2009 Cadillac CTS-V review:

2009 Cadillac CTS-V

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The route guidance graphics are decent, but the system doesn't offer many different ways to input destinations. You get map input, manual address entry, and points of interest, but not freeway entrances or exits.

OnStar works in conjunction with the navigation system, letting you ask an OnStar operator to look up a local business or other location, the address for which can then be downloaded to the car.

This navigation system offers the best traffic integration we've seen.

Along with traffic, weather information is also fed to the system through XM satellite radio, showing current weather and forecasts for cities and regions throughout the U.S. The system can also warn of severe weather.

As is typical with hard drive-based navigation systems, storage space (10 megabytes in this case) is reserved for music. You can rip a standard audio CD to the car by simply putting it in the single disc slot and pressing the record button. An internal Gracenote database will tag each track, making all music accessible through the car's jukebox audio source.

iPod integration is also excellent in the CTS-V, and uses an onscreen interface similar to the jukebox. The connector, which also works for USB drives, is in the console. Other audio sources include MP3 CDs and XM satellite radio.

You can get phone service through OnStar, as before, but Cadillac also adds Bluetooth to the mix, so you can use your own phone, and not have to give out a second number to friends. This Bluetooth implementation is pretty basic, requiring you to manually enter contacts to the phonebook, but it's a feature we're happy to finally see in a Cadillac.

Under the hood
Although the cabin tech in the new model mostly came out with the standard CTS model in 2007, the engine is all new. The hood of the CTS-V bulges to accommodate the 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, and aluminum block-and-head engine that makes a breathtaking 556 horsepower at 6,100rpm and boasts, perhaps more impressively, 551 pound-feet of torque at 3,800rpm.

The speedometer needle has a red line that trails it up towards the century mark.

With only two valves per cylinder, the CTS-V's engine might seem primitive by European standards, but you can't argue with the power delivery. By contrast, the naturally aspirated, higher-revving, 6.2-liter engine in the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG only puts out 451 horsepower. The discrepancy is largely due to the 1.9-liter supercharger in the CTS-V, although we didn't see its boost gauge move much under normal driving conditions.

The suspension uses a magnetic system to constantly monitor road conditions and driving style, adjusting rigidity appropriately. Audi has been using a similar system for the past few years, and GM has adopted it for high-end cars like the CTS-V and the Corvette. Combined with the precise steering, the CTS-V offers excellent control, and we were particularly surprised to find that the back end wouldn't readily kick out, as it does in the BMW M3.

The automatic transmission didn't impress us as much as the rest of the performance equipment.

A manual six speed comes standard with the CTS-V, but ours came equipped with the six-speed automatic--a free option. After driving it a bit, we would have liked to at least try the manual. This automatic didn't shift as quickly as the one in the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG in manual mode, and in sport mode it didn't seem as aggressive in downshifting as the one in the standard CTS. And to reiterate a point made earlier, we hated the position of the paddle shifters, which are really just buttons on the back of the steering wheel. To use them, you have to move your hands away from normal driving placement, negating the advantage of steering wheel shifters.

Driving the CTS-V is an expensive proposition, as the gas mileage isn't good. The EPA rates it at 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway, earning it the dreaded gas guzzler tax. During a mix of city, freeway, and winding-road driving, we came in with a tank average of 14.7 mpg. An emissions rating hasn't yet been published for the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V.

In sum
With a base price of $57,920, the 2009 Cadillac CTS-V is almost twice the price of a standard CTS. You will also have to add in the $2,600 gas guzzler tax. Options in our test car included the Recaro seats for $3,400, the navigation system for $2,145, and suede-covered steering wheel, adding $300 to the total. Final price with destination: $67,140.

While the CTS-V may seem pricey, it competes well with the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and comes in at a price similar to those cars. Better yet, the cabin is roomier, more equivalent to a BMW 5-Series. And you get more horsepower than the competition, while turning in about the same mileage.

In rating the CTS-V, we were blown away by the performance and impressed by the cabin tech. We docked it a point for fuel economy, and have reservations about that automatic transmission, but choosing the manual will alleviate the latter issue. The cabin tech is generally excellent, although we would like to see a better Bluetooth system, and possibly some driver aid technology, such as adaptive cruise control or blind spot detection. For design, we have to go with excellent as well. Cadillac has carved out a unique look with its angular styling, and the bulging hood on the CTS-V adds an aggressive character.

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