2016 Cadillac CTS-V review: The 640-horsepower CTS-V is the most powerful Cadillac ever!

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.3 Overall
  • Performance 10
  • Features 8
  • Design 7
  • Media 8

The Good With 640 horsepower on tap, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V isn't just the most powerful Cadillac ever, it's also the most powerful car in its class. The V also brings an exceptional level of nimbleness to the table with standard high-performance brakes, magnetic control suspension and a tight chassis.

The Bad Cadillac's Cue infotainment checks a lot of the right boxes but feels a class beneath what the competition is offering at this price range. The supercharged V-8 gets hit with a gas-guzzler tax at purchase and continues to cost with poor fuel efficiency.

The Bottom Line Part luxury sedan and part race car, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V makes up for a few small tech shortcomings with overwhelming performance.

I'll just cut to the chase here: At 640 horsepower and 630 pound-feet of torque, the 2016 CTS-V sedan is the most powerful Cadillac ever produced.

At the heart of the matter is a 6.2-liter supercharged and direct-injected LT4 V-8 engine, the same engine that you'll find in a Corvette Stingray Z06 but with a wet-sump lubrication system rather than the 'Vette's dry-sump. The engine is force-fed air by a 1.7-liter Eaton supercharger; you can hear its high-pitched whine while under acceleration. Fun fact: it takes 55 horsepower just to spin the compressor, but it adds a net 220 ponies to the cast aluminum block's performance, so it's worth the small hit.

The force flows through an eight-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission that features sport and manual shift programs and can be controlled via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The last stop before the rubber meets the road is an electronically controlled rear differential that directs the power to the rear wheels.

The baddie Caddy will hit 60 mph from a standing start in just 3.7 seconds, but it does so in one of the most terrifyingly abrupt ways I've ever experienced. Where other large sport sedans deliver a locomotive surge, the CTS-V unleashes a torrent of power. It's like being shot out of a cannon -- and nearly as loud. Give the V a long enough run-up and it will hit a top track speed of 200 mph.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The EPA reckons the Caddy will do about 14 city mpg and 21 highway mpg if you feed it premium fuel and go light on the pedal, but you'd have to be the most boring enthusiast on the planet to do so.

Unlike, say, the Challenger Hellcat, Cadillac wasn't content to just throw an overwhelmingly powerful engine into its CTS, call it good, and head to the pub. No, the CTS-V has been overhauled from nose to tail to also be one of the best handling cars in the brand's history.

It starts with the chassis, which is 20 percent stiffer than the standard CTS sedan's body thanks to a variety of braces, sheer panels and reinforcements added to the underbody, suspension mounting points, engine bay, bulkhead and more. Many of the squishy, rubber bushings in the CTS' suspension have been replaced with zero-play ball joints, which allows the components to move more accurately. The standard third-generation Magnetic Ride Control adaptive dampers respond to handling demands 40 percent faster than before.

The real world result is that the Cadillac CTS-V dances around bends and over winding roads with so much more agility than a car of this size should possess. Sure, Caddy's made efforts to keep the V's weight down -- including fitting it with a standard carbon-fiber hood -- but at the end of the day, this is a 4,100 pound greatsword that's as nimble as a fencer's foil.

And yet, it is quite comfortable when you're taking it easy. I wouldn't call it Benz comfy -- the Caddy's firm ride never lets you forget that it would rather be racing -- but refined enough that a significant other wouldn't complain. (Even the supportive Recaro seats were wide and comfy enough.)

Helping to customize and contain the Cadillac's performance and power are four drive modes that adjust the traction control, suspension and powertrain control systems. There's the restrained, high-traction Snow/Ice mode. My first outing was in the pouring rain, and after a few accidental fishtails, this mode helped me get acquainted with the car. There's also a baseline Touring mode, a more aggressive Sport mode, and finally a hardcore Track setting.

But that's just the beginning. While in track mode, toggling the traction control button and then the steering wheel controls reveals five more track programs that further fine-tune the performance for specific racing situations. There's a setting for a wet race track, three more progressively aggressive competition modes, and a final, "hold onto your hats" all systems off mode. And when in any of these race settings, the Cadillac gains launch control to help drivers get off the line as quickly as possible.

A big part of getting around a track quickly is being able to slow down quickly and consistently. So the CTS-V is equipped with 15.35-inch rotors with six-piston brake calipers on the front wheels and 14.37-inch rotors and four-piston calipers out back, all developed by Brembo. These grabbers stop the Cadillac quickly and were pretty much fade-proof during my testing. A high performance braking package, the Brembos are standard on the CTS-V, but similar stopping power would be a pay-extra option on all of its competitors.

Tucked into a well-made dashboard of suede, perforated and stitched leather and what looks like carbon kevlar is the Cadillac Cue infotainment system. No, this is not my favorite infotainment system, but that's mostly because at this price point, Cue has some very powerful competition. Judged by its own merits, rather than against its peers, however, Cue is a pretty good and functional dashboard system.

I like the way the system is organized, as well as little touches like how the interface hides many of its onscreen controls until it detects your hand approaching the screen. But I'm not a fan of the predominantly black design or the slight hesitation to respond to inputs.

Cue supports Apple CarPlay when a compatible iPhone is plugged into its USB port, but not Android Auto...yet. The competing smartphone integration system should be added later in 2016 as part of a software update. Having driven the CT6 sedan, I know that Caddy has addressed some of the responsiveness issues in the newest generation of Cue, so I'm hoping some of those tweaks will come via the same update.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

One very cool feature is a Qi wireless charging pad hidden behind a motorized panel on the CTS-V's dashboard. Drop a compatible phone -- or an iPhone wearing a Qi charging case -- into this pocket and it will charge without having to fiddle with USB cables. For incompatible phones, there's also a USB port in the pocket, making it the perfect place to tuck a regular-size phone. Unfortunately, the hidden cubby is only just barely large enough for a Nexus 6P to fit -- leaving no room even for a USB cable to plug in -- so if you carry a larger phablet phone like an iPhone 6 Plus, you'll have to find somewhere else to stow it.

Rounding out the dashboard tech is the standard OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi, which creates a mobile hotspot in the car that passengers can use to connect their portable devices to the Web. All of my passengers were too busy holding on for dear life to really take advantage of it.

Being a luxury sedan, we have to talk for a bit about driver-aid tech. The CTS-V boasts a pretty good loadout of standard features, but this isn't the most high-tech car in this class.

Forward precollision alert, lane-change and blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist help to keep the Cadillac safe on the road, but there is no adaptive cruise control available. Standard rear-view and curb-view cameras and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking aid in keeping the wheels and bumpers free of dings while parking.

2016 Cadillac CTS-V
Antuan Goodwin/CNET


The V may not be as luxurious as the Mercedes-AMG E63 S or the BMW M5, but it is easily their match on the road and potentially their better at the track. And starting at $83,995, it's easier on the checkbook as well. For that price, most of the features are standard -- the only standout that I'd recommend are comfortable, supportive $2,300 Recaro performance seats, which you'll need in the corners.

That brings the as-tested price to $87,290, which includes a $995 destination charge and a $1,000 gas-guzzler tax.

The Cadillac CTS-V is an American take on the super sports sedan. It's not just a shot fired over the bow of the competition, it's a targeted drone strike, an overwhelming show of force. Shock and awe, baby.

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