team Cadillac refilled it, and we drained it again in about 20 laps.

The car’s formula and specifications have been known for some time but warrant a brief review: Insert the driveline of a hardcore Corvette into a luxurious Cadillac sedan, make it corner and stop with authority, let enthusiasts “enthuse” themselves into a froth, and hope they mention it in the same breath as a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG or BMW M5. Under its standard carbon-fiber hood, puffed up to accommodate the supercharger, lurks a 640-horsepower version of the LT4 V-8 from the 650-hp Corvette Z06. Power goes through a paddle-shiftable eight-speed automatic on its way to an electronically controlled differential that sorts out when/if/how much of the engine’s available 630 lb-ft of torque goes to either rear wheel. Cadillac says the new CTS-V will run to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds, devour a quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 126 mph, and reach an aero-limited top speed of 200-plus mph. On paper, those stats, indeed, outgun the aforementioned bogeys, and our collective backside believes the brag.

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2016 Cadillac CTS V Sedan Tire Burnout

The CTS-V’s structure is also fortified beyond that of a standard CTS with a multitude of braces and a unique aluminum undercarriage sheer panel. MacPherson-type struts and multilink rear suspension pair with the latest, quickest-reacting dual-coil, three-mode Magnetic Ride Control shocks for highly effective, adaptive damping. Improvements to the rack-mounted electric-assist power steering have certainly improved response, precision, and feel. Monstrous Brembo brakes slow Cadzilla with offset six-piston calipers squeezing two-piece vented discs up front (almost identical in diameter to the CTS-V’s steering wheel) and four-piston calipers on vented discs in back. Finally, bespoke Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires boast tri-compound construction and wrap around light and stiff forged-aluminum wheels.

Now, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, bravery and biting off more than one can chew. The all-new CTS-V is certainly a confident car that requires surprisingly little bravery to explore its lofty limits—even on an exceptionally fast racetrack. In fact, the nonchalance with which its supercharged V-8 gets up to ludicrous speeds in no time and the ability of the suspension to iron out imperfections in a nano-second are assets as well as liabilities. Simply stand on the go pedal, point the nose at the horizon, and aside from its staccato exhaust note, the new CTS-V remains startlingly poised and sedate while sustaining 1.00g corners at more than 75 mph with one hand on the steering wheel. If we had a nit to pick, this would be it: It’s just too easy. The painstaking, multiyear development of the CTS-V ensured it would lay down fierce, perhaps best-in-class laps at the famed Nürburgring, but it’s just so incongruous how it shrugs it all off with the serenity one would expect of a Cadillac. That’s by design.

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2016 Cadillac CTS V Rear Three Quarter

Billed as two cars in one, Cadillac delivers on that assurance with a host of selectable integrated chassis controls with varying shades of performance and comfort. As with other cars of its ilk, a driver can select Snow, Touring, Sport, or Race drive modes, each with tailored gauges plus suspension, steering, throttle, and transmission calibrations. What’s different here, however, is that within Race, five more levels of Performance Traction Management (PTM) vary the amount of electronically controlled stability and traction control, including a dedicated launch mode.

For Road America, we sampled Sport and Race, then PTM-4, -5, and finally, all systems off. Sport clearly held the reins too tightly and the traction and stability control indicators blinked like amber strobe lights. The beauty of Race/PTM-5 mode is that while stability control is disabled, freeing the car to dance and slide across the surface, a very sophisticated traction-control system waits in the shadows. A driver who runs out of talent could spin the car on corner entry or midway through, but on corner exit that same driver can whack the throttle to the floor without immolating the expensive Michelins or the fear of inducing throttle oversteer. It’s the kind of unfair advantage that’s been banned in many forms of racing, and PTM-5 is so adept at retarding spark (or eventually closing the throttle) that attempting to get the same confident drive out of a corner with all systems off proved next to impossible.

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2016 Cadillac CTS V Sedan Front Three Quarter In Motion 04

So it comes to this: Did Cadillac finally build the car with the correct ratio of elegance, power, and menace that the Germans refuse to? Just like the Corvette Z06 that donated its heart to the cause, the 2016 CTS-V has crushing performance, undeniable comfort, and a price that undercuts anything in its class by between $10,000-$15,000. Will enthusiasts flock or flee? The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is about to draw everyone’s attention to the King’s new clothes and lay bare any doubt that this is the new benchmark in the supersedan class. Badges be damned.


Data, driven

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2016 Cadillac CTS V Sedan Infotainment

The $1,300 Performance Data Recorder (PDR) is a compelling option on the 2016 CTS-V order sheet. Developed with Cosworth, supplier of telemetry electronics for Corvette Racing, the PDR was introduced in 2015 as a Corvette option. Now available on V-Series Cadillacs, PDR integrates information from a 720p-resolution camera, a dedicated GPS receiver (gathering five times more location data than the in-dash navigation system), and the car’s Controller Area Network, or CAN, to access information on throttle position, engine speed, gear selection, braking force, and steering wheel angle. Combined data is recorded on a postage-stamp-size SD card for playback on the car’s high-res display or further analysis on a computer within Cosworth Toolbox. We plan to compare the PDR’s capabilities and precision against our industry-standard VBox very soon.

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2016 Cadillac CTS V Sedan Front Three Quarter 04

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