We previously gave the Cadillac CTS our 2007 Tech Car of the Year award, as that car showed superb new cabin tech and impressive performance. Now Cadillac gives the CTS a steroid shot, pumping the engine up to a 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, giving it a magnetically controlled suspension to keep its horsepower useful, and calling it the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V.
This pumped-up model doesn't lose any of its excellent cabin tech in exchange for its new performance parts, either. In fact, it gains Bluetooth cell phone integration, which was absent in the previous model. The only trade-offs are a higher price and lousy gas mileage.
On the road
To test out the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V, we brought it to the same highway where we first drove its little brother. On the way there, the CTS-V showed that it could still carry the Cadillac brand with its well-appointed cabin.
On a freeway cruise, the car was comfortable, although it didn't quite float over the road. Its Magnetic Ride Control could be switched from Touring to Sport, much like on thewe tested recently. But we found the ride much smoother in the Cadillac.
The Bose audio system--sending 5.1-channel sound through 10 speakers--is one of the best we've heard from that company. Most Bose systems we test sound a little muddy, but this one has excellent clarity, along with the usual powerful amplification. The CTS-V has a convenient iPod connection in the console, which we relied on for most of this trip, rather than the XM radio or onboard music storage.
After exiting the freeway, we set the navigation system for the route down our preferred highway, and found that the car was on a road that didn't exist. The navigation system went into off-road mode, showing a compass. We drove the nonexistent road and figured that the CTS-V's map was a couple of years out of date.
Once navigation and the outside world agreed with each other, we were in open terrain, speeding down a nice stretch of highway, no one else in sight. Trying a fast launch from a stop with the automatic transmission in Sport mode, the rear wheels squealed loose from the pavement as the supercharger boost-gauge needle moved upward. The dramatic start was quickly brought under control--we had the traction control on--and the CTS-V thrust forward. A mental countdown showed 60 mph coming in the vicinity of four seconds, and probably less. This car is fast.
We took full advantage of the many more depopulated straight sections to come, and then finally started to get in some twisties. The brakes worked beautifully: they weren't grabby and had plenty of room to modulate. But going into a turn the gas pedal proved terribly unresponsive, only making power at the apex. The supercharger was taking time to spool up and the automatic transmission wasn't stepping down like it should. In manual mode, the shifts were reasonably fast, but the placement of the shift buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes was terrible. At least we could use the shifter to select gears.
With a better sense of how this car worked, we applied gas early in the turn, so power would be up at the right time. And found that, even though this is a massively powerful sedan, it took the corners with incredible ease. Already doubling the recommended limits for the turns, the car wasn't bothered, not even deigning to squeal the tires. The CTS-V was capable of performing far beyond what we were willing to do on this highway, which led to a great sense of confidence.
In the cabin
The cabin of the 2009 CTS-V shows the kind of quality and luxury that Cadillac can pull off and on which it built its reputation. Soft leather-wrapped surfaces on the dashboard, quality switchgear on the stack, and even a nice graphic treatment for the interface on the LCD are only marred slightly by the fake carbon fiber trim and rough cloth headliner.
The optional Recaro seats really impressed. Far from the usual stiff racing seats from Recaro, these were cushioned and power adjustable. Beyond the normal adjustments, your switches also control the seat and side bolsters, so the seats will fit anyone like a glove.
The electronics package, the same as in the standard CTS, is excellent, combining navigation, data services (such as traffic and weather), OnStar, and a good range of audio sources. The interface for these systems is a little bit weird, as it combines switchgear on the stack with some touch-screen functions. As a result, it's not always clear when you should be turning a dial or reaching for an onscreen button. That said, the onscreen controls are very intuitive.
Navigation works off of hard-drive-stored maps. Judging by how the maps in our car were out-of-date, Cadillac needs to develop a better process for updating the software in cars coming off the assembly line. Other than that, the maps have good resolution, and traffic is very well integrated, alerting you to incidents on the road ahead even if you don't have a route programmed.